Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Voices Carry

Aeron Blowing in a Shell
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
I can hear the girls approaching the boat from the parking lot. Their dulcet tones raised in delightful cries of, “Did not!” “Did too!” “Did not, you snot!” “Did so, you bigger snot!” beat a pleasant counterpoint to the staccato beat of their Crocs smacking down the boat ramp at full speed.

In a vain attempt to reduce the volume, I call out through the salon windows, “Kitty cat feet, girls! Kitty cat feet!” Kitty cats are light. Kitty cats are small, delicate, delightful, and cute. Kitty cats do not sound like a stampede of elephants. Kitty cats do not thump, bang, and flop. They do not bellow, rage, or pull hair.

Okay, maybe they pull hair.

Water is a fabulous transmitter of energy and sound. You can whisper something discreet to your husband at the end of Dock N such as, “You still have the cutest ass west of the Rockies,” for example, and your friends at the fuel dock half a mile away will start laughing. A bickering couple battened down in the Catalina 28' project their negative energy out into the evening with THX volume and clarity.

So when you live on a boat, you learn to tread more lightly, speak more quietly, fight less ardently. Your music goes down at dusk, and you use salon cushions to bury your screams of frustration when the propane tank runs out about half-way through barbequing the chicken.

But the kids fail to grasp this concept. A child who is humiliated when you mention in front of another parent at school the need to purchase new underthings thinks nothing of broadcasting to the entire anchorage the fact that mommy needs to stop running around naked between her cabin and the head in the middle of the night. “It's disgusting. I can see your panties and your BOOBS.” Or how about, “DADDY, stop PEEING OVER THE SIDE OF THE BOAT. Someone might SEE YOU.” Well, I bet we're the local peep show now, thank you very much.

At times, this auditory property of the waterfront is a parent's friend. For example, when you lose a child – easy enough to do when you have three of them – all you need do is stand on the bow, still and quiet, and within moments you can hear their cries like those of gulls on the evening breeze. It takes practice to learn how to adjust for refractive error, wind speed and direction, and the pitch distortion due to elevation to triangulate precisely where the voices originate. Once you perfect your skills, though, your children rarely remain lost for long.

Butter Wouldn't Melt
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
However, most of the time I long for the sound deadening influence of dirt, trees, and SUVs. In the suburbs, my neighbors never knew precisely how frustrating it is to get the kids fed and dressed in the morning, Dr C's love of Led Zepplin at high volume was our own dirty secret, and sex was an uninhibited, noisy affair.

In fact, this may be the answer to that favorite land lubber question, “What do you miss the most now that you live on a boat?” An acoustical buffer zone.

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