When applied to Chicago, the phrase “quiet side street” has an unconvincing ring. It suggests a calm, restful tranquility that is, in fact, irritatingly elusive. Hang around long enough on any block, and you’re bound to discover the truth about noise. You’ll hear the hubbub of a city that’s always breaking down and growing.
Part of the commotion comes from the incessant building—from the demolition, construction, and rehabbing that’s always on-going (real-estate being one of the great sources of wealth).
Beyond that are the noisy neighbors, the feuding cats, the jalopies out past midnight cruising. The el thunders along, and, overhead, the planes drone, stacked up on the low flight paths into O’Hare. Mornings bring garbage trucks, enormous semis with deliveries, and the first irritated driver blowing a horn. Summer nights throb with the sound of air conditioners, millions strong.
Despite some strides in recent years, Chicago continues to be one of America’s loudest cities. The density of urban life, and the big forces that drive it, can easily make an individual feel powerless. Still, I don’t really mind the noise; the silence of stasis would get on my nerves.