Finding Quiet While Traveling

Martin Lanser

I’m sitting in the hotel restaurant having dinner. The music is loud. Incredibly loud. Why? This is not a club or even a bar — it’s a restaurant! It's late, and it’s the end of another long day travel day. I just want a bite to eat and wind down.

This week it's Chicago. Next week it’ll be Atlanta and the week after that it’ll be Minneapolis, and so on. So much time spent in hotels, restaurants, lounges, coffee shops, food courts, airports, airplanes, taxis, trains, and other modes of transportation and public spaces. Time spent going from one place to another.

An endless number of short time segments spent waiting in line. Days chopped up in 15- to 30-minute increments. Units of time too short to be useful, yet too plenty to waste.

All this time spent in noisy places. Some seem to be loud on purpose. Many are uncomfortably loud. Airports are loud. Airplanes are louder. The hissing of the air-condition is very loud. And the announcements over the airplane PA system are unbelievably loud!

The coffee shop where I tried to enjoy a cup of coffee while working on a few emails was very loud. In fact, it seems that many coffee shops are designed to be loud to discourage lingering. Sure, I understand that it's not good for business to have customers hog tables for hours. But it's uncomfortable to sit there even for a short while without headphones.

Commence countermeasures! Noise-canceling headphones on! Shields up! I retract into my electronic bubble. The world around me recedes into the background. I can finally hear myself think again. Time slows down. Quiet.

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