MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

ARGUMENT

With barely muffled outrage, writer Robert Thomas Allen lashes out at those who find joy in the sound of an unmuffled engine

ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN October 15 1966
MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

ARGUMENT

With barely muffled outrage, writer Robert Thomas Allen lashes out at those who find joy in the sound of an unmuffled engine

ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN October 15 1966

ARGUMENT

With barely muffled outrage, writer Robert Thomas Allen lashes out at those who find joy in the sound of an unmuffled engine

OF ALL THE pathologically insensitive louts who have come over the horizon in recent years the worst is the sportscar and motorcycle addict who is hypnotized by the sound of the internal-combustion engine. He's making city life hideous and it's time we started clobbering him with every anti-noise law in the books.

There’s a woman on our street who is coping with a hypertense baby that cries a lot. The doctor told her the baby must have sleep every afternoon, and the other day I watched her finally get the kid asleep in his carriage, and tip-toe into the house, ready, I imagine, for a couple of 222s and a cigarette to settle her nerves, when this guy in some make of car so low you could only see his chin, went by as if he were at Mosport, and the kid w'oke up screaming and was still crying two hours later. That driver may be a swinger to some people, but he’s a case of delayed development to me. As far as I know' he’s still at large, and if the cops don’t do something about him, the next time he passes my window' he’s going to have to stick-handle himself over a handful of tacks.

I can see no reason why some guy w'ho wants to listen to noise should be allowed to go on ignoring the rights of anyone w'ho wants to listen to music, meditate, study, pray or make love,

and a man driving a roaring $8,000 foreign car is no different to me than a kid with a pinched tailpipe and a hole in his muffler. He already has a hole in his head as far as I’m concerned. I think he should be arrested.

Municipal laws on noise are very specific. In Toronto, for instance, listed under the sounds “deemed unnecessary,’’ is the sound made by the exhaust of “any motor vehicle or motorcycle, except through a muffler or other device which effectively prevents loud or explosive noises.” There’s absolutely no need for these noises. The best motorcycles made are quiet, polite and socially acceptable. The Suzuki, Yamaha, and Honda are all made with adequate muffler systems.

The drivers who remove baffle plates from the exhaust to give extra power (although this kind of man needs more pow'er the way he needs a small nuclear bomb) doesn’t know w'hat he’s doing anyway, as it reduces power on a two-cycle engine, which most of the small motorcycles are.

All standard makes of American cars, many of which, including one I just traded, would leave most sports cars standing at the traffic lights, are beautifully engineered to eliminate noise. It’s taken sixty years of skilled engineering to accomplish this. Even a small aircraft now, like a Cessna or

Piper Cub, doesn’t make an offensive racket when it flies overhead. There’s no need for polluting our streets with noise and I think any manufacturer of sports cars or motorcycles that aren’t muffled down to the highest degree known to science, should have his plant shut down for a month until he sobers up. Any salesman caught selling them should be fined, or jailed, or both and any noisy sports car or motorcycle made by a foreign country should be banned, like boll weevil or bad fruit or any other pest.

And while we’re at it we should start handing out stiff fines to the operators of some of those cement trucks that go through town like a panzer invasion, and we should start making citizens’ arrests of cops on noisy motorcycles. There’s one who went past my place last night revving up as if he were flexing his muscles. He must come from a family of boiler riveters. No one with normal eardrums or a normal amount of stuff separating them could be so unconscious of the feelings and rights of the

rest of the world, or even sit on a thing that made that much noise unless he was alone in a desert. This cop wasn’t chasing anyone. He was just amusing himself making as much noise as if he wore a beard and a gold ring in his ear.

Modern city life is tough enough as it is, and noise is a recognized factor in driving people to pills, psychiatry and suicide. Some of the things we can’t do without. Noisy vehicles we can do without, and we can do something about the people who drive them. A few days ago I stopped to talk about all this to a young lad on a motorcycle. He had long hair and wore a leather vest and buckskin boots, and sat on one of the quietest motorcycles I’ve ever heard. I asked him about the ones who go by shredding the silence, and he said the drivers made them that way on purpose, adding with quiet dignity, “Personally, I think they’re just trying to draw attention to themselves.” I think he’s right. And I think, starting now, they should get it.

ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN