Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Noisening of America

Among all the other changes that we are enjoying or enduring these days, mostly somehow attached to technological changes, is what I am now thinking of as the "Noisening of America".  I do not know that that is intentionally detrimental, such as that the goal is to prevent the populace from having any thoughts of their own or to distract them from quieter, more private pursuits, but more and more that is the resultant affect.

What led me to determine this concept was that I took my car to my local Infiniti dealer for a major service, more than the usual and normal oil and oil filter change and tire rotation.  This one was going to be giving the car a thorough going over and changing a lot of things that do require changing, but less frequently, such as various belts and other filters, and who knows what other parts might be wearing out too soon.  Instead of being a, let's say, $40ish dollar service, it is more like a $700ish service, and, as it has turned out in my case, based on what additional parts need repairing, an extra $300ish, and then in addition to all that, an extra $1,700 repair that is most likely covered by the extended warranty (but, uh oh, maybe not, we will see), but even with the warranty coverage, involves a $50 deductible.

For my normal oil change type services, I have chosen to simply wait while they do the work.  That is not a situation that requires me being shuttled back home, or even worse, using a loaner car.  The dealer's waiting rooms were perfectly fine.

At the beginning of my using this dealer for my car service, they brilliantly had three different waiting rooms:  a "regular", what I call noisy, waiting room, with a TV and piles of magazines; a children's waiting room that had puzzles, games, and toys in it; and a third waiting room described as "the quiet" waiting room, which was, to me, a blessing found nowhere I else I have been to for waiting in quite a while, including doctor's offices, where what is king is always a TV being on.  To me, a TV is the brain killer, because while it makes noise, the noise isn't really quite loud enough for you to really hear it well enough to fully understand what is going on, so if, perhaps, it is a show you might actually want to watch, you can't actually enjoy it.  And beside that, you usually aren't going to be waiting in the waiting room for the complete duration of a program, which in order to enjoy properly, you would need to see from the beginning, and then stop waiting after it comes to an end.

But my Infiniti dealership had the choice of a quiet waiting room, so I could wait in peace, reading a book that I brought (what a concept, bringing a book with me, or even reading one at all; suddenly such a behavior seems to be an anachronism these days).

But, alas, three months ago, I had gone to my dealership for a more routine service and saw that they had gotten rid of the three-waiting rooms concept and now just had one large waiting room that not only had a brand new gigantic extremely high quality wide-screen TV, but some kind of "radio" playing music, a  WI-FI laptop bar (if you brought in your laptop or iPad) for doing work on your computer), and a free snack bar involving bottled water, different kids of coffee, and some sweet snacks.  This, they felt, was more appealing to "today's" Infiniti customer, who, apparently, isn't satisfied to sit quietly and read a book, but must have their eardrums vibrated and their gullet stimulated by food and drink constantly.

As for me, on that service visit three months ago, I found a quiet place in the main new car showroom to plop myself down and read the book that I brought.  Don't ask me why they had a seating arrangement in the car showroom; perhaps only one person in a couple would be interested in car shopping but not the other spouse, so they had a place to sit while their spouse was being shown all the features of the latest Infiniti models.  But for me, it was fine; I could sit there quietly and read and ignore all the shiny new Infiniti models.

Except that various salespeople kept coming over to me, thinking that I was a car-buying customer, cheerily asking if they could show me something.  When I said that I was there because my car was being serviced, their face would turn "crestfallen", no, I am not a sales prospect, and they would walk away downcast.  Nobody ever said, "Well, you know, you should be waiting in the service waiting room," they were too polite for that even if that was what they were thinking, but nevertheless, the "atmosphere" was that this was not a place where you were supposed to sit while getting your car serviced.  I am not describing this as being something wrong with this dealership, because I really do like this dealership and their service is excellent.  Instead, it is more of an issue of the economics involved with being a car salesman.  So it became uncomfortable to sit quietly and try to read when every ten minutes or so some car salesman would be getting his hopes up.

Also, it made finding me difficult for my service writer when my car was ready, who expected to see me in the (noisy) waiting room.

Well, today when I went there for what I should have known was going to be a longer service (three hours to be exact), I brought a new book I wanted to read, totally forgetting (or not quite believing) that they had gotten rid of the marvelous three-waiting-room concept.  After we discussed the service that I needed, my service writer asked me did I want a loaner car, or to have the shuttle take me back home, or was I simply going to wait in the waiting room.  I told him that first I was going to go across the street to get breakfast, and then I would come back and wait.  Then, suddenly, I remembered about the waiting room, so I asked him had they really gotten rid of the "quiet waiting room" (I hoped that they had brought it back...or that maybe they had created another one), but he officially confessed that, no, they had only the one.

After breakfast, when the time came for me to wait there, I realized that it was not going to be a relaxing experience.  I had not brought in a laptop, so I had no use for the WiFi laptop bar.  I did get a coffee from their machine, though.  I sat down on one the chairs in the waiting room, put my coffee on the end table next to me, and pulled out my book.  But the noise made it almost impossible to concentrate on the words. Yes, the TV was on, just enough to hear noise but not loud enough to understand what was being said.  The music playing otherwise (the radio, playing throughout the whole dealership) was louder than the TV volume, and loud enough to be distracting and conflicting (so you really couldn't enjoy either).

But, loudest of all (but the least objectionable of the three "noises") was a little boy.  Because, you see, not only was the quiet waiting room lost, but so was the children's room.  Now everybody was all together in the big room with the TV, the radio, and the snacks.

I first saw the little boy (and his dad) when I was getting my coffee.  The dad brought his little boy over to select for himself his choice of a cookie or a small doughnut.  The boy could barely stand tall enough to see these choices, but on tip-toe he did take a good long look at each offering until finally he proudly made his selection.  He held his chosen snack in his hands very carefully, and looked up at his father with utterly adorable and adoring eyes (my immediate thought was that the boy's mother must be one beautiful woman) and pronounced to his father what he had chosen, treating the treat as if it were a precious jewel.  It reminded me of a concept I developed from observing countless children at the school where I work, or flying on an airplane, or being at an amusement park--children like to have things in their hands.  It almost doesn't matter what it is, a stuffed toy, a ball, a cookie or a piece of candy, it seems that they aren't really "here", comfortable and secure, unless they have something in their hands.

The dad then wanted to get some coffee, waiting for me to get mine.  It was taking a while, so I said to the dad, "This machine not only brews the coffee, it picks it from the Colombian fields and roasts it for us."  He responded with something like, "It does it all for us," but then for some reason, his coffee came out instantly whereas mine had seemed to take forever.  Anyway, I sat down in the waiting room before they did, but soon after, they came and sat down right next to me.

The man also had a second little boy, but this one apparently wasn't feeling well, so he spent the entire time curled up in one of the waiting room chairs and never once made a single sound.

The man sat down and lifted the first boy up to hold him on his lap.  The boy had brought along with him a high-tech toy, a sort of child's iPad that played some kind of videos, had on it computer games, and I think some kind of basic educational content.  At any rate, it was enough to occupy this boy for nearly the three hours that we all sat there waiting for our cars to be serviced.  The boy talked the entire time, describing every single thing he saw on the iPad screen and every operation he was doing.  I never knew before that a child could and would do that, talk constantly for the entire time he is awake (and what a contrast to the other boy who never made a noise).  Continually punctuated among the boy's talking was the dad "shhhing" him, which was, of course, entirely ineffective.  It was actually so useless that I decided that it was not truly meant as a command, but that it was a display of fatherly embarrassment issued out to an anonymous crowd, as if to say "I am sorry that he is bothering you, but at least I realize that he is and am attempting to correct it."

I wanted so badly to say to the dad that the boy's talking is the least objectionable of all the noises that are going on in this waiting room.  Worse, to me, were the radio and the TV that were a constant noise, interfering with each other, while at least the boy's talk had a purpose and he was being so extremely cute and it was so great to see these moments between a little boy and his father, who clearly utterly loved each other and were having an essential interaction here on a Saturday morning.  The father's "shhhh" was more like the guards in the Sistine Chapel, shhhhh at all the tourists walking round with their heads craned up, looking at the Michelangelo-painted ceiling, the only difference being that in the Sistine Chapel, no tourist is saying a word, the only noise in there is all the guards saying "shhhh", whereas with the boy, listening to him was a pleasure.

I didn't get very far in my book.   Instead, my three hours was taken up reading a sentence, getting caught by something that appeared on the TV, and being entranced by how many times the little boy said the word "Daddy". That's got to be one of the most precious sounds that a father ever hears.

As it turned out, both the man with the boys, and I, needed more work than could be done in the three hours we had already waited.  The job the man needed required him to get a loaner car, since his car wouldn't be ready until Monday.  When it was my turn, my service writer said it would be another three hours due to the additional replacements they discovered I needed.  Well, I don't think I could endure the noisy waiting room for yet another three hours, so I chose having the shuttle take me home and then come pick me up again once my car is ready, later this afternoon.

Now that this shuttle service has been introduced to me, I think that is what I will be doing from now on, instead of waiting in the noisy waiting room.   The noisening of America has driven me out.  And this next generation, starting out so cute and with such adoring eyes, I wonder what kind of constant distraction they will be demanding?  I fear that no longer will "daddy", or even any human interaction, be enough to fill that potentially hungry maw.

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