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Gary Borders: In pursuit of turning down the volume on a fast moving world

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I was filling my gas tank the other day, which considerably less painful than a few months ago. As long as a gallon of gasoline costs less than a tall latte at Starbucks, we probably don’t have much to complain about.

Somebody could have made a fistful of money wagering that gas would be considerably south of two bucks a gallon in 2015.

Two events occurred as I filled up. I noticed first that the outdoor sound system was playing country music so loudly that if I had been engaged in conversation it would have been difficult to hear. Seconds later, on the other side of the pump, a young man pulled up in a tricked-out Honda, with lots of chrome, those goofy wheels that keep spinning after the car stops, and a loud muffler. The stereo was up loud enough that the bass was making my steering wheel vibrate.

The fellow cut off his engine to fill up, of course, which silenced the loud muffler. By the way, I’m having a hard time understanding why people pay out money to make their vehicles louder. It used to be the other way around. The stereo continued thump-thumping as he filled up, drowning out the store’s speakers. No loss there.

I cut short filling up and left the inconsiderate nincompoop still pumping — all the while talking on a cell phone. How he could hear the person on the other end is a mystery.

No doubt the middle-aged curmudgeon is coming out in me, but all this noise is annoying me. Why in Sam Hill does a convenience store need to play music outdoors? To entice you to buy gasoline? That’s why you’re standing out there anyway, and odds are great you’re not going to pump a little longer just to hear the end of “Achy-Breaky Heart.” Even at $1.83 a gallon.

Why would anyone be so oblivious to those around him and keep playing a stereo so loud the pumps are shaking about 2.3 on the Richter scale? Every time I pull up next to someone blasting a stereo at leaf-blower volume — forcing me to turn mine off in futility — I want to shout, “You ever heard of I-Pod? That way you can ruin your hearing while I can still listen to Red River Radio.

Sadly, odds are great anyone who regularly listens to music played at 125 decibels has never heard of Red River Radio. And in a few years, he (it’s almost always a male) won’t be able to hear Performance Today, even if he inexplicably develops a hankering for intelligent, in-depth programming.

I guess these boomboxers, when they grow up, can always get jobs directing jetliners into their parking spots on airport tarmacs. Think how much the airline companies will save on ear protection.

Another thing I wonder about.  What’s up with ringtones? Who would have thought millions of people would pay money to have their cellphone screech, “I Feel Good,” by James Brown to announce a caller? Or a Lady Gaga song, not that I can actually name any.

And why didn’t I think of that?

A while back I bought a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones, with which I have accurately discerned the lyrics of songs I’ve sung for three decades or more. For example, John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival is not advising, “There’s a bathroom on the right.” It’s actually, “There’s a bad moon on the rise.”

OK, I stole that line from a reader. But if you see me driving down the road wearing a set of headphones that wouldn’t look out of place on the pavement outside Gate 19, Terminal C at Bush Intercontinental, you’ll know all this noise is getting to me.

Gary Borders has been an East Texas journalist and editor for more than 40 years. He works now as a freelance writer, editor and photographer. You can see his work at garyborders.com. He has written for World Wildlife magazine, Texas Monthly, Texas Observer and Airstream Life.