That noise you hear now

Bob Brody Essayist, LettersToMyKids.org
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At three in the morning the other day I bolted awake to a sound like the hum of a bumblebee. Given the time of year, with the 84th Annual Academy Awards ceremony but a month away, I realized it had to be Oscar buzz.

The next day, the white noise droned into our apartment, now sounding more like an air-conditioner compressor. Now, Oscar buzz is acceptable during business hours, especially in the form of chatter about weighing box-office success against artistic merits to decide on nominees, but at three in the morning it’s just rude.

This morning, though, the racket grew louder, now more like a ventilation fan crossed with a dental drill. Around the water cooler at my office the din turned positively deafening. It all seemed vaguely related to Gary Oldman, or maybe to that movie about that heroic horse — or was it a dog? I can never tell which is which — and threatened to drown out all the ambient noise out there about whether job creation is something that can happen in a laboratory.

I complained to our building’s superintendent. “You’re hearing a little Oscar buzz, is all,” he said. “It starts right after the Golden Globes, and it’s always worse when Meryl Streep is involved — or anyone British, for that matter, even Kenneth Branaugh. Why do you think I installed double-paned windows last year?”

Then I griped to the local health department, but to no avail. An official there only acknowledged that Oscar buzz had evolved into a public-health crisis, reaching pandemic levels at any reference to Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen, and could lead to mild to moderate hearing loss.

Next, still seeking redress of grievance, I turned to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An audiologist there pointed out that Oscar buzz now averaged 123 decibels nationwide, up 6% from last year.

“It’s now the loudest noise on earth,” he said. “It’s actually louder in Los Angeles. Brad Pitt had to leave the country just to get some sleep. The White House is privately urging the Defense Department to deploy it against al Qaida.”

Now, running low on options, I remembered this is America. Accordingly, I retained a personal-injury attorney.

“Ruptured eardrums, right?” my lawyer said. “We’ll sue everyone responsible, even ‘Entertainment Tonight.’ We’ll call for government guidelines to impose some sort of volume control. Al Gore could testify that Oscar buzz causes climate change.”

The case eventually went to trial, only for the jury to reach a surprise verdict. The infotainment industry would be let off the hook. Rather, conclusive evidence pointed to another culprit. Us. The American public.

Bob Brody, an executive and essayist, lives in New York City and blogs at letterstomykids.org. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.