The Sound of Silence

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Some experiences are just plain annoying. No two ways about it. But an early morning event has Ray Pestrong looking for the pleasure that follows in its wake.

My wife and I recently moved to an over-55 condominium community, after living in a very private and lovely country setting for many years. We’re very happy here, but the first Tuesday after we arrived we were shockingly awakened at 6:15 am by the garbage collection truck, on its twice-weekly run. The prospect was awful, and we were dismayed.

And then something strange occurred. One morning, immediately after the garbage truck left, I became aware of a profound quiet. No sounds at all. It was no different than the time immediately before the truck arrived, but the extreme and sudden contrast made it seem deeper and stiller. And now, each subsequent collection time I find myself looking forward to the truck’s arrival so I can soak in the silence of its departure. It’s not pleasant to be awakened in the dark by a garbage truck, but I have come to look forward to the gift of silence it leaves behind.

What a surprise, and a delightful one at that, to actually look forward to anticipating the unpleasant noise so I can soak in the deep wonderful silence that follows. And because the effect was so unexpected, I am now looking to identify similar experiences, and apply the lesson I’ve learned. I’m looking for instances in which I can look past the initial difficult moment or unpleasant experience and anticipate something positive in its wake. It’s like the moment of relief when I get past being stuck in heavy traffic and zoom off down the highway, or coming in out of the rain to revel in the dry warmth of a hotel lobby.

Not every unpleasant experience has an enjoyable aftermath, but I am surprised at how often that garbage truck has given some negative experience the pleasure of a soft and warm landing


With a Perspective I’m Ray Pestrong.

Ray Pestrong is a retired professor of geology at San Francisco State University.