The Sounds of Being a Being


We’re in the process of change.  My wife and I recently sold our home of 36 years and do you have any idea how much crap is collected over that amount of time?  It’s very deceiving as it never looks like that much stuff but then you find it is cleverly hidden in closets, shelves, drawers, and boxes in the attic and garage.  We had been thinking about doing this for a few years now, to move closer to the grandkids, wasn’t looking forward to dealing with the expense of increased maintenance of an aging house and tired of the four season upkeep of all the landscaping.  The final sign came from heaven just as it does in so many books and movies when I went to pick up our order from our favorite Chinese restaurant and the owner who we had come to know very well over the years shared with me they had sold the business.  It took a second to sink in, as my previous meals flashed before my eyes.  We broke fast here, we celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and graduations here, it was our go to place to bring out of town visitors, our first grandson had his first potsticker here.  When I got home I found a way to break the news to Sue.  Her reaction was as expected, before I could open the fried rice she was on her laptop searching for a realtor and our  next challenge began to unfold.
We finally closed on the sale of our house after some unexpected delays and drama which wasn’t helped any by the stress of the on-going coronavirus pandemic and then simultaneously closing on our new place.  So now finding a mover, turning utilities off, turning utilities on, finish packing it all up, changing addresses and notifying relatives made it seem like an endless daunting insurmountable task.  After the physical move it took a good two weeks to be 90% officially unpacked and things in place and sure there will be tweaking to come here and there, but for now we can stop, take a deep breath and appreciate living here.
Currently my days are spent learning my way around town and the names of my new neighbors, (who I hope I can still recognize when masks are no longer needed), and making sense of the HOA rules and regulations but I’m also in the process of getting used to a new set of sounds.  Our old house had its own set of sounds and after 36 years I could identify them all and their classification: should I be alarmed, concerned or ignore?  Creeks from different parts of the house caused by expanding or contracting, the strange still unexplained to this day dining room wall intermittent noise, the sound created when the drip system started, the sound of the ice maker dropping cubes into the bucket, the squirrel on the roof, the sound of the postal truck starting up, sound of the UPS truck’s sliding door, my neighbors dog’s bark, the other neighbors rooster, the garbage trucks, the sound of rain hitting the roof and the sound of water flowing out of the downspout.
Those in manufacturing can appreciate the importance of sound as you can assess much information from it, if a packaging machine is operating at maximum efficiency, production line conveyors are operating properly when at full speed or if a ball bearing is going bad, the sound product makes when dropping into the packing bins or the sound of forklifts in motion, rattling along moving finished goods from production and placing it on a rack followed by a beep of the scan gun confirming location.  Sometimes it’s also the lack of sounds that can tell you all is not right.
At one facility I co-managed there was a spot that few knew existed let alone even attempted to get too.  It was a small semi-enclosed area, two stories above the production floor and where all 8 conveyor belt lines intersected and the bags of finished product were sorted and sent on their way down to the proper palletizer.  You could sit there, close your eyes and listen to the sounds to know when everything was operating at its optimum.  Each conveyor belt had its own beat created by a combination of the spinning rollers and intermittent movement of the sort gates opening and closing and stops popping up and down.  This was accompanied by the palletizer section that added its own harmony of clickity clack as the stabilizer opened and then a large burp of air as the completed pallet moved out and finished with a flourish as the shrink wrap machine spun it’s magical tune.  Like everything else in life when all is in harmony  together they create a beautiful symphony.
We had several senior machine operators who did most of their preventive maintenance by sound but we had one in particular who was in such tune with his machine, after listening in one particular section or another would then put in a parts order because he could hear what part was wearing down.  When he retired we could never find any one who could operate this unit as efficiently and productively as he did.
Sounds are also a great way to relay the message in a large area that there is an emergency!  Some companies use whistles or horns and the number of blasts tell you how big an emergency.  One blast a medical emergency, two blasts a fire and so on.  Others use an alarm, siren or bells and some just use a PA system.
Sounds can also bring us great joy.  The sound of a cooing baby or hearing their first words.  The pleasure of listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony or BB King’s blues.  The exciting sound of a solid check into the boards or the bat hitting the ball.  Bubbling sounds of a sauce simmering to perfection or the sizzling sound of a steak hitting the grill.  Sounds allows us to create, communicate and appreciate the world around us.
However, to ensure a life time of listening to sounds you must protect your hearing and the only way to do that is by wearing the proper PPE. Losing the sense of hearing sound is not usually an instant injury like breaking a leg but happens slowly over time.  It doesn’t take much sound to damage the unprotected ear, so make sure to begin a baseline by having a hearing test done.  You company should do this usually on your anniversary date of employment.  Next, find out what the number of decibels are in your work area and that should be measured with all the equipment running as if a normal work day.  Then find the best protection for those beautiful ears.  In most cases a simple earplug will do but in high decibel areas that you need to be in for a long period of time you should have earplugs and earmuff.  A safety professional can help you with the selection of PPE needed.  If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

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