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Shell Shocked: A noise far worse than leaf blowers

By Staff | Feb 25, 2020

Art Stevens

There’s a raging issue in Sanibel that threatens to erupt into civil war. It’s the issue of noise.

To some the sound of ear-piercing leaf blowers is the last straw in the quest for peace and quiet. These advocates maintain that they live in Sanibel to be in a noiseless environment and not to have their ear drums take a daily beating.

On the other hand, there are the visitors from places like New York City and Chicago where noise is king. They feel deprived unless the daily noise decibel level exceeds the capacity of normal ears.

There are two sides to every issue. The pros and the cons. Which side are you on? To add to your ear-splitting decision making comes another deadly ear bender – a noise so traumatizing that there can only be one side to this issue – the cons.

It’s a noise that is even deadlier than the leaf blower. It’s a noise that has traveled to Sanibel from fast food chains throughout the country. That noise is the dreaded stomach growl.

Not only is the stomach growl noisy but it leaves in its wake humiliation, embarrassment and contempt. It ranks right up there in the Guinness Book of Records as the cause for more bar fights and restaurant brawls than noticing flies in one’s soup. You can press a switch to turn off the noise of leaf blowers, but you can’t arbitrarily stop the ugly sounds of stomach growls. If you have them you’re stuck with them.

The scenarios are plentiful where hearts have been broken, romances nipped in the bud and ill-advised ultimatums been given to stop the advancement of stomach growls. Imagine an attractive, very desirable young lady meeting a prospective mate in a restaurant through one of the online dating services.

They meet, size each other up and begin some getting-to-know-you banter. They order a glass of wine all the while staring deeply into each other’s eyes thinking the same thoughts – this could work. And then they order a Caesar’s salad with anchovies.

They eat slowly and continue the banter – where did you grow up, what do you do for a living, who did you vote for in the last election – and the most important question of all – do you like sour pickles?

And then out of nowhere a low growl is heard. The growl gathers some speed and turns into a cascade of noises the likes of which point to only one possibility – the dreaded stomach growl. The couple look at each other. Where is this horrible noise coming from and, more to the point, from whom?

And then it’s clear where the origin of the growl is coming from. It’s the demure young lady. All the restaurant noises suddenly subside – the sound of dishes being placed on tables, the laughter, the conversation. And all that remains is that growl, a stomach growl.

She’s embarrassed, as you would be too. She pretends that it’s coming from elsewhere. “My,” she says, “someone must have eaten pure lard.” She laughs out loud trying to drown out her obvious low baritone stomach growl. When she stops laughing, it becomes clear that the sound is coming from her belly.

Her date is also embarrassed. Everyone in the restaurant is looking their way. He turns around and meets the eyes of horrified diners. There but for the grace of God and all that.

He says to her gently, “Oh, my. Houston, we have a problem. Do you have some Tums on you? I hear it works almost instantly.”

She says, “Once it starts, nothing will work. We can always speak more loudly.”

He says, “But the sound level in this restaurant is already pretty high and I can still hear your stomach making those noises.”

She says indignantly, “Well, stomach growls are a very natural thing and I get them fairly frequently. Other than that, I’m perfect.”

The chemistry was broken. He made some excuse about having to deal with mold in his attic and quickly left. She sat there thinking dj vu. She seems to go through this trauma every time she meets a new man. She began to come to the realization that it might be better to meet a man in a public library between meals rather than in restaurants.

This incident ignited the anti-noise polluters lobby in Sanibel and resolutions were presented to the City Council to outlaw stomach growling in public. The City Council now needs to deal with two divisive issues – leaf blowers and stomach growling. I for one wouldn’t want to be a member of the City Council at this point in history.