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DuBose: Loud noise laws should be across the board

Haven’t we had great sleeping weather lately? As for me and mine, the air’s been off, the windows have been open, and, ever-mindful that school resumes next week, we’ve hunkered down and simply reveled in our precious and few remaining lazy summer mornings. A lucky kid’s luxury and a lucky mama’s, too.

But, alas, there was to be no lazing-about, this last Wednesday morning.

Instead, as I gazed down at my dear daughter, who slept curled up against me with her cheek resting upon my arm (I’m not sure what prompted her to climb in with us this time, but there she was), I heard a door slam. Holly startled and her eyes flew open. Todd had already left for work, so I leaned over to the window to have a look and discovered that a concrete cutting service had just parked its rig on Houston Street – right under my bedroom window, in fact – and the crew was preparing to do its thing. They’d done their thing on another part of my street the day before, so I knew what was coming – and knew it would be loud.

“You’re kidding me,” I muttered, as I checked the time and realized that it wasn’t even 7 a.m. yet. But shoot, these guys were slamming doors, laughing and going about their business as though dozens of people weren’t still sleeping mere feet away, babies included. I bet they wouldn’t dream of cutting concrete in this neighborhood at this hour if their mothers lived here, would they? I don’t think so. I can see it now, one of their mamas running outside in her rollers and robe, jerking a knot in her son’s collar (which, um, I don’t advocate but can totally see happening) and dragging him back to her porch where she puts him in “time out” until at least 8 a.m. That’s a decent and more civil hour of the day, thank you very much, and the earliest I’ll let my kids play basketball in our driveway. “Not a minute before,” I always say, because “people are still sleeping.”

I resisted the urge to run out there myself. I’m not stupid, and I’m not their mama. I can only imagine, though, how I’d have reacted if my kids were still babies, what with all of that up and down nonsense babies do, if they’d been awakened at that hour after a long night of teething. Either way, “You don’t just run out there and take them on,” I cautioned my daughter, when I considered what to do.

“No, not four guys with a saw,” Holly said, laughing. No, indeed. I called the police, instead.

“Is the city of Batavia in the habit of hiring contractors to begin work before 7 a.m.?” I asked. The dispatcher said he’d send an officer. In the meantime, the earsplitting sawing commenced.

The concrete cutters eliminated a sizeable bump in the street, where it had buckled years before, and which has since become a skateboard magnet and the bane of many unwitting cyclists who frequent our street on their way to the bike path. (I’ve seen a few go head over handlebars, so I knew the bump’s days were numbered.) I admit I’ve enjoyed watching the neighborhood kids catch air here, and know that my own have gotten their kicks jumping their bikes over that thing, but none of us has ever gotten used to the awful clanging sound made whenever trucks rumbled past. This was particularly frustrating on garbage pickup day. Garbage trucks are loud under the best of circumstances, but when a bumpy street is involved, those dang trucks generate the sort of sound that inspires adrenaline to go coursing through your body as if you’re under attack. I swear, it always sounded like they were crashing into the house.

That, I won’t miss. I appreciate the improvement, but I just wish that the work had begun a little later. The guy manning the cutter even wore protective headphones to cover his ears. Because, well, it’s loud.

No kidding.

One neighbor described the noise as “brutal.” During the ruckus it occurred to me to yell downstairs to my son – who’d also been sound asleep when the nonsense started – that he should close the windows so the dust wouldn’t fly in.

“I can’t really hear you,” he yelled back. Right.

I’m not a fan of obnoxious noise. I’m not alone, which is why cities have noise ordinances. I now know that Batavia’s currently allows for construction to commence after 7 a.m. weekdays. In the concrete cutters’ defense, they didn’t technically turn on their saw until a few minutes after 7 a.m., but commercial machinery that makes excessive noise, including a cement cutter, for example, cannot be used until after 8 a.m. Apparently, though, contractors hired by the city (which I assume was the case, here) are generally exempt from needing to wait this additional hour. Why? What’s the difference? I think the code should be amended and hereby suggest it be to “keep it down, in residential areas, until 8 a.m., across the board,” or some such thing. You get the idea. Excessive noise is excessive noise, no matter who hires the contractor.

• Jennifer DuBose is a contributor for the Kane County Chronicle. She lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. She can be reached at jenniferdubose@msn.com.

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