I used to find it agitating to be subjected to the music or entertainment preferences of people in public, especially on public transportation. It bothered me they would never wear their headphones to make sure that they were the only person enjoying their media, that it was a special moment between their chosen piece of music and themselves. I used to hate being made to listen to someone watch some sort of drama or over-the-top action film on my way to work, hearing the screaming sobs or the excessive explosions.

I don’t mind it now, though. In fact, I find it intriguing. What do people like that I love? Do they enjoy things that I don’t? Could they introduce me to something new? I don’t know when this changed.

Perhaps it happened when I was living in Sydney at the moment that I decided I loathed the idea of quiet carriages on trains, which seem to have no logical function other than to inconvenience more people than they benefit. This is especially obvious when you live somewhere that doesn’t have the appropriate capability of obviously labelling, which leads to a lot of upset individuals who all look suspiciously like those who attempt to avoid public transportation at all costs and may only use it once or twice a year because the car is in the shop.

Or it could be the introduction to many other cultural attitudes toward noise pollution, which were not present in the rural Midwestern town I grew up in. It was always quiet there, but we could get away with things that people living in town limits couldn’t. We could actually have bonfires, and we could have more pets than allowed (and my family did, as we lived on a farm).

But we weren’t allowed to have higher-than-average levels of noise, as the neighbours within earshot could potentially call the police on you. I remember going to a friend’s party when I was in high school where that did happen. She lived in much the same area as I did, which is to say she lived in the middle of a corn field. You couldn’t see her neighbours’ homes, and you’d never have known she even had neighbours if it weren’t for the fact they called the police on us for playing music too loud on only one occasion.

That’s probably why I love the fact that here in Tainan there is a constant stream of noise, which some people would assume to be unhealthy. It’s comforting to me, even if it sometimes gets on my nerves. I like hearing the garbage trucks playing some form of classical music, usually Beethoven, to let people know that they’re out collecting; I like that the man who collects and sorts through recycling plays what sounds like some midi variant of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On to signify the same message. I like hearing the popping of the firecrackers at the temple across the street. I even enjoy the traveling campaign trucks and miniature parades that go by my flat.

And I even like going to quiet places like Shoushan knowing that, at some point, an older person will be hiking past me with their radio on full-blast.

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