For someone with one of the loudest voices around (what Margaret Laurence used to call a “carrying voice”), I sure am touchy about noise.
Other people’s loud music especially touches a nerve, particularly if it’s got a lot of bass. Maybe it’s a neurotic holdover from my childhood — as a kid I used to tremble with little-sister outrage at the Led Zeppelin pouring out from the cracks around my older sister’s door, interfering with my fantasy world of Barbie dolls and story writing — but if it is a neurosis, I don’t think I’m alone in having it. If I had been, then The Docks wouldn’t have just lost its liquor licence at the hands of its desperate and deafened neighbours.
What are The Docks? They’re (or it’s) a nightclub on the water’s edge in downtown Toronto. I’ve been there once, for a party, and there was volleyball, a drive-in, and a discotheque with spinning pink lights and clouds of dry ice. Patrons could do everything from bungee jumping to sunbathing, but I don’t really recall anything there that involved actually listening to music.
Certainly there was something called music, but it was too loud to understand or appreciate or listen to comfortably. You could dance to it, but it wasn’t music. It was — well, boomboomboogieboogie NOISE.
The Docks also have concerts, and one of them recently was still going on at seven o’clock in the morning. “An all-night rave,” a neighbour called it. Because The Docks (as much as they don’t like them) have neighbours.
Most of the neighbours live only a few hundred yards away, on an island. Most of the “island residents” live in charming cottages without benefit of sewers or convenience stores, have to take a ferry back and forth to the mainland, and are often resented by the rest of the city residents for living on a gorgeous island paradise when the rest of us live in cement bunkers on patches of pesticide-soaked crabgrass (or at least, that’s how we make it sound, when we decide to whine about the Islanders).
Whether the Islanders have it better than the mainlanders is not the point. The point is that they are the ones suffering most from the hellish racket made by The Docks. After many years of complaints, The Docks recently — finally — lost a noise violation suit brought by the City of Toronto, for having so many dang loud parties. The decision of the court, which heard from neighbouring residents whose nerves were so frayed by the thundering, soul-jarring racket that they were in tears or on meds or both, was that The Docks was making way too much noise, was a really bad neighbour, and did not have the right to blow other city residents’ houses off their foundations so that they could throw big parties and make money off it (I’m paraphrasing the legalese).
The punishment: hit ’em where it hurts. The Docks received a liquor licence suspension. The howls of outrage from the “entertainment industry” over the unfairness of this, and how people would lose their jobs, and how ridiculous the “small group” of “islanders” was being (as if living on an island gave them no right to peace), and what a bunch of party poopers the city was, were almost — but not quite — as loud as the noise that The Docks emits, like aural sewage into the atmosphere.
Their howls sounded like the squeals of a spoiled teenager who’s been told to turn down the stereo. “You can’t make me!” hollered The Docks, sending in the money, guns, and lawyers, and filing an appeal. And the night of the decision, the liquor was still flowing and The Docks were still beating the city over the head with noise. But it ain’t just the islanders. Other neighbours can hear it too. But who cares who complained? The Docks’ noise problems are not the neighbours’ — or the City’s — problems to solve. Private enterprises can’t stomp around insisting everyone march to their boombox. Nobody has the right to stink up the night like The Docks does. We all live here. Turn down the volume, or get out of town.