As I write, there’s a floor guy out in the kitchen getting ready to put down tile. There’s the staccato growl of the jigsaw as he cuts underlayment into odd-shaped segments. There’s the oddly final sound of the staple gun ensuring that subfloor will still be there long after I’m dead and buried in the backyard. There’s the occasional sound of stuff falling, stuff banging, tools having arguments in the toolbox.

It’s a noisy place. I’ve got my music cranking in here, too. Greenday. Did he really just say what I thought he said? Disgusting.

This is good for me. Over the last year or so, I’d gotten accustomed to…

Holy crap! Floor Guy just pounded something with a mallet! I jumped four feet and I no longer have to pee.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Over the past year or so, I’d gotten accustomed to writing in silence like some kind of deep-woods scribe. I’ve been shutting the door, turning off the music and sitting here with nothing but the sound of thoughts throbbing at my temples.



No, really. Wuss.

In the news business, silence — or even its skinny friend, reasonable quiet — is a luxury to which none of us are entitled. If you ever find yourself in a newsroom and it’s quiet, be wary. It takes plague, bomb threats or alien invasion to cause a newsroom to go still. And the first two are no guarantees.

Newsrooms are busy places filled with a cacophony all their own. Reporters pecking at keyboards. Editors shouting across the room and warning of deadlines. Photographers yelling at everyone who isn’t a photographer.

“There’s no photo request! If you don’t get in your photo request, you’re not going to get art! Morons!”

When big news is breaking, it really gets wild. Editors will pace around the reporter’s desk. Layout people will yell suggested headlines at one another. Some tool who has nothing to do with the preparation of the story will stand there babbling loudly about his own personal views on whatever the news happens to be.

“Did you guys see that head come off? I haven’t seen anything like that since that time when I was working at the Daily Nostril and some lady went nuts with a Flowbee…”


I’ve written stories on deadline with everything but gunfire raging around me. The clamor is like fuel to the writer’s …

Son of a! I think Floor Guy just knocked the refrigerator over! If the cat was under there, it’s going to be messy.

… In some ways, the clamor is like fuel to the writer’s imagination. The adrenaline of the moment keeps him locked in and he writes at a riveting pace. That endorphin rush is what attracts some folks to the news business in the first place. It’s intoxicating. It’s invigorating. It’s loud.

And now look at me, at home and demanding silence like some priggish librarian. Most of these weekly columns are written with the door closed, the lights low, in a room that’s gone as silent as a cloud.

There was a time when I’d take a seat at the bar and scrawl out my lines on a sheet of paper notarized by the wet circle of a beer glass. Jukebox blasting, drunk girls screeching, loud guys yelling jokes. A barfly author writing on the front lines. Spending time in the jungle to write about the jungle. It’s real that way, and honest.

Every profession has its own soundtrack. If you’re a carpenter, it’s buzzing saws. If you practice law, its the hollow voices of the courtroom and the clack of gavel on wood. Subtract that music and the silence itself becomes a distraction. Noise is energy.


So it’s a mystery why I’ve become enamored of the silence. Maybe it’s just part of the grand wussification that comes when you are given something so lofty as a weekly column. Will I next find that I require scented candles and a dehumidifier before I can put pen to paper? Will I become one of those guys who hauls his laptop to Starbucks to write in the company of strangers? Even worse, will I switch from coffee to something dainty like sweet tea with honey?

I’m getting freaked out. Fortunately, in the midst of this pre-pre-pre midlife crisis, there’s Floor Guy, unwittingly helping me find my way back to the Land of Noise.

There. The ragged blade of the jigsaw tearing through unfinished wood. Oh, and there. The uncompromising sound of a hammer convincing some uncooperative piece of lumber to comply. It’s not gunfire and screams, but it’s not bad. And look at that. I’ve made it all the way through a column amid all that clatter. Just like the old days. And with that chore out of the way, I’m free to go downtown for a nice spot of tea.

I mean, coffee! A nice spot of coffee.

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