The dentist told me I have three cracked teeth and be careful what I eat. A tooth can break in half on any hard crunch. I think of the soft foods I can eat until I fork over my first-born for a crown.
I can still eat my morning quinoa with walnuts and almonds—just need to smash my nuts before putting them in my cereal. Almonds are the worst; they’ll break a molar in an Anchorage minute.
But alas, I don’t have a Cuisinart or other kitchen grinding tool.
So I scour the house for a hammer to smash my nuts. I find a framing hammer. The thing weighs a ton and feels like The Hammer of Thor. I wield it like a Viking and pretend I’m Astrid in Thor and the Hammer Women of Bjornstad.
I pour the almonds into a plastic freezer bag and seal it. Where can I smash them? I look around, then figure I should so it outside; I don’t want to break my countertop or dent my table.
I step out on the back deck. It’s January in Alaska at 9:00 a.m. It’s dark, but technically it’s daytime. The sun doesn’t come up till 9:59 a.m. If I smash my nuts with this inglorious nut-killing hammer, it’ll be loud. Never mind the aurora I see dancing overhead. It still feels like I’m making noise in the middle of the night.
I Google Anchorage’s Municipal Noise Ordinance (AMC15.70), that limits the level of allowable noise based on location and time of day. I peruse the website to make sure I’m in compliance. After all, I want to be a good neighbor.
But wait—first I must determine the dB(A). Oh no, algebra? I stress, my mouse ready to ‘X’ out of the webpage. No, it’s only ‘A-scale decibels—noise levels. Okay I can deal with that.
I peer at a table showing allowable noise levels in dBA. For Residential—meaning me—I can make 60 sound level dBA between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. And I can make 50 sound level dBA all the flipping night if I want to—from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
Otherwise, I need a Noise Permit that takes 20 days to process. I look down at my nut-slayer. I’m not building anything, I’m smashing nuts. And I don’t want to wait 20 days to do it.
Back to The Table. I read the first ‘Typical Noise Level.’ It says, (no joke) “Grand Canyon at night (no roads, birds, or wind) 10 dBA.” Wait—am I on Arizona’s web page? I check. No, it’s Alaska’s.
So what does The Grand Canyon have to do with the price of pineapples in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan? And what is the dBA for the Grand Canyon with roads, birds, and wind? I’m intrigued.
The table lists noise levels of computers: 37-45 dBA; Typical living room: 40 dBA; Typical conversation: 55-65 dBA—yeah, if certain people aren’t in the conversation. Some people can shoot a conversation noise level up to air compressor levels, at 90-93 dBA. But I digress.
I estimate my hammer pounding dBA noise level to be somewhere between a vacuum cleaner at 84-89 dBA, and a lawn mower at 88-94 dBA. I’m sure I am over-estimating my Hammer of Thor nut-smashing dBA levels.
I leave my computer, pick up the Hammer of Thor and head to the deck. I drop the plastic bag of almonds onto the frosty cedar. I am poised for pulverizing. I raise and lower my weapon of nut destruction, macerating each almond like the 2001 Space Odyssey chimps, as they wield their bone clubs, crushing skeletons. I fondly recall the scene in slow motion, and see bone fragments slow-mo’ing everywhere. Only my nuts don’t fly—they’re imprisoned in a pliable, transparent execution chamber.
The rhythm of pounding reminds me of distant drums in a pagan ritual. I take out my aggression on the poor helpless nuts. Crunch! Scrunch! Thwack! The sound of my hammer reverberates around the neighborhood in the still of the black morning.
A momentary pause—do I hear something? Another dBA noise, perhaps? Why yes, I do hear something—my angry neighbor. “Stop that f%$#ing noise, I’m trying to sleep!” I estimate his yelling at 80 dBA.
I freeze, crazed in the porch light, hammer in midair as if posing for a cheesy silent movie.
I look at my dead almonds; mission accomplished. I grab my bag of mangled nuts and retreat into the house. But hey I’m in compliance; I didn’t break the municipal noise ordinance.
But this is Alaska. When it’s darker longer, we sleep more. We hibernate like bears in January. We stay in our house-caves and only come out for work or food.
Unlike bears, we pursue our food in a car to the store. We don’t kill it as it walks by our cave, as bears do. We’re civilized here, on the tundra.The first order of business is to enjoy my pulverized nuts, knowing I won’t break my teeth. After all, I went to all that trouble.
Just another cabin fever day in Alaska.
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