I’m sitting here like a prat in a coffee shop renowned throughout the modern world as the natural habitat of prats with laptops who, in their whole attitude and disposition, claim to be writers. I’m struggling to make sense of a world of my own design and construction. In fact, I grapple with an idea so arcane that previous science-fiction writers who entertained it had to be institutionalized.
I look up from my MacPro to gaze at the ceiling reflectively. On the way, I pause to smile, fondly enough, at a klatch of females with their young.
Then one of these young items screams. Piercingly and at length it shrieks, triggering a couple of its wee associates thereby.
What it sounds like: toddler shrieks.
This atavistic behavior, according to one theory, was originally meant to alert adults to the news that a leopard lurked nearby and steps needed to be taken. Maybe so. But I’m pretty sure there isn’t a leopard within a radius of many kilometers and, if there is, it should only eat this shrill young specimen who could alternatively be kept shielded from civil society in a lead-lined bunker.
Of course such behavior has lurked deep in primate genomes since our days as monkeys, and this may explain why we find scratching on blackboards so unpleasant (though this hypothesis has been questioned). I suppose it might be forgiven on that account by genuine adults, which is something I don’t claim to be.
Mind you I had a late night, and this ms. isn’t going all that well even without 130-decibel assaults on my unsympathetic nervous system.
I’m something of a curmudgeon at the best of times, which these are not, and I turn a look on my fellow patrons designed to reduce them to quivering protoplasm. They mistake this for something benign, and smile at me in ways that suggest I’m adorable, though not as adorable as their screeching spawn, the shrillest pair of whom now toddle towards me trailing drool.
“Do you think they build these coffee shops only for you to write books in?” Sara asks me later. Then she adds, with little conviction: “Really, you thought those kids were cute, didn’t you?”
* Human babies, if they’re in good form, reportedly can do 130 dbls. That’s like listening to a jet plane rev its engines at 40 meters or so.
* “Former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova … has officially reached 101 decibels (a lion‘s roar is 110 decibels).” Wikipedia. So what? It gives me an excuse to post her photo. While I’m at it, here’s a link to all the things tennis is good for; maybe it’s an antidote to curmudgeonlyness: https://www.thebabbleout.com/tennis/health-benefits-of-tennis/.
* In Bangkok, both parking-lot attendants and traffic police labor under the misapprehension that cars move only if you keep blowing shrieky whistles at them. Quixotic Resistance Movement Award of the Decade goes to Quiet Bangkok.)
* Visit this site for a less interesting hypothesis than the one advanced above for why toddlers shriek this way, plus a viscerally less satisfying way of encouraging them not to.