You want a noise ordinance? I'll give you a noise ordinance.
The Baltimore City Council is wrestling with how to quiet down this often-clamorous city. It's considering adding "excessive noise" to the list of public nuisances, right up there with prostitution and gambling, that police can use to shut down a building.
Though the proposal was discussed - at length, and over the din of car alarms and emergency vehicles outside - at a City Hall hearing this week, council members delayed action until they could iron out the legislation's language and figure out how to enforce it.
(No small matter, incidentally, when the police say they don't have the equipment - or, no doubt, the desire - to measure decibel levels at every bar or backyard barbecue that bothers a nearby resident, and the Health Department, which does have such devices, says it would defer to the police on this one.)
While the council hashes out the specifics, one thing is clear: With its focus on shutting down buildings from which excessive noise emanates, the proposal fails to address those truly responsible for today's aural nuisances: Buildings don't create noise; people do.
So, in the spirit of helping out our elected officials, let me offer my own proposal for a noise ordinance.
PUBLIC CELL PHONE USAGE
(A) Definitions. Cell phone user shall be in violation of excessive noise ordinance if:
(1) conversation can be heard by anyone other than intended recipient of the call, particularly if:
(a) said conversation is comprised of utterly meaningless information that has no discernible need of conveyance. Including, but not limited to, such information as, "I'm leaving the CVS now and going to my car. ... I'm at my car now."
(b) conversation takes an intimate turn that fails to pass the "ewwwwww" test. Example: "So then the doctor asks me if there was any itching."
(2) cell phone's ring tone is such that it becomes implanted in the brain of any passer-by, who then is stuck hearing it over and over in his or her head for the remainder of the day. Harshest penalties apply if ring tone is Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha."
(B) Limitations. None.
(1) Well, maybe if you're calling 911.
(2) And your mother, because you never call, you never write.
(1) First violation: 25 hours of community service, to be served in a dead zone with no cellular service.
(2) Second violation: Violator's cell phone number will be turned over to telemarketing industry's "National Please Do Call Registry."
(A) Definition. Anyone using a leaf blower at any time of day under any circumstances will be immediately jailed.
(B) Limitations. See (A)
(C) Penalties. See (A)
(A) Definitions. Drivers whose car stereos blast music so loudly that it:
(1) can be heard two lanes over.
(2) can be felt one lane over.
(3) makes the driver in any nearby car, who has been unsuccessfully scanning the radio dial for the past half-hour trying to get an Orioles score, miss said score.
(B) Limitations. At officer's discretion, driver may be issued warning rather than citation for particularly apropos musical selections, i.e., someone driving a little red Corvette and playing same, or someone playing "SexyBack" if he or she indeed brought sexy back.
(1) First violation: Violator's car radio will be forcibly set to play only lite rock and smooth jazz stations.
(2) Second violation: The CD Idol Worship: String Quartet Tribute to the Brightest Stars of American Idol will be permanently implanted in car's CD player and the repeat button jammed.
(A) Any person, regardless of age, shall receive a citation if he or she is overheard in public:
(1) using the word like in any way other than Strunk and White and Merriam and Webster intended. Example: "My mom is like, you are so busted, and I'm like, I told you I was at the library, and she's like ... "
(2) ending every sentence with an upward intonation. Example: "I went to the mall? And I saw Emily there? And she was buying the same True Religion jeans that I have?"
(B) Limitations. Exemptions will be considered for high school cafeterias and college campuses as long as signs clearly delineate the teenspeak zone and warn the unsuspecting.
(C) Penalties: Mandatory 30 hours of listening to BBC World News Service.
(A) Definitions. Unlawful iPod usage includes:
(1) Setting the volume so loud that leakage occurs and inflicts a tinny version of your tunes on the person .
(2) Not pulling one ear bud out to talk to someone and thus TALKING REALLY LOUDLY.
(B) Limitations. None.
(C) Penalties. IPod seized. Proof of actual, decibel-appropriate interaction with outside world before getting it back.