Most of us value a calm and serene environment, and most of us go out of our way to not make irritating noises. But some people have little regard for the comfort of others and couldn't care less about offending our eardrums. Here are the top five sounds that have been compromising my inner (and outer) peace lately.
Two Sundays ago I was woken up by the sound of fireworks at 1.30am. My alarm was set for 5am for a showjumping event so I was less than impressed. What sort of moron (apologies for the Hosking-ism; it just seems like the right word) wakes up at 1.30am and thinks that letting off a few crackers and disturbing the sleep of everyone in the vicinity is a good idea? Gosh, if I wake up in the middle of the night, I usually just take a few sips of water; the most I will do is switch on the bedside light and read a few pages of a novel. (Yes, I know these firecracker aficionados probably just arrived home from somewhere and that alcohol may well have been a factor but the alternative version is funnier.)
Anyway, I think the same people lit some crackers in the early hours of last Sunday too (my alarm was set for 6am this time; more showjumping). I don't know what time it was because I only became conscious enough to utter an expletive in my head before falling straight back to sleep. That's right: I am gradually becoming immune to the sound of firecrackers. This is a pity because I was planning on going all Nancy Drew and finding the perpetrators next time.
2. Credit card tapping
Last Thursday I was in a queue at the local post office and the woman immediately behind me was tapping her credit card on the metal rail behind which waiting customers must stand. (She was also way too close to me. Every time I stepped away from her she moved to take up the breathing space I'd just acquired. But that's not important right now.)
Her credit card tapping was loud and relentless. But it wasn't the decibel levels or the relentlessness that irked me. It was the needlessness of the activity that made my blood boil. So this woman considered her impatience to be of such significance that she needed to convey it to everyone around her. I wanted to say: "Hey, lady, we can all think of better places to be than in a post office queue so enough with the tapping already." Instead, I just watched the percussive event with what I hoped was an intolerant expression on my face.
3. Pen clicking
There are few sounds peskier than that frenzied persistent clicking on and off of a ballpoint pen. Work colleagues, shop staff and random people in public places are all guilty of perpetrating such an offence. When I'm in the vicinity of such a person, I can't concentrate on anything else. It does my head in. What makes someone want to inflict this little sound on their fellow citizens? Are they narcissistic attention-seekers who were starved of affection in childhood?
I hadn't realised quite how highly this antisocial little habit ranked on my personal annoyance scale until I texted my daughter some unsolicited exam advice earlier this month: "Don't rush. Don't go slow. Use time at end to check and improve answers. Don't be an annoying pen clicker."
4. Chirping cars
Don't you get a fright when you're walking innocently past a car and it emits a strident chirp or, perhaps, a chirp chirp? I always do. I look around for the source only to realise it was triggered by the owner who is either remotely locking the car (and activating the alarm) or unlocking the car (and deactivating the alarm). What is this gratuitous chirping for? Why would a car owner want to draw attention to his or her vehicle? Surely the look-at-me-look-at-me-I-have-a-car-with-remotely-activated-and-loudly-chirping-door-mechanisms exhibitionism lost its snob value twenty-odd years ago. Both the chirp and the chirp chirp are as pointless as they are annoying.
5. IPhone typing clicks
Whenever I'm near someone who is painstakingly typing on their iPhone with an audible click for each keystroke, I have to refrain from advising them that they can switch off this ridiculous sound. I've always assumed that anyone who has this meaningless feature activated must believe it is compulsory. But then I try to put myself in someone else's shoes and imagine where this penchant for the audible typewriter click might spring from. Only joking: I just assume they're arrogant technophobes with self-esteem issues and leave it at that.