The Shapiro Files

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mysterious Noise (Me and My Imagination)

For several months--possibly years--there has been an engine revving noise disrupting my otherwise very quiet neighborhood on a regular basis. Marcie and I usually notice the sound in the early evening around 7pm and then again later in the night around 10-11pm. Each occurrence typically lasts between 5 and 10 minutes.

Like so many random outdoor noises in our post-industrial world (airplanes, sirens, robot rebellions ....OK, maybe not that one...yet), the sound of a revving engine isn't something I'd necessarily pay much attention to. However, the loudness and regularity of the noise has resulted in it becoming impossible to ignore. And once you become consciously aware of an annoyance like this, it's hard not to let it get to you after a while.

Still, we've had absolutely no idea where the sound was coming from and what was causing it. With nothing to go on, I decided to let my imagination run wild.

One of my more elaborate postulations was that there was some sort of domestic drama being played out in my neighborhood. This invented scenario involved a teenage girl being raise by ultra-strict parents that forbid her to date. But despite her parents' best intentions, she meets and falls in love with a James Dean rebel type who skips class, frequently drops the "f-bomb" in mixed company, and rides a motorcycle. Each night around 7pm, the girl sneaks out of her bedroom window to meet up with her rough-around-the-edges beau. In contrast to her furtive exit from her home, he stridently sits atop his running motorcycle right in front of the house, revving his engine in reckless abandon (thus the noise). But as is often the case in these tales, looks can be deceiving. The boyfriend is really just a sensitive and misunderstood guy who has had some tough breaks growing up. He's surprisingly thoughtful and is always mindful to bring the girl home by 11 each night (thus the second round of engine noise) so she can get enough sleep for school the next day. Ah, young love.

OK so maybe that one is a little over the top.

Another scenario I invented involved a disgruntled auto mechanic who was stealing customers away from his employer and secretly servicing their cars in his garage at night. But perhaps he had some reason to stick to the strictest of schedules--so much so, that he would only do engine work for 10 minutes at a time, once at 7pm and once again between 10 and 11.

But alas, neither of these scenarios proved to be the real reason for the noise. Rather, as is often the case, reality is simultaneously more prosaic and weirder than imagination.

A few nights ago around 7pm, Marcie and I were in the kids' room getting them ready for bedtime when once again, that pesky revving engine noise starting doing its thing. I looked outside the window and noticed someone parallel parking a small white car. I didn't think much of it and returned to the family. After all, a car that small couldn't possibly make that much noise, could it? Still, the noise lingered and I kept breaking away from our kiddie nighttime ritual to peak out the window to see if I could find the source of that sound. But again, all I saw was that little white car parallel parking. All at once, the noise stopped and I noticed that the taillights of the car turned off moments later. A coincidence?

I re-engaged with the kiddies, but the noise started up once again shortly thereafter. Returning once more to the window, I noticed that the white car's driver had resumed parallel parking. It was at this point that I began thinking that perhaps it really was that small car making that sound. But how? Maybe the muffler fell off? Perhaps its owner souped up the engine to be more like a race car? I couldn't quite figure this out, but then something more obvious hit me: Holy moly, this person has been parallel parking their car in the same spot for at least 5 minutes! How long does it take for someone to park a car?

The noise ceased yet again and the car's taillights turned off. Ah ha! It really is that little white car. But what a strange combination of things: an innocuous compact car with a big engine noise, plus a driver who needs a minimum of 5 minutes to park!

At last the driver emerged. She walked to the back of her car, looked at the rear tires and at the car parked behind her, and then...gets back in the car to resume parallel parking!

It seems that we have someone on our street who has some sort of abnormally loud car engine and some serious OCD (either that, or she's just impossibly bad at parking). Either way, it's all pretty odd.

I kept watching (can you blame me?) and saw that the driver finally was satisfied with her parking. She then walked up the street and opened the door of a different car and got in. She quickly started it up and drove away.

Very mysterious.

I'm guessing that the person has some sort of arrangement where she drives one car at a certain time of day and then drops it off and picks up a different car around 7pm. Perhaps she has a car sharing arrangement with a friend or her husband/ex-husband? Or maybe she drives one car during the day and then another car for a night job that ends around 11pm? Hmmm.... The possibilities are endless.

By the way, her little white car was still parked on the curb the following morning. So I had a chance to look at it up close and learned that it's an older VW Jetta (one of those mid-to-late 80s box-like models). Not exactly a car you'd want to turn into a race car. So maybe I was right about the muffler?

So many questions, so little answers.


  • Maybe it was a diesel engine. They are a lot louder, and VW has always had them as an option.

    By Anonymous David Scott, at 5/01/2009 12:31 PM  

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