I was watching ‘About a Boy‘ at a friend’s house last night when an odd thought struck me.
(No, it wasn’t:
‘Hey, I really liked the ‘before’ Hugh Grant character much better than the ‘after’; all those psychos and kids are really turning him into a pantywaist.‘
‘I wonder if it would be worth shoving this beer bottle up my left nostril and into my brain so I don’t have to watch the rest of this movie.‘
Not to say that those thoughts didn’t strike me. I just wouldn’t call them ‘odd’.)
(Oh, I’m kidding. Hugh Grant is just the dreamiest, and I love kids in movies. The more, and the sacchariny-cuter, the better. Oh, my word, yes.
Why, if I could have just been soaking naked in a tubful of bleach and having paper clips shoved under my toenails, then it would have been the bestest movie ever!
Wait. That didn’t really help convince you I was ‘kidding’, did it? Eh, screw it. I gave it a shot.)
Anyway, the thought that struck me was this: the sirens on British ambulances sound remarkably like those here in the States. And I’m guessing — which is all I’m gonna do, because I don’t want to have to watch a bunch of artsy films from France and Egypt and Indonesia to find out — that ambulance and police sirens all over the world sound remarkably similar. Which begs the question, who came up with that noise, and who decided that it was just the right mix of annoying, insistent, and recognizable enough to signal a dire emergency? Because that’s a job that I wouldn’t want to have.
I imagine that they put together a panel of people, actually. Probably, they seated them all in a drab room somewhere, institutional green paint peeling from the walls. Most likely, they sat at desks, with a scoresheet of some kind, and a pencil to rate each noise on various scales. I can almost see a thin, severe man walking through the windowless door of the room, closing it firmly behind him, and administering the test:
Proctor: You will now be played a series of sounds. It is imperative that you listen closely to each of these sounds, and rate each one based on how effective an emergency signal you feel it would be. You have also been hooked to monitors for an objective analysis of your heart rate, blood pressure, and state of panic.
There will be no talking during this evaluation. The sounds will be played for ten seconds each at thirty second intervals. We will begin… now!
Gigantic Speakers: WEEEEEEEEEEH! WEEEEEEEEEEEEH! WEEEEEEEEEEEH! WEEEEEEEEEEEEH!
Subject One: Holy crapping Christ, I think my ears are bleeding!
Proctor: No talking! Make your evaluations now.
Subject One: What? Oh hell, my hearing’s gone, too.
Proctor: Pencils down! The next sound begins… now!
Gigantic Speakers: BOOP! BOOP! BOOP! SSSSKKRRRREEEEEE! SSSSKKRRRREEEEE! BOOP! BOOP! BOOP! SSSKRRREE-!
Proctor: Evaluate! Now!
Subject Two: I… I think I just wet myself. Where’s the box for that?
Proctor: No talking! The next sound will play…
Subject Four: Holy father, please have mercy on —
Gigantic Speakers: GGGGGRRRRUUUUUUUUNNNNNNHHHHHH! WHOOOOOO! GGGRRRRUUUUUUUUNNNNNHHHH!
Subject Three: Um, wasn’t that just somebody snoring really loud?
Proctor: Talk less! Evaluate more!
Subject Three: But how could that possibly —
Subject Two: Hey, look, I wet myself on that one, too, okay? Just let it go.
Proctor: Infidels! No talking! The next sound begins… now!
Gigantic Speakers: AAAUUGH! HELP! WAAAAAH!! HELP! HELP! GAAAWAAAUUUGH! MERCY! HAVE MERCY! SOMEBODY HEEE-
Subject One: That was… staged, right? That guy was just an actor?
Proctor: No talking!
Subject One: Yeah, I know, I know… but that was really disturbing. Just tell me —
Proctor: That man… was in the last group of evaluators. And he wouldn’t. Stop. Talking. Got it?
Subject One: *nod* *nod* *nod*
Proctor: Excellent. Next noise now!
Gigantic Speaker *sung* TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS… WITH ME… OH, TIPTOE FROM THE GARDEN —
Proctor: Evaluate! Stop it — get back in your chairs! Stop convulsing, all of you — evaluate, damn it!
No picnic, eh? I’d say we’re lucky to have ended up with that loud whiny siren we have today, frankly. It could have been much worse. I’m just glad I wasn’t there to help choose it — I do plenty of convulsing and bleeding from ears as it is. Who needs a siren when reruns of The Nanny are still on TV?Permalink | 6 Comments