Could you please drive a quieter car, please? (opinion)

STATEN ISLAND, NY – With the return to work and school after the coronavirus lockdown, the roads are once again crowded with cars.

Take a ride on the Staten Island Expressway during rush hour and you’ll see. It is as if the pandemic never happened.

Some things never change.

But there is one thing that I’ve noticed more and more these days and maybe you’ve noticed it too: cars with unusually loud and intrusive engines.

I’m not talking about cars with engine problems or cars with bad mufflers. It’s not that these cars need a trip to the repair shop.

I’m talking about those racy sports cars with really loud, high-pitched, whiny engines. The kind of sound that goes through your skull. You cannot hear yourself talking if one of these vehicles is driving anywhere in your vicinity.

And since they really accelerate, the engines emit a series of little pops, like firecrackers.

Or, in fact, like gas.

People want to their cars to sound like that? They pay money for this? OKAY.

These aren’t the cool muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s that I remember from my childhood and teenage years, Corvettes, Chargers and Mustangs.

These cars had loud engines, of course, but they had presence. They looked cool. They made a statement.

They date from a time when the American road was wide open, when people were still encouraged to drive. When gasoline was cheap and driving was freedom and adventure.

Remember?

It was a time before we had to “cure our addiction to auto culture”. A time before speed cameras and red light cameras and endless tolls and congestion pricing. Life Was Just One Great Bruce Springsteen Song: Take Your Car and Your Special Girl and Hit the Road.

This new generation of cars? It seems the only point is to make as much noise as possible while driving. To make the big announcement that yes, I’m driving through your neighborhood now. Hear how loud my car is? Isn’t that cool?

No, actually. It looks like a very loud leaf blower. Or an edger. Do you need 2-stroke engine oil for this thing?

And those little Rice Krispie pops at the end? Please. Better the rumble and shake of an old 440.

I can only imagine what it feels like to be a passenger in one of these cars. How do you have a conversation? How do you listen to the radio? Then again, passengers are probably just looking at their phones anyway, and probably with headphones on. So who cares about noise?

And you can hear those cars coming a mile and a half away, whether you’re walking down the street or in your house trying to sleep. This sound builds and builds itself like a swarm of mechanical wasps approaching until it fills the whole world.

I’m a bit more deaf than I was then (blame it on all the loud music I’ve listened to), but I can hear these cars just fine. I could be five stories in an apartment or an office building and I would still be able to hear it.

Here’s another thing: How fast can you even drive on Staten Island these days anyway? There are so many cars, SUVs, landscaping vehicles, school buses, and delivery trucks that there isn’t even enough road to pick up speed. Sooner or later you are going to hit the traffic. Or a red light. What’s the point of having a car that can go from zero to 90 in five seconds?

I know. I look like the cranky old man who tells the kids to get off my lawn. So be it. Peace and quiet is not a bad thing to ask for.

About Sara Rodriquez

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