Cardella: Noise Toys

You can’t get away from noise in our city. I don’t care where you live. All of us are assaulted day and night. Silence is an endangered species. I know politics today divides us, but there’s one thing we all hate — NOISE!!!! You just cannot get away from it.

We live in a city. I understand that. And I know that cities produce noise. But I’m not ticked at the sound of construction. At least that kind of noise means progress. A new building going up. Potholes in streets being repaired. Jobs created. I can live with that kind of noise. It’s OK. Even necessary. But there is no social purpose in ATVs. All-Terrain Vehicles. ATVs mean men behaving like adolescents. Turning our streets into the Indy 500. At all hours. During rush-hour traffic. Or while you’re watching TV or listening to Sinatra to soothe your soul. Even at 3 in the morning when your weak bladder has finally quieted. When you’re blissfully dreaming about a day when a Phillies reliever can get three outs to save a win. That’s when the sound of ATVs pierces the stillness. ATVs, whose shrill rumbling sounds like 10,000 Marlon Brandos in THE WILD ONE. Those (insert your favorite expletive) ATVs!!!

I’m sure the folks who drive ATVs on our city streets are regular people. They love their families. They brush their teeth three times a day. They hold respectable jobs. They are responsible members of their communities. Their wardrobes, I’m sure, consist of more than just black leather jackets and riding boots. Wait! Who the hell am I kidding? Those who drive ATVs are demons from hell. People who love causing chaos in our lives. Whose favorite food is a package of Twinkies (vitamin-enriched, of course). Whose idea of culture is a velvet painting. Who prefer the shriek of a siren to a Bach fugue. Who’d rather watch videos of car crashes than CINEMA PARADISO. Who love things that go “Bang!” You who destroy our peaceful quiet are boorish, infantile symbols of the terrible world we’re leaving to our kids. You’ve earned the wrath of all of us — Republicans, Democrats, fascists, anarchists and vegetarians. You are the bane of our everyday life. And you know how hated “bane” can be.

Here’s what a typical advertisement for ATVs says — “Whether you need a helping hand for a big job or just want to squeeze the throttle and kick up some roost … ” Here’s what I say — You want to kick up some roost, find another freaking planet. Squeeze this throttle, you nutcase.

ATVs are illegal in Philadelphia. But they zoom down our streets with impunity. If you drove your car the way these lunatics drive their ATVs, the police would track you down. The courts would put you away. Not even A. Charles Peruto could save you. But here in this city, the police have what’s politely called a “no chase” policy. It’s not as if they’re busy solving murder cases or stopping people who are not wearing masks during a pandemic.

Fran and I have participated in one of the virtual community meetings where the police spokesperson tries to soothe angry feelings and make you think something can be done about ATVs taking over our streets. The cop is trained in community relations, which in this case is another phrase for B-S. “Here’s what we can do,” says a representative of law enforcement, “call 9-1-1. Call 9-1-1. Call 9-1-1 every time you see and hear the screech of an ATV.” I figure that would put me on the phone about 19 hours a day. The police insist that they need to get a lot of complaints to show that the ATVs are a problem. Is that why we have an emergency number for the police? So that while you are trying to get through while your home is being invaded, my neighbor and I are flooding the switchboard with complaints about those noisy ATVs? Is there really a question about whether ATVs are giant pains-in-the-ass?

It’s not like ATVs are just a local problem. Google “ATVs” and you find that from Hyde Park, New York to Gainesville, Florida, folks are screaming about these monstrous vehicles breeching the safety and quietude of rural communities. Here’s an example — politicians are being scolded for considering putting an ATV racetrack a thousand feet from Sweet Drive South in Flemington, a horse farm. Even the horses are complaining.

At our community meeting, the police spokesperson tells us that the bottom line is that there’s really nothing law enforcement can do about ATVs. He gives reasons — it’s not safe for cops to chase down ATVs. ATVs go too fast for police to get a license number. And defunding the police means that we don’t have the money to combat the problem (note: at that point Philadelphia had “defunded” the police).

Councilperson Allan Domb has proposed a public-private partnership using city-owned land for an ATV park where aficionados can presumably zoom to their heart’s content. In other words, if you can’t deal with illegal ATVs, make them legal. If fans are peeing on your back fence after a sporting event, just build a park where public peeing is not only allowed, the city might even make money off the entrance fees.

Don’t hang by your thumbs for a solution. Get some ear plugs. 

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