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December 5, 2020

Mack Williams column: Nighttime November sounds

By Mack Williams
For the Salisbury Post
The unusually warm weather is allowing many of us, whose windows can be opened, to hear November night sounds at all hours of the night, unfiltered by panes of glass and wooden frames. Many windows can’t be opened nowadays, being sealed up for the proper operation of heating and air. But mine can, being in a somewhat older apartment and not a place of business. When I was a social worker in Caswell County, our building’s windows couldn’t be opened. In my second career as “an old science guy” at the Danville Science Center’s Danville Train Station building, our windows stayed closed most of the time due to a system which provided a 50% humidity level for the continued preservation of the taxidermied animals which were there at that time.
But those windows could be opened, as they sometimes were so the staff could shoo an inside bird (not one of the taxidermied ones) back into the outside world. Said birds might have entered while the after-hours guard had propped open the lobby doors for Amtrak passengers, since the lobby was and is the only part of the exhibit building which is still something of a train station. I just now imagined trying to coax a wandering bird out of the massive old machine shop building at the N.C. Transportation Museum.
By this time, in the November days of my youth (instead of the approaching “November days” of my age), windows would be closed, and the outside world muffled. These warmer temperatures are leading to a more intimate experience of nighttime November sounds. The other night, a lady took her dog outside and pleaded with it to “do its business.” She spoke so sweetly, I thought how nice it would be if more people would speak that way to each other, but not necessarily about the same subject of which she addressed her dog.
Sometime after sunset and through the open window, I even thought I could just make out the jingle emanating from a faraway Town Clown ice-cream truck making a late run.
Hearing the unmuffled (in some cases, un-mufflered) sound of a speeding car passing by on an unusually warm November night carries a certain immediacy to it. And the late-night, stark, un-buffered sound of Life Flight flying directly overhead imparts both immediacy and emergency.
Our branch of Williamses, being the lovers of the cold and snow variety, look forward to the outside day and night sounds of December being window-muffled, while trying to remember then where I put my muffler (the scarf variety).

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