Sunday, July 4, 2010

Will Someone PLEASE Stop Ringing The Bells!!

Last Sunday, I wrote about what Canada Day was like in my neighbourhood. I thought it only fair that I update that post and tell you how this year’s celebration went. To put it into perspective, I have to start June 29. The day was fairly normal and I was looking forward to a decent night’s sleep – presumably the last I would get until after the annual street fest. It had been a busy day and by evening I was in need of some shut eye so I went to bed about 10:15 and fell asleep not too long after. I slept rather soundly until about 3:30 or so in the morning. I was startled awake by the sound of a loud screaming match somewhere outside. I couldn’t tell exactly where it was coming from – only that it was to the west of me and that if stopped and started several times over the next 20 minutes or so. I wasn’t about to go out and investigate and without knowing a specific address, there was not a lot of point in me calling the police.

As I lay in my bed, trying to go back to sleep, I heard bells chiming the quarter hour. I will note here, that I had heard these church bells in the past but never during the night. There are several churches in the neighbourhood, but they generally only ring the bells before and after services. One of the churches, had recently begun chiming the quarter hour and playing a stroke for each hour at the top of the hour but it had only been during daylight hours. How odd to hear them in the night. I’m not a heavy sleeper but presumably, I had been in a deep enough sleep prior to the argument that I did not awaken. I tried to go back to sleep but the bells kept me awake. I heard them at 3:45, 4:00, 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, 5:00 and 5:15. Somehow, I managed to drift off after that but only till about 6:15 when I was once again - wide awake.

So much for sleep! I got up, did my stretches, ate breakfast, showered and got ready to go grocery shopping. I didn’t need much for groceries and there were a few items on sale at the local Safeway, so I walked over a little before 8AM. I knew that several of the churches were fairly close to the Safeway so thought I would have a better idea of where the bells were coming from when they rang at 8:00. I couldn’t tell for sure which church it was, but they were MUCH louder by the Safeway than my block. The bells continued to ring through the day and into the early evening of June 30.

I would love to have had a nap Wednesday afternoon but it was a very busy day and I had a lot to accomplish so there really wasn’t time. I had to hope for the best - that I would get some sleep that night, despite the street party.

The streets were closed off starting at 6:00PM and the party was on not too long after. As usual, the sounds of the stages and the people on the street was loud and annoying but it started to settle down by about midnight so I decided to try and get some sleep.

Well, once again my sleep was rudely interrupted – again by bells, but these were much closer. These were the ones from the bell tower that was built at the end of my street back in the 1990’s.
I have to back up a bit here to give a little info on this bell tower. It was built as part of a renewal and beautification project for the area. The tower would feature bells to chime the quarter hour, mark the hour with chimes and then play a short piece of bell music. At the base of the tower there was a small waterfall/fountain. Almost from the start, the fountain leaked and was eventually turned off completely. The bells hadn’t faired a lot better. There were endless problems with the timers and some of the notes didn’t even play or played the wrong notes. I remember one Sunday morning, the bells started at 10AM as usual but wouldn’t quit until someone finally managed to turn them off about 2 hours later!

I never liked the bells from the start. It is not that I am opposed to bells, it is just that this is a very densely populated neighbourhood and the tower is located right at a very busy intersection. The bells are not of the greatest quality and frankly they are loud, harsh and a bit shrill.
Imagine, if you will, that you are visually impaired and are reliant on the sounds around you to safely navigate the area. You are trying to discern - by sound - if it is safe to cross the street or are attempting to cross the street or waiting at the bus stop, by the tower, trying to hear the bus driver yell out his bus route number to you – all while the bells are ringing nearby! It is extremely disorienting to say the least. I called the local BIZ to voice concerns and complaints several times in those first years, but the head of the BIZ at that time thought they were marvellous and just what the area needed. He could have cared less that some residents didn’t like them or that it could possibly endanger the lives of the visually impaired.

After a few years and countless repairs the bells were more or less silenced. They were used for a few special occasions but thankfully that was rare.

So, I'm sure you can imagine, my horror to awake to the sound of those dreaded bells at 2:07 Thursday morning as they chimed the hour to be 11:00!!

Are you kidding me??

The bells continued to ring the quarter hour the rest of the night! They chimed the four note quarter hour at 2:22 and the eight note half hour (missing one note) at 2:37. They chimed the twelve note three quarter hour (missing two notes) at 2:52 and the sixteen note top of the hour (missing three notes) at 3:07 – all while being three hours and seven minutes behind the actual time. Of course, the bells seemed even louder in the silence of the night!

I was never really able to fall asleep again after that - other than for about 10 minutes at a time. Finally, just before 5AM, I called the non emergency police line to put in a noise complaint. I told them what had been happening but the woman I spoke with said she really wasn’t sure who to call. I explained that I had tried to call the BIZ the day before about another bell problem from one of the churches but was unable to find a phone number. She promised to talk to her supervisor and see if they could find a way to stop it. I thanked her, hung up, took two Tylenol for my splitting headache and attempted to sleep. I finally gave up any hope of sleep when the fire alarm in our building went off at 7:00!! The alarm rang for several minutes and several trucks pulled up out front. I think there may have been a small incident, but it wasn’t enough to evacuate the building which is made of cinder blocks and therefore fires do not spread easily. The last truck left about 30 minutes later.

By that time, I was wide awake and the tower bells were still ringing, so I stayed up, did my workout and had breakfast. I heard the bells at 8:22 but had the TV volume up during my workout so didn’t hear them at 8:37.

Wonder of wonders – there was no ringing at 9:07! Someone had finally turned them off. I crawled back into bed about 9:30 and drifted off to sleep till noon! I probably would have slept longer but the traditional Canada Day cannon salute from the nearby Legislature grounds woke me – that and the church bells!

The Canada Day celebration started to wind down about 11:30 or so Thursday night. There were still revellers in the streets, but the noise was lessened by the sound of my fans trying to cool my warm apartment. I drifted off to sleep a little after midnight. Of course, it wouldn’t have been a normal Canada Day without some morons setting off a few fireworks at about 2:30 or so but other than that it was a pretty decent night and I was able to sleep fairly well till about 7AM when I normally wake up.

I had survived another local festival – but next year it is on a weekend so will likely be a three day affair. Whoopee!!

By the way, late Canada Day afternoon, I finally found a phone number for the local BIZ and will be contacting them as well as my city councillor to put in a noise complaint. Actually, I think I’ll just send them a link to this post.


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