After a quick errand at the grocery store one quiet Sunday morning, I walk out of the building into the parking lot. The sun is still low in the sky as the last of the early morning fog drifts above my head. The air is cool and I respond by zipping up my fleece jacket while I juggle my car keys, purse and recyclable cloth bag filled with orange juice and blueberries.
The highway in front of the store is empty with the exception of one or two cars driving by at a slower speed than the usual rush hour dash. The tempo of activity in the parking lot is relaxed since there is an oversupply of empty parking spaces for the few cars driving along the designated lanes towards the store.
As I walk towards my car, several people exit their cars, closing car doors, clicking automatic car lock buttons on their computerized car keys before they walk into the building.
I push the button on my car key and the whishing sound of my car doors unlocking adds to the collection of noises floating up with the fog into the stillness of the morning air.
Cells phones ring interjecting a song line to the rhythm of the doors sliding shut, automatic locks clicking and the confirming horn honks. The early morning symphony catches me by surprise.
I stand in the middle of the parking lot listening to the sounds: horns honk, doors slide, a waltz, doors slam, foot steps, the beat of a rock ‘Ëœn roll drum, beep, backlights flash, cars start up, grocery carts giggle, a jazz standard begins and abruptly stops, people talk, doors slide open, doors slide close, beep, the headlights flash on and off, the old fashioned ring of a telephone, beep, horn, lights flash, door opens and I slip into the silence of my car.
I stop by the local coffee shop on my way home. As I stand in line, the symphony of sounds continues inside the store.
Crickets chirp and a woman answers a cell phone. The theme song from Mission Impossible begins and a man answers his phone while walking out the door. The crickets chirp again and the woman flips open her phone for the second time. The familiar theme from the Pink Panther wafts into the air and stops as quickly as it starts with a flip of a wrist.
Quiet conversations over a cup of coffee mixed with the sizzling sound of steam frothing milk in a metal pitcher at the espresso machine bring the space back to normalcy.
The crickets chirp again and this time the woman wearing a green racing jacket and tight black bicycle shorts flips open her phone for the third time. The crickets abruptly stop and the woman in a loud voice gives directions to the coffee shop for a third time as the rest of the room listens.
The door opens and everyone looks to see if the woman’s friend has finally arrived. No. A mother and child enter to purchase hot chocolate and coffee. Other people enter and leave, but the lady in the green jacket and padded bicycle pants stands looking out the window surveying the parking lot and taping her special black bicycle shoes on the cement floor.
A loud rendition of Big Band music from the 40’s begins at a corner table and continues and continues as a woman shuffles through her purse to find her phone. The music stops while the lady is still searching, followed by her comment in a loud voice to her husband, who is hard of hearing, that she can’t find her phone but everyone in the coffee shop already knows that.
I pick up my cappuccino at the end of the counter, exit the coffee shop and return to the parking lot. As I push the automatic lock release on my car key and hear the whish sound acknowledging the car door is unlocked, my phone plays a rendition of a Strauss Waltz. I juggle the cup of coffee, my car keys and my purse as I open the car door and answer the phone.
After the call is answered, I slide the phone into the cell-phone parking space in the loose change holder, the coffee cup is secured in the designated cup holder, my purse is tossed into the passenger front seat and I start the car.
During the drive home, slowly slipping on my coffee at each stoplight, I realize how much I respond to audio clues to determine what is going on around me. I glaze back into my life prior to cell phones and automatic car door locks when I opened the passenger door with a car key and drove home to answer the phone.
As I turn into my driveway and push the automatic garage door opener, I wonder if I would choose to listen to birds singing and leaves rustling in the trees instead of the manipulated noises that unconsciously tell us that our automated lives are in perfect working order.