The Fourth of July holiday weekend may not really be the best time to be asking people to sign an anti-noise petition to quiet down the lower Russian River.

Frank Robertson column photo

Frank Robertson

“What?” people like me are apt to say. “Could you speak a little louder? I can’t hear you.”

As if to prove the point, people were setting off fireworks in the backyard of a house down the street last week, making small explosions to simulate the sound of military combat. That’s what America does to celebrate its independence. Ignite bombs, wave sparklers and shoot off what used to be called Piccolo Petes — those little missiles that rocket into the sky showering sparks and making a sound like a boiling tea kettle.

One nice thing about holidays is how they bring a great feeling of relief once they’re over. America’s Independence Day may be the best example.

“Thank God the Fourth of July is over,” my wife said last Friday. Even wearing a pair of earphones, she could hear the noise the night before. “It sounded like something was trying to claw its way through the roof,” she said.

Probably some poor dog trying to escape the war zone, I thought.

“It’s not over yet,” I said, listening to the simulated combat sounds coming from a neighboring vacation rental where sparks filled the sky, and I could hear popping noise like gunfire.

When I heard that some guy had gone totally berserk in Bodega Harbour over the Fourth of July weekend, I thought, “Well, what do you expect? He was probably living next door to a vacation rental.”

When it turned out the suspect was actually a vacationer (staying in the ritzy golf-and-yacht-club Bodega Harbour neighborhood) when it occurred to him to steal a car and run over a few neighbors, it made it seem all the more scary. You just never know what these vacation people are going to do.

Is there a word for this? A phobia? A neighborhood version of xenophobia? An irrational fear of new people — strangers — spending a day or two in the house next door or down the street before they go around the bend?

Another source of relentless noise this time of year is the Russian River, where crowds of people come to cut loose, have a good time and play loud music on their digital devices while floating gently down the stream drinking canned margaritas.

Where I live vacation renters from the city occupy many of the neighboring houses and sometimes I have to listen to them talk whether I want to or not. I hear them because they’re right next door, a new batch of strangers every few days gathering to talk on a deck a few feet away and letting me in on their lives.

I’ve been impressed this summer by how impatient and uptight people sound. They all want to talk at once so they raise their voices to be heard and they’re constantly interrupting each other. They remind me of cable TV news show hosts — anxious, overbearing and full of their own importance. They also sound like they’ve had way too much coffee.

The lower Russian River is historically a noisy place in the summer. Everyone knows that. Sonoma County’s relatively new vacation rental ordinance at least limits how much noise you can make in a vacation rental, but says nothing about loud all-night noise from year-round tenants (probably unemployed) keeping their working neighbors awake.

That’s what the current Russian River noise petition is all about. I wish the petitioners good luck. I think they’re going to need it.

I’m worried that vacationers or not, there are more of us on the planet now than there used to be, but we’re occupying the same amount of space. Could that be why the world seems to be getting louder? More humans everywhere you go? All of them talking louder and faster?

What kind of ordinance should we pass for that?

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