Audible Terrain: A day of SoundCulture (continued)

An encounter with Ann Wettrich's "Aviary Commute"

As I'm staying near the bus line, I've decided to meet the bus part way into its route. The bus arrives, and I want to make sure its the right one. Before I get on, I ask the driver, "Are there a bunch of birds on this bus?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," he says.

"Is this the bus for the SoundCulture event?"

"I don't know anything about anything like that."

I notice a man several seats behind the driver waving at me, motioning for me to be quiet and not give away the secret. This is interesting, because I am not aware that there is a secret. I get on and move toward the back, where I find a seat near some people I recognize from other SoundCulture events. (I must be in the right place...)

A few minutes later as we make our way through the city toward the Golden Gate Bridge, tape players begin to appear from various hidden locations - inside a toolbox, a pocket, a picnic basket, a backpack. Birds start to make appearances. A loon is calling up near the front. A meadowlark, a magpie. A flock of geese appear to my right, sparrows across the aisle, blue night herons to my left! By the time we start across the bridge, a veritable cacophony of aviary vocalizations fills the bus.

Responses to the sound amongst the bus riders are mixed.
"I love birds! I have a parrot, and I had a Macaw growing up!"

"That's insufferable, that noise. You'll have to turn it off!"

The driver seems to be amongst the dissenting bunch. His amplified voice descends over the bus like a dioxin-based defoliant. "All Right! Please keep it down now...(pause) I'll ask one more time, please keep the noise down." When the noise does not cease, he comes back over the PA, "I'll tell you one more time: It's very easy for me to pull over and start handing out transfers! (pause) I get paid by the hour." Presumably, he is telling us this to make us aware that he'll gladly spend the time to remove us all individually from the bus.

After some discussion, we decide that everyone will stay on the bus, leaving their tape players turned off until we're within one stop of our destination.

We pull into the San Raphael station, aviary cacophony back in full-swing. Departing the bus, a couple of women discuss how they like the sounds, and one man comments, "Those people should be shot, along with the birds!"

The migration continues up main street, stopping in a thrift store along the way. The three women working in the thrift store seem delighted to have this large group of bird-sound toting people coming in. They tell bird stories. One woman used to live in a house with birds in the attic. "I hate them! They used to fly in my hair!" We asked her, "What kind of birds were they?" "I don't know - flying birds!"