The guy who owns the empty property next to me is running a generator to move water up and out of an otherwise unused well.
The water is piped out of the well to a five-gallon bucket a few feet away.
The water has been spilling out of that bucket and downhill into a dry creek for two days now and, waste aside—I worry whether he’s drawing down my own well—the generator noise is constant.
I will argue the noise is unnecessary, though it also suggests he’s getting ready to sell.
(Another possibility is that the well will become a backup water source for the houses on a manmade lake across the road. Given those folks predilection for watering their lawns like they’re in Levittown, this possibility also dims the future of my own well.)
But let’s think about that noise in context. Santa Fe railroad engines run on double tracks just north of both properties.
I rarely pay any attention to the trains—maybe when the windows are open and I’m talking to someone.
Train noise is irregular and louder than the generator. However, if you believe freight transportation is necessary, that freight trains should haul freight, and that the violence of high-speed interstate travel is best limited to a narrow access-limited corridor, the noise of the engines and the wheels on the track are not much different than squirrels running through the brush or the mewing call of catbirds.
It’s the sound of the country, of history, of necessity.
Necessity is also the measure that bicycle noise is measured against.
The sound of tires against payment. Necessary.
The sound of the pawls in a cassette hub or freewheel body, clicking away the measures of each pedaling pause. Necessary.
The sound of oh my god what kind of noise is that, must be somewhere in the drivetrain clicking, grinding, grating. Unnecessary.
It was this last noise that this week drove me crazy, that drives other people in other places on other bicycles crazy every week—the unnecessary noise of an otherwise perfect transportation option.
And I fixed it.
What sounded like the chain rubbing on the front derailleur cage was not related to the chain or the derailleur. It was not a loose pedal or a creaky handlebar or an uncooperative handlebar stem.
It was the seatpost.
I pulled the post out of the frame and removed the shim that allows it to fit this particular bicycle.
I cleaned everything—the post, the shim, the clamp that holds them in place, the inside of the seat tubes. I greased everything, reassembled the pieces and torqued the clamp to five Newton meters.
Unnecessary sound, gone. Bicycle bliss restored.
And the bicycle is once again ready to carry me away from the noise of the generator, the splash of waste, the hum of an imperfect future.
Too bad all my journeys are round trips.