I used to think New York City was loud. It was especially bad around mid-town, where there was unending construction around Second Avenue and the lower 60s. I always found it impossible to talk on the phone while walking along the sidewalk in that part of town, and it annoyed me no end. Surely I should be allowed to have a normal conversation with a friend while running errands in the city, I reasoned. But now I can only say, Say what? Vegas out-decibels even New York.
I just got back from three hellish days in Las Vegas and it's no exaggeration to say that it's ambient noise levels make New York City seem as quiet as a Buddhist monastery. I felt like someone who had just come in from years of roaming the desert, who is then accosted by lights, sounds and sensory overload of the most extreme kind.
But no, I live in London, have lived in New York, and have even visited Las Vegas quite a few times before. But for some inexplicable reason, this particular trip made me feel auditorily violated in the highest order. Could it be because I was there during both March Madness and St. Patrick's Day? What a crazy scheduling mistake that was.
Obviously, there is noise aplenty in the casino, but step outside for a breath of fresh air by the pool and you'll hear loud music pumped in by the speakers hidden in the hedges. Run screaming from the casino to the sidewalk, and no one will hear you because there isn't one square inch of sidewalk that isn't covered by loud commercials pumped out by the hotels - usually ads for the shows that are featured within. Cirque du Soleil at The Mirage! Penn & Teller at Rio! Celine Dion and Rod Stewart at Caesars! And let us not forget, Donny and Marie at The Flamingo!!!
There are lots of stories about how everything in Las Vegas is engineered to steer you into the casino and seat you at the gaming tables. But I never realized just how manipulative the whole thing is. They call Las Vegas the adult Disneyland, and people who have been to both assure me it's true - Disney sets the standard for manipulation in subtle and not-so-subtle ways and Vegas simply follows along.
I was tormented by visions of being trapped inside a casino (any casino - they all look alike) wandering for days and never finding my way back to civilization, the noise so loud I can't hear the dealer telling me to up my bet or get thrown off the tables. I could see the highway stretching away from the Strip so I knew it was possible to escape, but I could hardly find my way off of the elevated walkways to plot an exit route. Vegas is not for the faint of heart, or even for the hard of hearing. It made me nostalgic for the zen-like din of the Upper East Side.