What does a $250 million art gal lery of Ontario Frank Gehry renovation project sound like?
Like a three-ring circus? The strained silence when the highwire walker takes that pivotal first step? Perhaps like a rush of bull elephants when they trumpet and roar into the centre ring. Or the motley painted clown with all the bells, horns, clangs and bangs?
Almost halfway through the AGO's renovation, I have the luck and inconvenience of living across the street from this urban circus on Beverley. If you appreciate the colossal arm of a crane dangling its deadly payload over your street 15 metres from your window, I've got it. If you like romance, how about a crane with muted dots of light as night falls, and the sound of lampposts being ripped out of concrete jarring me from sleep.
Sometimes it's the mystery of what I hear but can't see that disturbs most. It sounds like a dentist's drill, but what is it really that I'm hearing at 8 am Monday morning? There's a sudden bang, and my mind starts to drift and muse. Did some construction worker just drop a tonne of cement, or was that steel? Is anyone hurt?
Sometimes, with all the clanging of gates, I think I'm hearing a bike theft in progress. I look out my window, but it's just the workers milling around again. My mind is playing tricks on me.
On top of all this, a swirling dust cloud rises from the backhoe's crushed rock payload and the rush-hour horn-blowers set up a cacophony from Beverley's reduced lanes.
One day I decide to call the police. The constable at the other end of the line advises me to bite the bullet. When I push, I can tell he's irritated. He gives me the noise complaint bylaw office number at City Hall. I call.
Steven Miller of the city's property standards noise complaints investigation unit reminds me that the bylaw allows noise from 7 am to 7 pm weekdays and 9 am to 7 pm weekends. Nothing can be done, he says, if the racket is confined to those hours.
Film companies pay residents for the inconvenience they cause while shooting. Since I work mostly from home, I approach the AGO with a request for coffee and lunch money so I can get away when things are particularly loud. Communications and government relations rep Beverley Carret gently declines. Instead, not quite on theme, she offers me a free AGO membership.
EllisDon senior project manager Jack Stelpstra assures me that the builders use electric instead of diesel-powered bobcats, which are louder and produce more fumes. But nothing can be done, he says, about jackhammers or drill bits hitting the concrete.
Was the AGO not beautiful enough before? Noise pollution: the price of supposed progress. When does the right to pollute with sound violate others' right to silence? Peace.