The Yonge/Eglinton neighbourhood is undergoing major redevelopment and there’s no escaping the noise, even here at home. Here at home, In fact, is often the noisiest place of all, for not only is there a condo going up right outside my window, our balconies are being demolished with jackhammers to make way for new ones.

The noise and vibrations from this, if you don’t take precautions, can seriously damage both your hearing and your teeth, so, during the worst stretches, I’ve, till recently, been biting down on a rolled-up washcloth and sticking my thumbs in my ears, which was doing the job. But there’s nothing quite like sitting around with your thumbs in your ears to get you thinking of alternatives and, the other day, I thought of a really good one. I rolled up an old towel lengthwise, bit down on the middle, and tied the ends behind my head in such a way as to cover my ears. This worked like a charm. As well as muffling the noise somewhat and cushioned my teeth, it freed my hands, and, despite the jack-hammering, I actually managed to get a few things done. 

The flaws in my really good alternative became evident only after the jackhammering stopped for the day and I discovered I couldn’t get the towel off my head, that, not only had I entangled my long silver locks in the knot, I’d secured the towel so snugly, I couldn’t even work it free of my mouth.

I figured I had two options. I could either cut my way free with scissors or have a neighbour untangle the knot. The towel and I had been through thick and thin together, so the choice was easy. I put on my shoes and off I went.

The first door I knocked on, an angry man shouted, “WHO’S THERE?” He sounded angry, anyway. Unable to answer, I waited a bit, but he didn’t come to the door and I hadn’t the courage to knock a second time, so that was that.

The next two doors, the people pretended they weren’t home, but, at both, I saw movement behind the peep hole. Could they not see I needed help? I might be a kidnap victim escaping his captor!

Three doors, and I was already thinking of packing it in, but, deciding to give it one last try, I moved along to the next door.

There was a light on inside. I knocked and waited. Nothing. I knocked again, waited a bit longer. Still nothing. Then, just as I was turning to leave, the door opened wide and there stood an old girl in a long green robe and a golden crown inscribed “Mother Earth”, a cornucopia on a gold chain slung across her chest. Leaning close and squinting at me through the bottoms of her bifocals, she said, “Oh my! Aren’t you the scary one!” and, after rummaging in her horn of plenty, handed me three candy kisses and a box of raisins. I’d forgotten it was Halloween. I gripped and tugged at the towel, probably sounding like a madman. She pretended to be terrified, then laughed and closed the door.

On the way back to my apartment, I was thinking I should have made a sign to hold up and that I still could if I wanted. But what I wanted more was to get this thing off my head and, soon as I was in the door, I gathered up my scissors and headed for the bathroom.

Freeing my mouth was easy enough—a few snips with the kitchen shears and I was done. The mess on the back of my head, however, was a whole other matter and, working blind most of the time, I really did a number on my hair and, by the final snip, had reduced my towel to a couple of rags for under the sink.

As you might imagine, I was of a mind, by now, to scrap the towel idea altogether. But that would have been a mistake. When you execute a good idea badly, you don’t scrap the idea, you improve the execution. Right? So that’s what I’ve been doing. For one thing, I wear a hairnet now. And, yesterday, I began stuffing sock balls between the towel and my ears to further muffle the noise. And I’ve another idea just came to me this morning that I’m especially keen to try out, but It’s raining today and the jackhammer crew doesn't work when it’s raining, so I’ll have to wait. I’m glad, now, I didn’t throw out those chopsticks.