Someone is playing a vuvuzela outside my window. They must be stopped. A few minutes ago it was the chirping of birds that I heard, along with the chatter of passersby and the occasional rumbling automobile. Those were pleasant things to hear as I sat at my table, window propped open with a tube of Euro-style Icy Hot (it’s called Ice Power, if you’re curious, and the magical power it contains got me through a week of skiing). I felt thoughtful and inspired by the spring day that wandered into my apartment, and I wondered if life could really get much better than that. Alright, no, I was thinking none of these things, but it was nice out and I was enjoying the serenity of ‘weekend Ljubljana’. Then came the vuvuzela.
There were several, in fact. Buzzing their droning noise deep into my brain. Calling to me in that ancient language: Vuvuzela, VUVUZELA, VUUUUVUZEEELA! It’s no wonder that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, vuvuzelas are now the leading cause of zombieism worldwide. Okay, also not true, but one day scientists will find the link. For now, we must guard ourselves against them and hope that someday, somehow, they will fall back out of fashion, leaving air horns, whistles and other ghastly noise-makers to fill the gap. It’s only a matter of time…
It is possible that some of you are wondering just what a vuvuzela is. Cast your mind back two years to the 2010 World Cup Championship in South Africa. ‘Soccer?’ you ask. Yes, it involves soccer. Try not to fall asleep while reading this. I suggest taking it a few sentences at a time, broken up with a handful of salted peanuts and a swig of good ol’ American Big K Cola to keep blood flowing to your brain. It also sometimes helps to remember that in the rest of the world they call it ‘football’. Yes, that’s it, just pretend we’re talking about football. Easy does it. It’s gonna be okay.
I actually like soccer quite a bit. I prefer playing it or going to an actual game as opposed to watching it on TV, but big events like the World Cup tend to draw my attention nonetheless. Back in 2010 I was in Germany and Slovenia while the World Cup was on, which was very exciting. Slovenia was in the competition, something that even they were surprised about, so it made watching those games even more intense. My Slovenian friends joked that they should have called it the Yugoslav team, considering the number of players of Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian extraction who were playing. ‘Go Yugoslavia!’ some of them cried. But in the end, it was the Slovenian team, and I was proud to watch them play surrounded by the screams of their compatriots. If nothing else, the screaming drowned out the noise of the vuvuzelas.
I first heard the vuvuzelas while watching a World Cup game on television in Germany. It sounded like some kind of weird alarm was going off, but as I listened more closely it became obvious just what it was. Clearly, a swarm of bees had managed to find its way into the broadcasting booth, and they were determined to make their voices heard. Bees, as everyone knows, are born commentators, and it’s only a matter of time before they replace the likes of John Madden and Mike Ditka (the only two sports commentators I have ever heard of, unless Marv Albert still counts). The only thing I couldn’t figure out was why the barely audible commentary was continuing in the middle of a sting operation (sorry, it was there, I took it). But alas, it was not the sound of bees. It was the call of the vuvuzela.
The vuvuzela is a loud and obnoxious creature, and since 2010 it has proved itself as a force to be reckoned with. It comes in a variety of colours, but it can be readily identified by its long tube, which culminates in a rounded bell. That, and it makes your ears bleed. Fortunately, with the end of the World Cup the vuvuzela more or less went into an extended hibernation, lulling the world back into a false sense of security. It wasn’t until last fall that I heard them again. A group of students was walking around playing them, and my friend and I froze in agony and fear. The cold sweat and heart palpitations were suddenly upon me, and I knew what had to be done. ‘They’re just kids,’ my friend pleaded. ‘They don’t know any better!’ But they had to be stopped. Sadly, when I turned the corner to follow them they had disappeared. The most likely scenario is that they were swallowed from the inside out by the vuvuzelas, which then sprouted wings and flew off to have a nap. It seems impossible that they could have simply entered the bar on the corner for a beer. Since that day, I had heard no sign of the vuvuzela, and until now my life had returned to normal (or as normal as can be expected). But now I know that something must be done.
Now I might make a poor legislator or president, but I’d make an excellent dictator. What a place the world would be! My dad’s old boss was fond of saying that if he were God he would piss a lot of people off. I, however, would use my power for good and bring balance to the universe. My first act would be to institute a new law regarding vuvuzelas. It would stipulate that anyone would be allowed to play a vuvuzela anytime they chose. It would be their inalienable right to do so, and as a fan of personal liberty I would in no way want to come between a boy and his vuvuzela. However, as a fan of a person’s right to the pursuit of happiness, this law would contain an addendum allowing anyone in the vicinity of someone playing the vuvuzela to punch that person in the face. Simple and harmonious, no? Play the vuvuzela and risk a face-punch. That sounds pretty fair to me.
As I sat listening to this din come through my window, I felt so strongly about the vuvuzela that decided to do some research. I had heard that it was a traditional South African instrument, and I discovered that this was true. It was made from a horn and used to call villagers who lived far away to council meetings. Brilliant, and a wonderful piece of cultural heritage. I would like to go on record as saying that I have nothing against that and agree that embracing tradition and taking pride in history is a wonderful thing. Well done, vuvuzelas! But I must take issue with the plastic variety that drones on and on at soccer games and has now made its way onto the streets. A bit more research led me to the following website:
It’s worth a look if you’re interested in vuvuzelas and the affect that they have on your hearing. Among other things, the article discusses the minimum safe distance from a vuvuzela (2 meters), the maximum amount of time one should be exposed to the noise at that distance (1 minute) and the volume that the vuvuzela produces (130 decibels). Wait, 130 decibels…haven’t I heard that somewhere before? Oh yes, it’s what’s known as the ‘threshold of pain’ for the human ear. Check out this next website for a discussion of decibels and thresholds (for the bored or the actually interested):
Now, wanna see something cool? Look at Wikipedia’s page for ‘sound pressure’ and go down toward the bottom where they have a nifty table titled ‘Examples of Sound Pressure and Sound Pressure Levels’. Guess what you’ll find. That’s right! Vuvuzelas made the list, right between the ‘threshold of pain’ and ‘possible hearing damage’! Yippee!
So to cut to the chase, my old man attitude toward vuvuzelas (and I’ll admit it, I’m an ornery old goat that wants to deprive the kiddies of their fun) is backed up by science. One day, such dangers as zombification and being eaten alive by vuvuzela will be borne out as well. My enduring thanks to the tireless scientists who have made it their mission to find this link and educate the public on just how dangerous these instruments truly are.
Also, in case this post doesn’t already hold the record for most use of the word ‘vuvuzela’, vuvuzela vuvuzela vuvuzela vuvuzela vuvuzela.