The other night, "Ruth Jones" was awakened at 4 a.m. by her neighbor's wind chimes. A gentle breeze had got them clinking, and Jones was unable to get back to sleep.
"I had thoughts of going down and cutting the thing to shreds," admits Jones, who asked that her name not be used because she doesn't want to "create disharmony" with her neighbor.
Jones, who for medical reasons is hypersensitive to the noise, called the 911 Center's non-emergency number (which is where Mayor Dave's staff says it would refer callers with wind-chime complaints). She heard back from a Madison police officer, who told her the city's noise ordinance covers only electronic or mechanical noise.
Actually, notes MPD spokesman Joel DeSpain, there is another city ordinance - 24.04 which deems it unlawful for "any person to make or assist in making any noise tending to unreasonably disturb the peace and quiet of persons in the vicinity...."
DeSpain says the police captain he spoke with thought this might apply to a "giant" wind chime but probably not an "ordinary" one. "It would depend on the chime." (If you can't pay the fine, don't have the chime.)
Jones, however, considers wind chimes in general an annoyance. Several people she's spoken to "really hate them and feel it's an infringement on their privacy." She knows chimes are supposed to make people meditative, but still objects: "Why do people think I want to be in a meditative state? I'm agnostic!"
What's music to some people's ears is grating to others. "We live in a world full of noise - radio noise, TV noise, cell phone noise," says Jones. "Our homes ought to be a sacred space where we can go to escape from the noise of life."
DeSpain had an experience that drove home this point: "I had a wind chime I really liked. One morning I didn't hear it. The person who lived next door to me had taped the chimes together."