You're driving up the street toward home; as you round the corner you begin to feel the vibrations. The sounds grow louder.
Then you know the rock band is practicing -- at your house again.
Although I haven't conducted the kind of survey that would yield precise data, I would be willing to wager that in about every five blocks, especially in surburbia, there are at least two amateur bands with players ranging in age from 10 to 25, all banging away.
If you happen to be the parent of a budding musician, chances are the band will sometimes practice at your house. There are some homes that -- through an informal selection process -- usually end up becoming the permanent practice place. Yours may be accorded that distinction.
To qualify for the privilege, you are told by the band (usually through your child as spokesman), that your basement is bigger than anyone else's. Or it is easier for the players to get to. Or, if your child is the drummer, that it makes more sense that the band play there because of all the equipment that must be carted around.
Your child also tells you that the band members think you're "neat." So you're conned into letting them use your basement, and when they begin to move in the big amplifiers you know you're stuck.
"Okay, only once a week," you say, "and always on the same day, so I can plan to do something away from home." They agree. But after several weeks, practice sessions have a way of becoming more frequent. "Hey, guys," you say, "how come? You said you'd only practice once a week. We had an agreement, remember?"
They tell you they need to perfect their skills. Or they will be playing at a party that weekend and need the practice. Or they have a gig, and may even get paid for it. So how can you say "no" to this worthwhile endeavor? How can you interfere with their musical features, even if it is geared to rock and roll?
Which brings up another point: You might not like the music they play. I used to like classical music, some folk music and jazz. I was a musical snob. I did not understand, nor want to understand rock, Country-Western or soul. And here I was faced with music I considered sound pollution -- coming from my own basement.
There is, however within the human ego a defense mechanism called identification: In order to survive one must, as the psychiatrists say, "identify with the aggressor." In other words, if you can't lick 'em, join 'em.
Out of self-defense, you get to know the songs, and even call down once in a while that the music sounds good. But when the music gets too loud, and you can't hear the phone or television, and when you look out of the window and see two neighbors talking and glancing toward your house, you need to go downstairs to tell them to quiet down.
They tell you they can't turn it down because of feedback from the amplifiers, or that they can't get a true sense of the music if it's too soft. And then you glare at the kid who is giving you most of the argument and ask, "Why don't you practice at John's house once in a while?"
"Oh, ma'am," he replies, "my mother would never stand for us playing in our house." Pipes another: "My dad would kill us if we practiced in our house, especially if he was home. No way!"
You're getting an idea of how you stack up with them and their lucky parents.
What finally helps you set limits with the band are the neighbors. Having a band practice in your house brings out the worst in the most gentle and friendly. I can recall an incident in which Bill, usually a docile man, burst into our house, ran past my husband and me and dashed downstairs to confront the band. He screamed at them that he had had enough, and they would have to stop immediately.
One of the braver players ventured, "But your son's band plays too. We can hear them."
"But his band plays country music," replied our neighbor. "What you play is impossible," and he stalked out of our house. We were sorry about this because Bill had always been very helpful with leaky faucets and loose furnace belts.
So after a few such incidents the band tries to cooperate by playing softer and less often. And as happens to most young amateur bands, the players one day dismantle the microphones, roll out their amplifiers and the rest of their paraphernalia and go their separate ways.
You can take the cotton out of your ears until your child one day joyfully tells you he has joined another band.