A Bug in the Ear of Loiterers

By Beacon Staff

As an adolescent growing up in Spokane, Wash., a common complaint among myself and my small posse of troublemakers was that there was never anything to do (“I’m bored”). Of course, in hindsight, there was plenty. And, despite our constant whining, as teenagers we did plenty. One of our favorite activities was loitering in front of convenience stores, churches and even fast-food restaurants – good, clean fun. The trend today is to crack down on this right of every youngster. And that’s a crying shame.

In Britain, merchants have made headway by installing a black device on their storefronts that basically treats young people like cattle; stinging their eardrums instead of their hides. The small machine dubbed The Mosquito emits a high-pitched sound that older people – those over 25 anyway – can’t hear. As the Washington Post reported, “The gadget exploits a peculiarity of aging. At a certain age, hair cells in the inner ear start to deteriorate and so does the ability to hear high pitches.”

The Mosquito has also ignited an unusual debate. Are adults crossing the line by discriminating against the young? After all, the device is used to shoo away 16-year-olds but has no effect on those 10 years older. And, in an age where parents are trying to uproot their children from in front television sets, this won’t help matters. What better excuse to play video games than, “the screeching noise outside is giving me a headache.”

On sunny days when I was a kid, my parents would order me to go outside, as they should have. So I went, gathered with the neighborhood boys and wandered around all day. We didn’t have a real destination. We ended up skateboarding, playing catch and drinking Slurpees in corner store parking lot complaining about how there was nothing to do. You could call it loitering, or, simply, the life of an adolescent.

One critic of The Mosquito told the Post that this is a “war on young people.” I wouldn’t go that far. But it would be a shame if these devices gained popularity in the States. If screeching noises are really needed to fend off loitering children, then maybe the problem lies with adults.