The new consumer obsession of my generation isn’t white goods, trainers or designer labels. It is — whisper it — quiet. We, the under-30s, are almost allergic to noise, so much so that many of us would happily pay extra to sit in a quiet carriage, or in the café seat furthest from the speakers, or drink in an upholstered alcove in a bar.
Two of the three things — privacy, space, quiet — that our parents wanted when they bought houses with gardens in leafy streets and town suburbs are lost to us. We’ve been invading our own privacy on social media since school, and now in our late twenties, we despair of ever getting out of chicken-coop flats and into detached (we’d settle for semi-detached) houses with gardens and garages to keep the neighbours at bay.
So it is quiet we want, and quiet we’ll pay silent spondoolicks to get. Call us the Murmuring Millennials, or Generation Shhhh. What we want more than anything is refuge from a phone-bleeping, car-honking, fridge-alarm world.
If one must live in a shoebox, let it at least be a soundproof shoebox. Consulting the man in the John Lewis kitchen department about a new fridge, I had only one requirement: that it didn’t beep. He says this is a common plea. My parents’ fridge has a prissy little alarm that goes off if you take more than 30 seconds to return the milk. My washing machine beeps ad libitum. The oven has a high-pitched, querulous beep-beep-beep.
Enough. Dyson is leading the charge with ever-quieter fans, hoovers, and hair-dryers. Others must follow. I’ve seen friends’ relationships falter when, on first moving into studio flats, they discover their partner has a roaring morning routine of electric razor, hairdryer, Nespresso machine and Nutri-Bullet.