The racket of humankind can drown out little sounds of life-and-death importance
I keep looking over my shoulder at the dark wall of roadside trees that passing headlights make slightly less black. Muggers are less of a worry than some suburban samaritan materializing out of the winter gloom to ask if everything’s OK with a reporter down on her hands and knees in front of a parked car, caressing the pavement.
Explanation would not be easy. This is not an obvious place to pull over. The shadowed shoulder of a roaring commuter parkway looks as if it might pothole itself in shock at the footstep of a strolling pedestrian. But it’s a pilgrimage destination for the acoustically curious, and it’s not a bad place to contemplate looking over one’s shoulder.
This 3.5-kilometer stretch of Fairfax County Parkway near Herndon, Va., is one of only three places in the state’s northern sprawl where a driver can try to discern the subtle effects of two unusually textured road surfacings called “quiet pavement,” or sometimes