The sounds and sights of Selma

Published 4:21 pm Friday, November 8, 2019

I’ve both lived and worked in downtown Selma for approximately nine months now.

Once you’ve lived and worked in a place for nine months, you can’t help but be familiar with its sights and sounds. The sort of sensations that people who have lived here much longer than I have probably don’t even notice anymore.

For instance, at any given moment, I can look out the window beside my desk here in the newsroom and see somebody, sometimes a large group of somebodies, walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and taking a photo.

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In fact, there’s a man in a navy sweater and some grey slacks taking one right now, as I write this column

He just turned around to snap the obligatory selfie with the bridge in the background.

As soon as I typed that sentence, the man in the navy sweater was replaced by, what looks to be, a recently retired couple out seeing all the sights this country has to offer.

They take a selfie, but they have to take another one, this time the man is asked by his wife to remove his hat and sunglasses.

This goes on all day, every day.

I couldn’t throw a rock out of my window without hitting a tourist – sometimes I feel they’re as much of a part of this city’s infrastructure as its streetlights and sidewalks.

Like the tourists, another constant in the Queen City is the sounds.

There’s a lot of sounds in Selma – church bells, sirens and car horns.

The sound that my ears pick out above all the others though, are the trains.

A 20-year resident of Selma I know, told me that the horns that emit from the trains are like instruments – some conductors blow their horns rhythmically, with purpose and intention, as though it were a cello or a harp, others hammer away like those wind- up monkeys with the tiny brass cymbals.

Depending upon the conductor, you can be serenaded by a sweet lullaby or you can be wretched awake by the sounds of Satan’s stereo.

When some conductors pass through Selma, it sounds like they have a personal vendetta against everyone within earshot of their horn.

Perhaps they experienced something awful in Selma, some wrong that, they feel, can only be righted by waking up everyone in town.

For instance, maybe this conductor once stopped in Selma for breakfast and instead of regular coffee, they were served decaf. Or instead of sweet tea, they were given unsweet. Maybe they asked for a Coca – Cola and they were given Pepsi instead, because Selma is, for the most part, a Pepsi town.

Maybe, as the result of one wrongly served beverage years and years ago, Selmians are now sometimes subjected to abrasive train horns.

Maybe some trains just sound good and others don’t.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that Selma is a unique place with its own unique sights and sounds and I, for the most part, have enjoyed seeing and hearing them for the past nine months, trains, sirens and all.