The aliens did not approve of our cars. One asked, through appendage-gestures and ocular blinks, why our conveyances were so silent. Except, from the way her optical nerve rolled between blinks, a more accurate translation would be “so damn silent.” We were all rather perplexed–sound pollution was taken as seriously by us as light, air, and water pollution. In an effort to show our guests how advanced we were, we’d taken them to the city which was serving as both guinea pig and prototype for the future, the one where every bit of refuse was recycled, every product manufactured in a sustainable way. The one where the streetlamps have, for the most part, been replaced by near-infrared emitters, allowing citizens to either navigate the streets with the aid of infrared-sensitive contact lenses or to admire the night sky in peace. The one with the first airways dedicated to flying cars. The one where every method of transportation, including cars, may not emit an average noise level above 20db.
Surely a race as advanced as these, who traversed the stars in a method we cannot hope to comprehend for many decades, should find the silence commendable, even preferable?
They had not yet mastered the ability to read Human body language (we were the ones expected to bridge the communication gap; after all, they had gone to all the trouble of transporting themselves here) but one of them could tell that we were obviously discomfited. Without further prompting, he twitched his flashily painted tentacles around in a way that demanded attention and launched into one of his increasingly familiar spiels. The gist of it, we gathered, was this:
Such an absence of noise in our conveyances was a hazard to public health and safety. The suppression of noise demonstrated a marked disregard for the wellbeing of our citizens. On his home planet, all conveyances were required to emit some sort of audible identification sequence which allowed both pedestrian citizens and other vehicle operators to avoid injury and dangerous collisions. The thought and care demonstrated by this governmental mandate was the very essence of an enlightened and civilized society.
The languid way in which his third eyelid traversed the expanse of his ocular nerve clearly expressed the point of his oration:
We Humans still had a long way to go.