Thursday, June 25, 2020

What to Do about Noisy Neighbors

Where did people ever get the idea that they should suffer in silence? Where did the idiots who inhabit Powderhorn Park get the idea that they ought to tolerate criminal behavior, because calling the police makes them less woke?

Well, they might have gotten it from Carolyn Hax. I suspect that Hax is reading the mood of the country correctly, but she is also bowing to it. I suppose that weak-kneed columnists do not have the gumption to stand up against the mob, or against a home invasion. No, not a home invasion mounted by a criminal gang. A home invasion by neighbors who are incapable of turning the music down. 

As most of us know, noise is a pollutant. If you must play loud music, get yourself some headphones, but do not impose your bad taste and your bad hearing on other people, especially not on your neighbors. You might pretend to be courteous and offer your neighbors the right to tell you to tone it down, yet, if the music is too loud all the time, you are saying, by your actions, that you have no respect for them or their feelings.

So, what’s a woman to do? Here is the letter:

Six months ago, reduced circumstances led me to move to a neighborhood with very small yards. Each house is roughly 15 feet away from the next, and the backyards are tiny. For this reason, I'm very careful that my children and I are never loud enough to disturb our neighbors.

New people moved here a few months ago. They seem nice, but regularly play music loud enough to hear clearly through closed windows. They've mentioned having outdoor speakers for their music, and asked me to tell them if their noise was ever too much.

But it's always too loud — and I don't want to seem like the mean old lady who would never have them use their equipment. Yet, why would anyone install outdoor speakers in a setting like ours, as we all live so near to each other?

They also had an outdoor gathering until 1 a.m., with the conversation becoming increasingly vulgar as the evening wore on, presumably due to drink. I could clearly hear everything and felt embarrassed for them, and hoped my kids were asleep.

Should I remain patient or say something, as they requested? Their noise doesn't last all day and isn't every single day. But it's very grating when it happens. I'm nearly a senior citizen and don't want to seem like a spoilsport, unfriendly or intolerant.

Am I overreacting? Perhaps it's the norm in such neighborhoods to accept hearing others enjoying their lives.

When your enjoyment infringes on your neighbor’s privacy, to say nothing of her peace and quiet, you are not just enjoying your life. You are imposing yourself on others. And you are being grossly inconsiderate.

Hax thinks that it’s all about “joyous noise.” But, when this joyous noise is so loud you cannot hold a conversation in your living room, or when it keeps your children up at night, it is a violation of your home.

Hax is clearly wrong about this. She understands the points I am making, but opts for "joyous noise"-- and not confronting neighbors whose musical aggression counts as threatening:

Music is joyous noise. Even music you wouldn’t have chosen yourself, up too loud, coming from your neighbor’s yard.

This isn’t everyone’s view, obviously, and it’s a nearly impossible one to hold if the music is offensive, bad, constant, distracting or in open defiance of a polite request to turn it down.

But by your description that’s not what you have here — so maybe use their courtesies as opportunities to think less music stoppage and more affirmation of life.

So, Hax does admit that she can ask the neighbors to turn down the volume. But how long will that last. The letter writer understands, better than Hax, that it is not a very viable solution. At 1:00 a.m. you can call the police on a bunch of rowdy and obnoxious drunks in the neighbor’s backyard, but don’t you think that a woman alone with children might fear for their safety. What will prevent the drunks or the neighbors from trying to make her life miserable.

You have children, a new neighborhood and friendly but noisy new neighbors. Maybe the only sensible answer for this combination and your temperament is to trust they were sincere and ask them to turn down the volume. You have every right to do that.

But I hope you will at least try on the idea first of freer-spirited living. Can their joy be even a wee bit contagious?

It is not joy when someone is invading your home and making your life unbearable. When someone is invading your home you do not say to yourself that it’s time to enjoy some more free spirited living. What a pathetic failure to see what is happening.

One understands that moving away might be difficult, but it seems to be the only viable solution. Or, at the least, for the woman to tell her neighbor that she does not want to be a scold and does not want to interfere with their joyous noise, but it feels like a violation of her space and is damaging her children's health.  


Giordano Bruno said...

I had this exact problem. Pig woman moved in behind us and rented the house and played her pig music loud, and late and nightly, and during the day. She liked to get drunk and play melancholy girl songs to sing along to as she got lit. No consideration whatsoever from the woman for her new neighbors. And execrable taste in music. The whole neighborhood is pure silence: I can hear every type of bird in the trees. Regular drunk hip-hop karaoke sing-alongs with her and her friends. All tone-deaf, all women. We called the police on her repeatedly. Maybe 15 times. I let them deal with it. Police leave, she resumes. Police are useless.

What would Tony Soprano do? I took a set of extra floor standing speakers, big ones, house rockers (DCM Timeframe's if you must know), and hooked them up to an old, but very powerful, Harmon Kardon amp. Then I gave her Count Basie and Italian Opera so loud you could hear it for miles. I love Count Basie and his band. I pointed those floor-standers right down on her patio and sealed up my house and blasted her point-blank. If I wasn't going to get results, then I was going to ratchet up the visibility of the issue. What fun.

I also experimented with white noise and irritating oscillations. Finally, I settled on playing a terribly ingratiating song that was used to torture Daryl in "the Walking Dead." I played "Easy Street" by a band called The Collapsable Hearts Club. I put it on a continuous loop and sealed up my house--or left the house entirely. I played it down on her house for hours and hours, day after day. One dreadful song. I had the whole thing set up through Sonos so I could play the loop any time I wanted to. The minute they were on the patio, I would wait, let them get settled in, and then send out the loop. Her boom box was 1/10 of what I could put out. My whole house has wireless cameras outside and in so I could see and hear her even when I was not home. She went on the porch, I went to work.

She has since calmed down and now follows neighborhood protocol. Speakers are on casters in the garage in case more behavioral training is needed.

Life is about overcoming obstacles.

Freddo said...

As with pets, it is best to start the domestication process quickly before bad habits have a chance to set in. Each transgression should be met with quick corrective action.

I'm also happy to report that the new neighbors have now desisted from their attempts to enliven the neighborhood with electric guitar practice and birdsong is again the norm for Sunday mornings.