April 29, 2005
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
I've had the (dis)pleasure to meet some of my neighbors lately. We live in an apartment, mainly because we know that A's career will warrant another move in a year or two. We've been fortunate to have decent experiences in apartment living since we sold our house almost 3 years ago. The last day has shown that there has to be some compromises made when living in an apartment.
First, the neighbor below us came up yesterday morning to inform me that she was being kept awake in the day (she works the night shift) by my daughters’ little running feet. I apologized profusely and promised that I would keep the noise down to a minimum as much as possible. She went back to her apartment, and I assume, back to sleep. Not another word was said. I did curtail the heavy feet in our apartment for much of the day. I applaud my neighbor for just coming to me and letting me know of the disturbance, particularly since I didn’t know how to inform my upstairs neighbors I was experiencing similar noise from their apartment.
The other experience happened this morning. After having such a nice outcome yesterday (when my family was the one making the noise and I was the one apologizing), I was a bit empowered to approach my upstairs neighbor again. (I had called the office regarding the noise from my upstairs neighbors shortly after they moved in and Mary suggested I call it to their attention - that perhaps if they knew the amount of noise they were making, they could curtail it a bit.) Not wanting to be a "bad" or "complaining" neighbor, I was unsure how to talk to them without sounding petty - I sure wasn’t going to go up there right after being awaken by their loud noises - I wanted to be fully awake and polite.
About 6 weeks ago, when the girls upstairs were out on their balcony, I came home with my family. I stopped on the sidewalk and mentioned to them (the girls on the third floor) that there is often loud noise coming from their apartment. One asked me what I was talking about and I said that at all hours of the day and night, one could assume they were repositioning furniture - or they had a pet elephant. She did mention that her brother sometimes jumps around. She went on to say that I could not have been hearing noise from their apartment because they hadn’t been there that week. I explained that I just wanted to call it to their attention that when they are there, the heaviness of feet causes my light fixtures to shake and the glass in them to rattle. I figured, as Mary suggested, that if they knew just how loud they were being, it would at least be minimized.

Now, having children of my own, I am aware that sometimes children do jump around, but the frequency of this type of noise from upstairs would suggest that the child living there is either an unusually large rabbit or perhaps a small kangaroo. I do understand that when you live in an apartment and have neighbors above you, you will have some noise filter through the ceiling. I have gone many weeks without complaining because I understand that there is going to be some noise. But, after my pleasant experience with my neighbor below yesterday morning, I felt like I knew just what to say with those above, particularly when the "furniture moving" was taking place this morning before 7:30.
I do not expect that the noise will be halted completely, but I do expect that my neighbors would want to be courteous and try to make their residence as stress-free and pleasant for everyone. However, when I went up there this morning to once again call it to their attention, I was met with nothing but rudeness and aggression. I knocked on the door and when the man answered, I told him that the noise was very loud coming from his apartment. He immediately was telling me that I had no right to complain about the noise from his apartment when he is disturbed by the sound of my children playing on the porch. He said that the noise I hear is "what I get for living below him (hey, I was here first!) - that it’s just the kinda noise they make." I was trying to explain that I have not ever complained of the noise his daughter and her friends make on their porch or even the noise I hear at night - loud noises, like they are moving furniture, I am not kidding. Instead of letting me say anything, he continued to tell me that they are never home and that the noise my kids make on the porch (my girls are out only during daylight hours) disturbs him when he and his girlfriend are sitting on their porch. He was aggressive, insisting that I have no right interrupting his morning to complain about the noise they make and that I should just "take it up with the office if (I) have a problem." I did tell him that I had previously brought this to the attention to the girl up there and he told me "I know, she told me you were awfully rude about it." I know I wasn’t, I know I laughed when I made the elephant comment, I maybe was getting irritated when she insisted that they are never there, but I was not rude or accusatory. I simply wanted to let them know that my lights shake when they are moving so heavily around up there.

Now, I admit, I probably should have introduced myself by name when he came to the door and maybe I should have immediately begun apologizing? I have no idea what would have gotten a less aggressive response from him. When I returned to my apartment, wondering if we really should renew the lease or hurry up and find someplace else to live (moving? Again?!??!), I was shaking. This man was incredibly threatening in the way he spoke to me, though not in the words he chose. His words did clearly convey that he has no interest in curtailing the noise or being a courteous neighbor. But it was the way that he spoke and his stance that caused anxiety and fear to course through my body as I came back downstairs. I called A immediately and relayed what had happened. The noise increased after I came back to my apartment and I suppose it was my neighbor’s way of sending a message to me that he is in control.
Except that we will just have to be more in control by forcing ourselves not to be disturbed (even when I am awaken throughout the night and morning) by the noises from above.
Should I just suck it up and not say anything to the office? Or would that be letting the bully above me win? And I haven't even talked about how we can't have our windows open when they are home since they smoke on their porch... yuck.
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