Apartment Living is a Cooperative Exercise

This is my current mantra, which I am reciting as type to the sounds of the neighbors television (and shrieking 19-month-old daughter) come crashing through my ceiling on what might otherwise be a beautiful Saturday morning. I have lived in apartments pretty much my whole life, and with very few exceptions, have always managed to live right next door or directly beneath someone who
a.) sounds like a giant when they walk
b.) has a surround sound system with extra super special bass
c.) has noisy and/or screaming and/or obnoxious children
d.) comes home almost every morning at 3:00 to have loud, drunk sex (always with a different person)
e.) is apparently deaf and must blare their television to hear it
f.) a combination of any of the above items

This past month the obnoxious frat boys (a + d +e) moved out and a nice young family moved in a couple weeks later. Given that my sleep had been consistently disrupted as they stomped home every evening after binge drinking at the bar for the past year, I enjoyed several weeks of blissful silence.

The new neighbors seemed to be promising. Soft spoken, for the most part. Quieter moving in than our neighbors had been on a normal day. Sweet young child. As it turns out, the mom stays home with her and, I have since discovered, likes to have the TV on for company. All. Day. Long. And she must be deaf, because, while the walls are thin, I can hear almost every word of what they are watching when the fan is on. and my tv. and the air conditioner.

My husband seems to be able to tune this all out. As for me? Well, the noise issue touches me on what is akin to a primal level. I am not (I have been told) pleasant to be around and have a hard time diverting my attention to anything other than every little noise emanating from the offending area. I frequently am reduced to tears. All because someone has decided to watch TV. Or listen to the radio. Or have a conversation. At a decibel that reaches my eardrums.

This morning as I was talking about it with my husband, he pointed out that he has never had a noisy neighbor situation get better by talking to them about it. He has had them get worse because of that. But never better. My experience pretty much mirrors that. So, I have been thinking that the arrival of this new irritation is perhaps actually a great learning opportunity. That my tolerance for noise is something I should work on.

So, besides wearing noise cancellation headphones at all times and installing a noise machine in every room of the house, any other suggestions?

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3 Responses to Apartment Living is a Cooperative Exercise

  1. Ramona says:

    As with other aspects of life, sometimes it is only our own perception we can change in order to deal.
    When K, P & I moved back to WDM for their high school years, we were sandwiched on the second floor of a three story apt building.
    A single mother with a young daughter moved in below us. Every day it was the same thing – Mom verbally abusing the child. I questioned whether there was anything I could/should do. Finally, there was an article in the paper about verbal abuse being as bad as physical abuse with a schedule of parenting classes.
    I cut out it out and anonomously taped it to the neighbor’s door. Whether or not it actually helped the mother quit abusing the daughter, I’ll never know. But, if she did continue, she did it much more quietly and I didn’t have to hear it everyday anymore.
    I can also agree with your hubby – sometimes when people realize they are doing something annoying, they just do it all the more! Good luck. R

  2. kaizerin says:

    I’ve been thinking about this since I read it a couple days ago. I sympathize with you, because noise from the neighbors is one of my pet peeves, too. The apartment I lived in in KC was perfect, except for the Beavis downstairs who blared his thumpy music so loud that things skittered around on my desk. (Not even kidding you.) I never did deal with it well, so I don’t feel great about trying to advise you, but here goes…

    First, are you sure you can’t do anything about it (mention it, ask nicely, etc.?) And have you accepted that determination, in the “Accept the things we cannot change” sense? Part of your feeling might be frustration between the unconscious urge that you can/should do something, and the conscious decision not to. You might need to get a little Zen about it.

    Second, it’s a “Don’t think about elephants!” situation. The more you think “I shouldn’t get stressed, I shouldn’t get mad,” the more stressed and mad you’ll get. You can’t think away from something, you can only distract yourself from it. Maybe try ritualizing it: acknowledge the distraction, give yourself a slow count of 10 or 20 to be frustrated, and then say, “I am moving on. I can’t change the situation, so I’m changing my reaction to it.” And then get really busy with something for a while, until you’re so absorbed you’ve forgotten to be distracted by the noise.

    Failing that, those noise-cancelling headphones rock. I’d like to get a pair, myself. 🙂

    Good luck, sweetie!

  3. CountessZ says:

    Thank you both for the advice. Things seem to have calmed down a bit. Also, I had dinner with a friend who is very similar to me in terms of being able to tolerate that type of noise, and just talking to her about it helpe me calm down A LOT. Funny thing about that? It seems quieter. And maybe it is? Who knows.

    You’re absolutely right, Kai–there does seemm to be a need for a Zen-like approach to the whole thing. And I am proud to say that I have actually achieved that over the last week. Not all the time, but some of the time. And, like I said, I think its gotten quieter.

    I am also keeping the fan on all the time and instead of trying not to focus on the noise, I am trying to push all my focus on the noise the fan makes. This seems to work at night.

    If all else fails, including talking to them if it gets out of hand, I will invest in a nice pair of headphones and possibly a white noise machine (I’ve been researching). The good thing about them? They do go to bed at a reasonable hour and they don’t get up early, so if I need some peace and quiet, I can get up early and pretty much be guaranteed to get it.

    Anyway, all that to say, I am dealing better. And feeling a little more optimistic about the next 12 months (maybe less if we can manage to swing it!!).

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