Neighbours (Part II)

"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem." ~ Theodore Rubin (American Psychiatrist & Author)

One of the distinct problems to solving this problem was a language barrier as my downstairs neighbours speak Spanish and know very little English. Although I tried to communicate with them about the noise, it was always a very broken conversation that I knew wasn't being fully understood. At one point, I actually attempted to write them a short note in Spanish (thanks Google translate) that I left outside their door - only to find it thrown down the hallway later in the day. Apparently, my attempt at communicating with them in their own language was offensive. Yeah, that was offensive - and their flying monkey children were not? I appreciated the fact that they were new to the country and, as a social worker, considered the fact that I did not know where they were living before and what might have been an acceptable noise level in their previous environment. I also encouraged the landlord to get a translator to make communication with them more successful, thinking that we could explain what would be acceptable noise in our small apartment environment. Another resounding NO came from that request. So, then it started. The all-out noise war where I sunk to levels I never thought possible.

I started thinking about classical conditioning, you know, the Pavlov’s Dogs theory. My thought was: could I condition my downstairs neighbours to understand that, when they reached a certain level of noise level, I would be putting on my music extremely loud to encourage them to shut the hell up. Could they take that cue and respond accordingly. No is the short answer. No they could not. However, what was successful in this experiment was my overwhelming feelings of revenge when I would do this exercise, which eventually creeped into more than my music being up extremely loud. It came to involve what I termed “stompy dancing” to go along with the stompy beats of my blaring techno. It all went to hell the day that they pounded back on the ceiling, in retort to the overall stompiness going on above. I honestly wish that I could have taken my blood pressure at that exact moment because I had to be nearing a critical level of “going to lose my mind-ness.” I was lucky that I had a friend over, who cleverly stepped between me and my apartment door as I attempted to go downstairs to do hell only knows what. I might add that I did not reach this point for about a year, meaning I had been living with the incessant noise (that often times rattled the pictures on my walls) for quite some time. Not that this excuses my would-have-been murderous rampage, but it does provide some context.

My landlords, a 75 year old Italian man and his two useless, grown sons, had been hearing about these problems for awhile. Of course, they weren’t doing anything about, but, they were well aware of the situation. Earlier in the year, I had already dealt with the fact that they had let some crackhead looking guy move into the building across the way, who stole my brand new winter tires out of my garage. May be dealing with one issue per year was their limit. This went on for 16 months in total.

I could have moved, yes, I am well aware of this fact. I could have moved from the only home I had built in a decade, where life had been so quietly awesome for so long. But, I felt this sense of entitlement (which I know is not good), a sense that I had done the right thing in inquiring as to whether or not they rented to people with children, in attempting to approach my neighbours – in English and bad Spanish, in encouraging my landlords to get a translator. I had done things right. I pay my rent on time, every time. I keep my crack-partment clean. I never have more than 2 people over at a time because I am kind of a weirdo and like my place/space to just be mine. I am friendly, cordial, and steadily employed. I present no issues, what so ever, as a tenant.

Eventually, the kicker was that I finally got one of the sons (the one I like the most because the 75 year old father is a bastard and the other son creeps me out) to attempt to talk to the family downstairs again. He called me after he met with them to tell me that they had complaints about me, so “now what was he supposed to do.” Again, a blood pressure monitor would have been nothing less than interesting. I told him that I could guarantee that they had complaints about me, that I had turned into a lunatic from having to manage the situation for so long. I told him about my stompy parties and other generally poor behaviour and, frankly, I think he was more surprised at my honestly regarding the situation than my behaviour. And then, I did something that I could not control....something I hate. I started to cry, out of pure frustration, on the phone. Damnit. I hate that. Who would have known that this was to be a turning point in the situation?

Although the “old man” is a bastard, he has always had a soft spot for me. I am a good tenant, which he respects and despite the fact that I have broken the “no dog” rule (which drives him insane, but he can’t do anything about it because of Buffy’s Law), he genuinely likes me. When the son told him about my honesty and my tears, the old man apparently performed some magical miracle with the downstairs neighbours. A couple months later, when I asked him what he had done, he said in his thick Italian accent that he told them that he was going to “kick their asses out immediately” if they did not stop the noise. May be he was scary (although I can’t picture it) or threatening or who the hell knows. All I know is that things changed after that. Things got better, things got quieter.

Honestly, during the first couple months of the quiet, I thought the two parents murdered the children as I did not hear them at all. I’m still not convinced that they didn’t bring them to grandparents or other relatives to live for awhile because it was deafeningly quiet (although, not too quiet, just deafeningly quiet in comparison to the last year and a half). My home is finally my home again, and you know what...I think I’ll stay for awhile.

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