Neighbour Shaming

EscalatedA little over a month ago I got new neighbours.  I usually love meeting new people, so when they moved in a did the friendly ‘how are you’ in the hallway and received a very strange response.  My new neighbour, a 20-something tattooed girl who speaks too loudly for small spaces, responded to my ‘Hi’ by showing me her arm.  She had a cast on. She said ‘I’ve had better days’.  Because I care when people are hurt, and this seemed like a great opener to get to know each other, I asked what happened.  This was her response…

‘I fell out of a tree having sex on my birthday’.

…okay… well… at least you have a good story!

‘that’s what everyone says, I’m not sure what they mean.’

….at this point I said goodbye and walked away feeling a little taken-a-back.  I’m not usually so awkward when people turn a conversation to sex.  But I’d just met this girl.  Her second sentence to me was about sex.  I have no idea if the tree-sex story is true, but she certainly introduced herself in a very specific way to me.  But hey, I’ve never had tree-sex so maybe I would want to tell total strangers about it as well.

That night, they had a party.  I’ve mentioned in this blog before that I’m okay with neighbours having parties.  We all have people over and as long as we’re respectful, it’s no big deal.  But this one stood out for a couple of reasons.  One, it started at 3:00AM.  Obviously whatever bar they were at closed for the night and they just migrated to their place.  The second reason it stood out to me was it was Wednesday night.  Friday and Saturdays I don’t care, but Wednesday?  On a work week a respectful neighbour takes it inside at a reasonable hour.

I let it go because it was just one night.  We all do things once in awhile that probably piss our neighbors off.  But then the next night they watched a movie at 1:00AM so loud I could hear full conversation sequences lying in bed.  It’s Thursday night, I now haven’t slept in two nights!  I’m a Monday to Friday worker, so I was getting pretty exhausted. 

Night three.  Normally a Friday night I’d be out as well, or have friends over, or just be vegging after a hard week so not caring who’s up late.  But I was so tired this night that I was desperate for sleep.  About 11:00PM they locked their dog out on their balcony.  A very sweet large rottweiler type dog who was obviously so confused about being locked outside that it sat at the window and whined, and whined….and whined…ALL NIGHT LONG!!  Poor thing.

At this point I was thinking what most people would think.  I should politely say something. I’m not sure why I didn’t that night, but they were finally quiet, so I just let it go.  For a week they were quiet, and I was glad I didn’t say anything because maybe it was a ‘first week living in a new place’ sort of thing.  Turns out they were out of town…

On and off for the next few weeks this sort of thing happened.  If it wasn’t parties, it was movies ridiculously loud.  And I don’t mean sort of loud, I mean movie theatre loud.  Maybe they worked odd hours because the noise always started somewhere between 1-3AM.  My mom came to stay with me once, and she offered to talk to them for me because it kept her up all night.  I said no, I would handle it.  They went out of town again before I summoned up the nerve to knock on their door.

Finally I was so fed up that I decided I would knock on their door in the morning.  But first I needed a coffee!!  I groggily put on my shoes and walked out the front door of my building where I was surprised to find a large note taped to the glass.  This is what it said…

TURN YOUR LOUD TV DOWN APPT 105!!  You are disturbing they community!  Shame on you so late at night!!

This note hadn’t come from anyone in my building, but in the building across from us that our balconies look towards.  There’s a tiny little lane between us.  We’re probably only 15 feet apart.  20 tops!  Our neighbouring building had been so disturbed by them that they found out which apartment it was and wrote this note on the door.  I considered finding a way to second the motion and pondered it while I walked the five blocks to Starbucks and back.  I was maybe gone for 20 minutes, and in that time things escalated extremely quickly!!  The sign now how at least 10 notes scribbled all around it agreeing with the original note and further shaming the noisy neighbours.  I mean, they said some mean things!!  Apparently the people in my building are so annoyed that they were eager to jump on board.  At least 10 other units had been slowly working up the courage to say something like I had, and this opened the flood gates!!

My intention was to knock on the door and let them know they were being disruptive.  I moved from the suburbs to an apartment when I was 18, and I had to learn about neighbours and proximity.  Maybe they were in the same situation.  But everyone else simply pounced on them!  I ended up feeling sort of bad for them.

A short while later the note was angrily ripped down.  You can tell it was ‘angrily’ ripped because the taped corners were still on the window and the rest of the sign was gone.  I guess apartment 105 got the message.

Silence.  That is what it’s been like to live in my  building since that sign went up.  I mean total silence.  I’ve been sleeping extremely well so I can’t complain, but I wondered what those neighbours were thinking about the rest of us.  And then last night the young lady who lives directly below me knocked on my door.  We’ve been friendly since I moved in but haven’t really chatted.  She has a massive patio on the ground floor, and because I moved in late spring last year, I was there when she had several parties in the summer.  Now here’s the difference with her.  She has people over mostly on Friday and Saturdays.  When it gets really late, she stops playing music too loud and asks everyone to go inside.  She’s even invited me when I’ve stepped out onto my balcony, and I’ve smiled and declined because I don’t know anyone there.  But I’ve never once thought her parties were disruptive to me.  Today she was knocking on my door to let me know she was having people over and she wanted to warn me they’d be on the balcony.

I was surprised and I told her so.  She’d had parties before and we’d never had a problem.  But the neighbour shaming on the door had made her worried her neighbours thought the same about her.  We ended up having a good chat about why she’s nowhere near the same and how she makes sure to be respectful of her neighbours.

When I first moved in, my neighbour on my right smoked on his balcony.  I told a colleague at work and he told me to yell at him and tell him he had no right to affect my personal space.  I remember that his anger surprised me and I told him that I wasn’t going to start that conversation negatively.  If you start in anger, you have no hope that you can find a friendly outcome.  I knocked on my neighbours door and this middle-aged guy looked at me in horror as I politely let him know what was happening.  He said he had no idea the smoke was going that way.  He instantly moved to the other side of his balcony and done!  No more smoke.  His neighbors on the other side are also smokers, so they don’t mind.  He knocked on their door and made sure.  All of us are still friendly, and we’ve found a way to co-exist.  My neighbour below me continues to have people over, but no one is really disturbed.

There are two things to take away from this post.  First, respecting your neighbours is not hard, and second, maybe shaming is not the first step we could take.  If someone taped a note to the front door and the entire building shamed me, I would feel pretty upset, especially because I probably wouldn’t have realized it.  And maybe someone had tried politeness at first, I don’t know.  Sometimes a small message is enough.

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