Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Living Out (Too) Loud.

I almost didn't post this because it is embarrassing on multiple levels. But then, embarrassment is the type of occasion for which this blog was created.

Recently, I came home to find a neatly folded piece of paper under my door, with the following written in very straight longhand:

Christina ( & guests)

Your surrounding neighbors are being overwhelmed by loud music from your apartment so asked me to let you know "it's just too loud" for an apartment building.

They figured you're probably not aware so wanted you to know....just lower the volume & enjoy your favorite tunes!



The previous night, I had been listening (modestly, I thought) to music on an iPod dock in my kitchen for about two hours. It was an anomaly: Usually I don't use the dock for that long, but I was cooking a couple of things and was in an especially good mood. To be fair, the playlist did include songs by Usher, Ludacris, Jill Scott and other artists that no one would like hearing involuntarily across a wall. (What would one like, or at least not mind, hearing involuntarily across a wall? After many years of apartment living, I can tell you the answers are traditional jazz and/or piano.)

Let's give credit where it's due: the note above is a masterpiece of shaming. Let's take it one piece at a time:

1. Christina (& guests). Initially, I found this salutation perplexing, as I am alone for the majority of time I spend in my apartment. I wondered why anyone would assume I was having people over just because my music is on. Then I thought more closely about the evening in question and realized how much I talk to myself (or the computer or a movie, etc.). In particular, after completing one of the dishes I was working on, I exclaimed "THIS IS SO GOOD" multiple times upon tasting it. It turns out that *I* am the offending guest in question, and my own occupancy of one is still too high for this apartment.

2. Your surrounding neighbors. Really? My apartment borders on four others: above, below, and on each side. My upstairs neighbor is too noisy to complain about noise. My living-room neighbor is too far from my kitchen to be disturbed by my iPod dock. That leaves my kitchen-wall neighbor and my downstairs neighbor. I am convinced only one of them objected and the manager, either out of solidarity with the one neighbor or simple sadism, decided to wordsmith it into a gang complaint. Either way, the effect is to isolate me as a bad seed among several model citizens. One can imagine Susan fielding multiple calls from a community of people offended by my presence: "Hello? Yes, I’ve heard about 502. She’s a real problem. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with that, sugar, I’ll take care of it right away. Oops, I have another call, can you hold? Thanks. Hello? Hi, John! Yes, I’ve heard. Is it really that bad? Dear me. Of course, honey, I’ll take care of -- Can you excuse me? I have another call…"

3. Overwhelmed. Overwhelmed is a pretty impressive word for music that happens twice a week for an hour at most, if that, and always before 11:00 p.m. In fact, I kind of like the idea of my surrounding neighbors on their knees, gasping for breath and clutching their heads, so overwhelmed are they by the relentless onslaught of my hardcore… R&B music?

4. "It’s Just Too Loud." Accenting the supposed plurality of this complaint, Susan employs the Zagat style for her review of my behavior. "Those who find themselves in the vicinity of Christina's apartment may find that they are 'overwhelmed' by the ambiance, which is 'just too loud' for your average abode. Visitors are encouraged to either 'bring earplugs,' or be forced to enjoy Christina's 'favorite tunes.'"

5. They figured you’re probably not aware. Well no, I was not aware, because not one signal was sent my way. No one banged on the ceiling, or rapped on my door. Now, when I put on my music, I have no idea whether it’s still offensive or not, because I cannot ask the person who has rejected my judgment of reasonable volume. The offended party’s choice of tattling precludes a dialogue.

6. Just lower the volume & enjoy your favorite tunes! The condescension here serves as a shaming coda. "Enjoy your favorite tunes" is like the squarest way possible to describe this pursuit. “Listening to music” is an essential human activity. "Enjoying your favorite tunes" is something you are granted or sold, for example in an airplane seat or on a "my first radio" built for toddlers.

Everyone envisions a moment when they have made it: It's that point where you can relax a little, sit back and survey what you have achieved. For some people, it's owning a vacation home. For others, maybe it's making partner at work. For me, a lifelong urban dweller, it is nothing more than a detached, single-family home where my ears can be free: No one above or below me, no casualties, just relative autonomy in the audio department.

I'm leaving these song links at the end of the posts because they are probably outros more than anything else. Wouldn't it be funny if I got a noise complaint on my own blog? I'm surprised I haven't already: "Golden"


  1. Anonymous2:55 AM

    nice post

  2. Your dream of having a detached house is a noble one. I remember the BS of apartment living and have zero nostalgia for it. Hell, just a couple of years ago I and about a dozen others were kicked out of a swanky Manhattan hotel. It was for a bachelor party but we were booted less than 30 minutes after arriving, before the party had even begun. Our crime? Sitting around in a suite, drinking beer, and talking in normal voices. It seems the sound of multiple baritones generated fear and terror in the other guests.

  3. Anonymous10:09 PM

    Yesterday was my office holiday "party" which was to go see South Pacific. Nothing like racism and child prostitution to get you in the holiday spirit! After the "party" ended, most of my colleagues went to a bar across from Lincoln Center. It was about 5:45 pm and the place was crowded. An old lady came over and yelled us for talking in the bar. She said we could have less exuberant fun. Thanks lady.

  4. Thank you for sharing, this is therapeutic. KPC, I like your use of quotation marks around party. I think many people feel that way at the holidays in general, but especially when an old lady yells at them during said "party."

  5. this is excellent stuff.

    here is a gentle reminder about excess noise I received from a german neighbor about ten years ago. granted, I had been having mini-extravaganzas, complete with boombox, on the roof of our NYC apartment building (right over his apartment) like three straight nights at 5am when I got this. and our building didn't have official roof access.

  6. that note is a true masterpiece.

    it's polite, yet firm.

    and the assumption that you were having a party is purposefully flattering.

  7. You could make an entire website about the complaints neighbors leave for one another.

    My all-time favorite is the one that comes at the end of this clip.


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