Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Signs of Life

I live in an apartment building that was not built to be an apartment building. It's beautiful, unique, conveniently situated and incredibly well-converted, with one exception: the floors. The floors are, they say, the original warehouse floors, which I don't buy at all because they're way too pretty, but the official word is that there's no soundproofing between floors because they wanted to retain authenticity. This is occasionally irritating and sometimes downright infuriating, such as when, on election night, my downstairs neighbor came knocking on my door to chide me, in the most condescending way I could imagine, for having a party. I apologized profusely, saying I understood the problem, because I got to hear the every move of my own upstairs neighbors, and promised to quiet everyone down immediately. But this was not good enough for her, and she kept scolding me. I hate to reinforce her behavior, but she did effectively keep me from having any more loud parties. But only because I don't want to have to try to find a polite way to shut the door in her face again.

The reason I found her so irritating, besides the fact that her tone of voice insinuated that I was a child and she (no older than me, I'm sure) was an adult, was that I've also found myself in the position of needing to go upstairs and ask the neighbors to quiet down. But I don't resent the upstairs neighbors for having people over and having a good time; these are great apartments, perfectly laid out for parties, with open floorplans and plenty of space, and it would be a shame not to put them to good use. The intensity of her anger also frustrated me because, even though I know what I can hear through my ceiling, I don't know how loud those upstairs neighbors are actually being, and so I don't know how quiet I have to be to avoid causing my downstairs neighbor pain. I try to be considerate, but on the other hand, sometimes I need to turn the TV up a little louder than normal so I can hear it 15 feet away as I fry bacon. I wouldn't hold it against my upstairs neighbor if he did the same, so I figure I'm within my rights.

The interesting thing is that, although my friends often comment on the clarity of the noises we can hear through my ceiling—and it is remarkable—they rarely bother me. In fact, it's bizarrely reassuring to hear other people going about their lives. More than once I've been lulled to sleep by the sound of my upstairs neighbor's clothes dryer or gently awakened by the sound of his shower. I guess it's probably a couple that lives up there, because I also sometimes hear a woman calling to her cat as the cat food clatters into the bowl. Late on weekend mornings, I get to hear the guy's morning-after phone calls to his buddies, which almost always start, "Yo, man, didja make it home last night?" or some variation on that theme. It's a little weird, and yes, I'm aware that this is not the most private place I've ever lived, and if I'm telling secrets I need to tell them quietly. The noise from upstairs can be irritating: do I need to know how much you hate USC and how sure you are that UCLA is going to kill them in today's football game? And what do you keep dropping on the floor that sounds like a sack of marbles? I can't begin to guess. Still, I like the feeling that I share this building with other humans, many about my age, all just trying to get through each day. And I like the little snippets of my neighbors' lives that I get through those supposedly-original floorboards.


Blogger robo-murito said...

I lived in a place in Boston with total assholes for upstairs neighbors. The policy I eventually decided on was to warn them (not ask for permission) a few days ahead of time about the party, that way they knew when to clear out.

At least then the neighbors don't get surprised.

1/11/07, 6:38 PM  
Blogger C. Stapleton said...

Don't forget to come back to cyberspace and advise us: I am waiting with bated breath for "the mens rea of trust in relationships!"

1/19/07, 11:02 PM  
Blogger Augs Casa said...

Sounds like a wonderful place you live in. I think it's for the reasons you wrote about is the reason I bought a house to live in several years after college. I am lived in an aprtment twice. Once in college and rihgt after. BUt I guess the same can be said of home owners. My n'bor loves to have summer parties and since I live in an old home, I have no AC. So my windows are open all summer long and I get to hear the music and yelling several times a year. Doesn;t bother me all that much though.

I really enjoy your posts.

1/31/07, 3:30 PM  

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