Tuesday, March 14, 2006


A post by Rory (What not to do in Australia) that mentioned a sphincter-faced neighbor’s complaint about Loud Music reminded me of an episode from our own Dim and Distant Past.

Back in late 1976, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I shared a two-bedroom apartment inside the Loop in Houston. It was reasonably pleasant, as apartments go, and the location was perfect, right on Memorial Drive. From there, SWMBO had a 40-minute drive to the elementary school in the nasty south side of the city where she taught first grade, while I had an easy jump onto I-10 for the 35-mile trip out to Baytown, where the Great Corporate Salt Mine operated a huge refinery and chemical plant.

Apartment living is a give-and-take proposition. You live in close proximity to strangers, and boundaries are important. But given the fact that the walls are not of infinite thickness, some conflicts are bound to erupt. In our case, it was with our upstairs neighbors.

Now, I’ll cop to enjoying my music loud. And, in my previous apartment, I had been in the habit of coming home from work and blasting Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” at earthshattering volume. But none of my neighbors complained, whether it was out of fear (that crazy Yankee fucker!) or out of shared Musical Taste.

But in our new place – a different unit in the same complex – I kept the volume to what I thought was a more reasonable level. And that’s when Mr. and Mrs. Upstairs came a knock-knock-knockin’ at our door.

“Could you turn it down, please?”

Alas, it was down. Not loud at all. And when the complainants offered to take me upstairs so I could hear it for myself, I happily complied.

Up in their apartment, you could barely discern that there was any music playing at all. Maybe a whiff of intermittent bass. Not like anything you would hear coming out the closed windows of today’s Thudmobiles, for sure.

This is what you’re complaining about?”

I left in disgust. And on one or two later occasions, a representative from the apartment management office would drop by, as if to humor Mr. and Mrs. Upstairs. Invariably, the representative would shake his head and acknowledge that my Upstairs Neighbors were being assholes.

But all of this came to an end one fine afternoon, when Mrs. Upstairs decided to pay a visit on SWMBO. Of course: our stereo was too loud. Again.

And this was odd, because SWMBO is not a Loud Music Listener. But she was polite, and invited the young woman in.

Mrs. Upstairs started off by saying, “You know, we’ve spoken to your husband about this before...”

SWMBO brought her up short. “He’s not my husband.”

Mrs. U turned beet red. She and her husband were young Religious Baptists, and the idea that they were living right above two Hell-Bound Living-in-Sin Jews must have shaken her to her very core.

And that’s when my future Missus dropped the hammer on her.

“You want to complain about noise? Well, let me tell you about noise.

“I can hear everything that goes on in your apartment. Everything.

“At 5:00 every day, you get home from work. You go into your apartment, and then you go in to the bathroom and take a leak. Your husband comes home at 5:45 and does the same thing. Then you cook dinner. And at 10:15 every night, the two of you get busy, and we can hear every noise you make. Every. Single. Noise.

“And you’re a real moaner.”

It was true. Every night at 10:15, Mr. and Mrs. Predictable would get it on with great gusto. The bedsprings would creak like the doors in the Addams Family manse, and Mrs. Upstairs would moan and groan and howl like a banshee. And almost every night, she would manage to get herself off, with Sturm und Drang befitting a Wagner opera.

Mrs. Upstairs turned bright purple. She practically ran out of our apartment.

The next two weeks, we heard nary a peep from upstairs.

And then one night – I guess they got tired of holding back – the creaking and moaning started again.

SWMBO threw a shoe at the ceiling. “THUNK!”

Followed by dead silence.

Mr. and Mrs. Upstairs moved out a week later. For the sake of their miserable, shrivelled hearts, I hope they found a house with thick walls on a big piece of property.

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