On waging war with the neighbors

Bad neighbors – we’ve all had them. When you’re forced to live alongside one, it seems there’s nothing worse.

And if you’re anything like my friend in Virginia, sometimes the only way to deal is to fight fire with fire. Literally.

“Do you know what a cattail is?” he asked last weekend over brunch.

“Sure,” I said. “I call them pussy willows.”

“Well I call them cattails,” he countered. “And they smoke a lot when you set them on fire. So the next time he was out on the balcony banging things around and throwing shit off – I smoked him out.”

The neighbor in question, I should add, is three.

And while my friend’s methods may be questionable, I have a bigger issue with the parents who let their toddler play unsupervised on a balcony.

“Seriously. You have no idea how loud this kid is,” my friend complained. “He just runs back and forth in the apartment all day.”

“Did you ask them to put down a rug?” I asked.

“I did,” he said. “They put something down, but it didn’t do anything. That’s why he was out on the balcony.”

I’m not exactly surprised to hear that his neighbor didn’t take the request for an area rug seriously. After all, I had a downstairs neighbor ask my roommate and me to do the same thing back in 2009 and we couldn’t care less. We just hung his notes on our refrigerator and incorporated them into the tour of our apartment.

“And here we have two letters from the man downstairs who knows a lot about laws that involve carpeting,” I would explain when people visited.

Normally, I would have been more sympathetic, but the truth was, my roommate and I were hardly ever in our apartment. Like so many 20-something New Yorkers, we spent our days in the office and our nights with boyfriends who lived in much bigger, nicer apartments – ones that had soundproofing and insulation and weren’t converted housing projects.

“Welcome to New York,” I said to no one in particular as I hung the hand-written letters in our kitchen, one of which seemed to be signed with a drawing of a sock. “If you want it to be quiet all the time, move to the suburbs.”

The problem for my friend, of course, is that he does live in the suburbs. And he can’t exactly pick up and move because he owns his condo. Toss in the fact that he doesn’t have kids and – just guessing here – doesn’t want them, I could understand his frustration. Not that I agree with his coping mechanisms.

“I got a crutch,” he said. “And now whenever the kid starts running around, I just hit the ceiling a few times.”

That doesn’t seem like something that would work, but at least it sounds cathartic. As does his decision to install a ceiling fan first thing in the morning.

“We have quiet hours until 8 a.m.,” he continued. “So I waited until then and just went at it. Felt good!!”

“Are you being serious?” I asked. “Or are you trying to get it the blog right now?”

He smiled. “Nova. This is war.”

Indeed it is. And that kid better watch out.

Because I bet crutches smoke a lot.


Bonus Video: Everyone’s Upstairs Neighbor

  1. Love the video at the end lol. My thought is anyone who gets a bottom floor apartment is kind of asking for it. Complaining is foolish because, like you mentioned, people just blow it off. I live in Phoenix and my neighbors are ghetto, I can hear the bad little kids running rampant ontop of my head 24/7, but thankfully I’m leaving soon. Sorry your friend has to deal with that. Hopefully he can move out soon, get some headphones, or if he gets tired of the crutches switch to a broom handle ;). There are problems worse than noise…My neighbor’s crap smell comes in through my bathroom medicine cabinet. I had to move my toothbrush -__-.

  2. I just finished reading your entire blog start to finish. Your stories are great!

    On the subject of neighbors: I used to live in an apartment where we would joke that the next-door neighbors were having a bowling ball wall-ball tournament. We referred to them as the “thumpy neighbors.”

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