To be frank, I love my neighbours… particularly when they start playing bongo drums late at night.
Yep, just the other night my 20-something neighbours had clearly had one too many puffs of the bambalacha and thought a midnight jam would be a good idea. It’s always a precarious decision… do I wait it out, hoping they get the midnight munchies and turn their attention to a sandwich of impossible proportions and questionable ingredients? Or, do I pick up the phone and suggest that a more suitable time of day to rehearse for the freestyle-free spirit bongo world championships would be any time of day where the sun is 20 degrees above either horizon? Or, do I risk it, walk over there and bank on their state of utter wastedness and suggest that I’d like to jam with them but ‘trip’ and put my fist through the skin of the drum, apologise and go home?
It’s a tough choice isn’t it? Do I do the right thing, the sensible thing or the thing I’d most like to do?
I remember once when the missus and I were living in London, and smoke from the maui wauie was wafting up from the unit downstairs through the gaps around our bedhead (which was a boarded-up old fireplace and shared a chimney with the downstairs unit). Adding insult to injury they were playing punk thrash at a decibel level rivalled only by that of an F1-11 taking off. This particular night, not only had I had enough, but I knew these guys would have to be more plastered than a hundred men at a drywall convention, given the amount of smoke penetrating our humble abode. I took my chances, stormed downstairs, banged on the door and was greeted by eyes so wasted a garbage truck could easily mistake them for trash cans on the kerb waiting for collection. I walked over to the stereo system, yanked the plug from the wall and from the back of the stereo, and went back upstairs with said cord and went to bed…me and my puff the magic dragon dreams. Geeze it felt good.
Sometimes though, the habits of ones neighbours can be less obvious yet just as likely to fester and build up over time.
The first house that the missus and I ever owned was next door to a small housing department complex. For the most part the neighbours were quiet and unassuming. Many of them had night work so we never saw them. One of the gents did get pinged for running a drug ring via his taxi company, which posthumously explained a lot of strange and unusually late night customers. Then one day this lovely Polish family moved in. Spoke not a word of English but we’d nod over the fence and exchange whatever pleasantries the universal language of sign would allow.
Anyway, the missus and I had just had our first baby. We were head long into the challenges of sleep (for us and the baby), and our first was a light sleeper. The patriarch of the family was a fastidious cleaner. Despite Brisbane suffering one of the worst droughts in living memory, this guy would hose down his patio area (and I’m not joking) three to four times a day! A DAY! Maybe someone in the family was allergic to dirt… maybe he was OCD… maybe he just wanted to be out of the house? But bugger me, every three hours or so he’d walk outside and begin hosing again. Now this wasn’t so much the problem, despite his lack of appreciation for dam levels so low even the mud on the bottom was getting nervous, as was the constant going in and out of the small chain wire gate which lead to the rubbish bins. It had a spring-loaded hinge that had more torque than a GT Camaro, and every time he went through the gate the thing would slam shut and wake up bub. It would drive the missus and me batty. We’d just about have her off to sleep and the next second, SLAM, and she’d be startled from her near slumber and roar off again like a demonic, hungry lion.
I tried my best sign language to plead with him to close the gate carefully… quietly… I even walked him up and showed him the baby and the missus trying to get her off to sleep and then went downstairs and slammed the door to show him what happened. On cue, she wailed like the voices of woe, screamed like a bandsaw cutting through sheet metal… he nodded politely, seem to understand, but it had about as much effect on his habits as a news poll on the behaviour of Clive Palmer.
We moved house…
There have been so many more things over the years at many different houses. At one house our neighbour, Mr Honey, used to listen to Neil Diamond full bawl at all hours of the night. To this day the missus can’t stand Sweet Caroline. This was challenged at another house by our landlord (which made things all the more difficult). He listened to Michael Bolton’s How can we be lovers if we can’t be friends, over and over and jesus-christ-for-the-love-of-god over again.
Another neighbour, Rick (the dick) use to wait behind his screen door, waiting for the kids to accidently kick the ball into his yard… he’d tear out, grab the ball and throw it over his house into the bushland behind. He even called the cops one day… you know kids having fun was just too much for him. What a mean man.
Anyway, I could go on forever. Which got me thinking… the only common denominator here is me and the missus… maybe we’re the problem!
I want to hear your ‘neighbourly’ stories. What has driven you to the brink? How have you responded?