Urban noise pollution is like a record stuck on repeat. If it’s not shops and bars blasting out funky music or rowdiness on public transport—it’s ear-splitting road works and roaring traffic. Noise pollution even vibrates pavements as some cool dude drives by with the bass cranked up to full thump on his stereo. And we tolerate it because we know it is temporary. Or at least it should be when we arrive home after a long day.
Tomorrow a well-liked couple are quitting their apartment in our gated community. They had our respect because, without ever needing to be asked, they offered neighbourhood support. He was always happy to lend a hand with a screwdriver, drill or anything else we were unable to master ourselves. His wife was also willing to help those less able with sundry tasks like weeding or planting.
We wish them peace and happiness in their new home and would have liked them to stay. But loud music, blaring wide screen television, and not so private broadcasting of phone calls to family, all emanating from the neighbour below, has made them both ill and forced the move.
If they complained, the payback was verbal abuse and persistent needling with jibes like ‘It’s my home, I’m entitled to do whatever I want.’
The offender is, of course, correct. We should be able to live our lives as we wish. But it is clear that restraint is a word missing from this person’s vocabulary.
It was also lacking, when I took the bus home. Sat behind me was a young woman talking on her mobile to some poor sap about her life. She had earphones in and seemed oblivious to just how strident she was. For at least twenty minutes the passengers heard her talk about her market value, how much money she was paying for her wedding dress and how demoralising her job was.
‘I’m worth at least 10-15K more than that’ she said.
Several times people, including myself—sat in the seat reserved for less abled bodies, turned to face her. I studied her face and dress and thought she might be the type of girl who models herself on singer Rhianna. But we had as much chance of getting her to acknowledge she was not The Only Girl in the World, as blasting her into space in her self-absorbed capsule. On and on she bellowed and just when I thought she would actually give the person on the end of line a chance to speak, she cut in and began talking at length about wedding invitations.
‘I need to get them out soon.’ she said. And as if to validate her behaviour she added ‘It’s so stressful organising a wedding, especially when it’s your own.’
At this point the bus was passing the cemetery. It seemed was like she was intent on driving me into an early grave with her unending bravado. Every time she opened her mouth, my cringing sent jolts of pain down my spine. Yet in the midst of this I began to wonder about the real person behind the mouth. Did she have a health problem I couldn’t see? Or was she so lacking in social skills, created by this culture of self-entitlement we now exist in, she didn’t care just how much she impacting on those around her.
She was so intent in gunning the other person down on the phone she almost missed her stop. When she raced up the bus gangway and out onto the pavement it was bliss. But the passengers could still hear her through an open window as the bus pulled away.
Given the choice between a crying baby and a raging prima donna on board the baby would get my vote. Undeniably, babies can be irritating after a hard day, ask any beleaguered parent. We know children get tired and don’t have a button marked mute. Nature didn’t supply them with one because noise equates to survival when it comes to attracting its parent’s attention. I understand this and I think anybody who has ever been a parent does too.
It was also a reason why I empathised with the occupant of Apartment Bedlam. At nearly sixty years old she has the unenviable task of trying to hold her family together. I won’t divulge the extent of the family’s problems but there are small children involved, cared for on a temporary basis. Their presence here seems to have aggravated the situation. Oh, did I mention they now have a dog?
I am fortunate that I live at the end of a block inhabited by pensioners. Our only disturbance occurs when the children come to stay with their Grandma and, despite a sign prohibiting ball games, there were regular bouts of football. Or they ran around in the communal garden the residents have invested time and money in.
Occasionally a plant becomes a casualty. But this is nothing compared to the havoc I endured when a new neighbour purchased the flat above me in my previous home. Although he often said it was okay to ask him to exercise noise control when needed, knocking on his door at 2am proved futile. The volume was so loud he just couldn’t hear me. He also had a habit of partying hard with the ladies. It was like sitting in a porn cinema without the screen. No sane person would have gone up there and interrupted his nocturnal pleasures. I had a feeling that if I spoke to him the following morning the situation would eventually escalate. I learned that from past experiences with noisy neighbours
So I left my immaculately decorated home to live here. It’s not much décor wise but I found what I needed the most, peace. Ironically a pack of hyenas took up residence in my old flat. Karma has a way of sowing like for like. But it does leave me wondering how future occupants of our departing neighbours’ apartment will behave or, more ominously, cope.