Saturday, June 17, 2006

Question for Neighborhood Ethicists

One time (and I emphasize, it was the ONE time) I had a dog in my back yard for about 15 minutes, and he was about to leave, but in the meantime he was barking. It was early evening. My closest neighbor, whose house borders my yard and is ten feet from the TurboPalace (same neighbor from this story) immediately telephoned, irate. "That barking needs to stop at once," he said angrily, "it is waking my children. Please see to it."

We got the dog in the car. I was embarassed and contrite. I believe that was the only time a loud noise has come out of the Turbopalace.

And yet, on the flip side, Neighbor has sired two new children in the four years since I moved here. Between them, for four years, there has been top-of-the-lung screaming every bath time (note that we do not use air conditioning here in the Smallish City, so our windows are generally open all summer.) This morning, for the third weekend morning in a row, the youngsters have awakened me before 6:30 a.m. via a screeching serenade of off-key nursery rhymes from their backyard, just below my bedroom. And in all probability, before too long, Neighbor himself will be out on the back steps with his accordian, which he plays unsolicited nearly every day, to the delight of all polka fans within roughly a one-block radius.

I've never said a word about any of this. I try to tell myself that kids just naturally make early-morning noise, and everyone knows bath time is intolerable, and the accordian-playing may be the product of mental illness. But really, it's getting old. What's the right thing to do?


Anonymous Michael J. said...

Go to a taget range, and get a used human taget, filled with bullet holes. Take it to the copy shop and have it laminated on both sides with the heaviest plastic they've got. Hang it in a window facing the neighbor's house.

When asked about it, explain that you keep waking up to a nightmare of screaming children, and you read somewhere online that this is often used as a tactic to cover for a burglery – so you wanted to put the burglers on notice that if they use screaming children as a cover you are licensed and trained to take direct action.

6/17/06, 9:47 AM  
Blogger Katinka said...


Turbo, I'm laughing but I feel your pain...I really do. Sounds like you've been much more patient than most people would be under the circumstances!

6/17/06, 1:54 PM  
Anonymous Adrift At Sea said...

While the bullet-riddled target is creative....

I would think that calling your neighbor and requesting that he and his brood need to respect your need for early morning quiet and peace. Same goes for his less than musical playing of the accordion, which ranks about even with bagpipes in my book.

I would check with the local laws on noise abatement and see if screaming children are covered by them. He sounds like a real PILL and a royal PITA.

6/17/06, 8:40 PM  
Blogger Katinka said...

These are ingenious and hilarious suggestions!

I'm wondering why he's reacting like this though. These are the potential explanations that I've come up with:

a) it was a one off, kick-the-cat reaction. Maybe he's chronically sleep deprived from said children, and just had a bad day. If this is the case, then he's probably going to be a bit sheepish, or passive-aggressive for a while (ie. avoiding you)

b) there's something amiss in the neighbour rapport, possibly a long-harboured grudge on his part.

c) He has his own issues and is an unreasonable PITA ;)

Given that you probably will have to live next door to this person for a while yet (unless he or you decide to leave)my recommendation is a bit less appealing but nonetheless tried and tested:

Make a direct gesture of kindness.

If the cause is a) then it will save face for both of you, and you will have strengthened the rapport.
If it's b) then it opens the door to solving and hopefully addressing the underlying problem. Even if the cause is simply c), you'll defuse some of his ability to control the situation, and it will unnerve him considerably.

Good luck! :)

6/18/06, 4:29 PM  
Blogger Tillerman said...

Ethically there is no question tht you are in the wrong.

Children are human and are therefore to be loved and cherished by every other human. Every sound they make is a sign of their genius and creativity and you should thank their parents for allowing you to share in the magical experience.

Dog are not human. Any sound they make is an annoyance to everyone except their owner and so the owner should feel extreme guilt about allowing anyone to hear their dog and should take measures to prevent such a gross breach of etiquette, good neighborliness and ethics again.

6/25/06, 5:28 PM  

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