When I worked the night shift at a newspaper on Long Island, I tried to sleep during the day, but the 13-year-old in the apartment above us was constantly blasting Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on the stereo and moonwalking across his room. Again and again and again.
After three weeks of listening to “Cause this is thriller! I’m gonna thrill you tonight!” I began suffering sleep deprivation and started to see Zombie Jackson in my hallucinations.
I’m sure our neighbors were equally annoyed with us because the vacuum cleaner was always running, day and night. However, I can tell you truthfully that it wasn’t me. I was the one creating the mess, not cleaning it up.
I was recently reminded of the vicissitudes of apartment living when I saw a story about a couple that built a basketball court in their Upper West Side co-op. According to a disgruntled neighbor’s lawsuit, the husband and wife combined two units on the seventh floor so family and friends could “engage in basketball games, which are the cause of unreasonably high-decibel noises, stomping and excessive vibrations.” From firsthand experience, I can tell you there’s nothing worse than listening to excessive vibrations … on basketball courts and beds.
In their defense, the plaintiffs said the hardwood-floor court was nothing more than a toy hoop in a soundproof den. They probably believed they were within their rights to be shooting hoops in their apartment. After all, this is America and EVERYTHING is our right. In fact, we invent new rights every day, which makes you wonder what sport they’ll bring to their co-op next — field hockey, skeet shooting, roller derby or the Kentucky Derby?
Across the river in Brooklyn, there was unrest in another apartment building where a dominatrix was forced out of a “dungeon” she built because the neighbors were afraid of the clients who patronized the “S&M kinky fetish business.” Those excessive vibrations again. Is this a case where people should “live and let live”? Or “live and let love”? Or “live and let spank”?
Apartment living can drive you crazy. My daughter’s neighbor loved playing Lady Gaga with the volume turned up. Lady Gaga is a wonderful talent, but she can be a little nerve-racking. How long can anyone listen to “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Caught in a bad romance Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Caught in a bad romance Rah rah ah-ah-ah! Ro-mah ro-mah-mah Gaga oh-la-la!” (Whatever happened to easy listening music? Sometimes I wish Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis were still around.)
This same neighbor was very unhappy when my newborn grandson cried all night, but at least he had an excuse.
Another fellow watched ESPN for hours and would crank up the volume for popular sports competitions like the Super Bowl, March Madness and the World Series, when public hysteria is socially acceptable. To complain about noise during March Madness is about as unsafe as wearing a MAGA hat in midtown Manhattan.
I no longer live in an apartment, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have noise issues on my street. I love my neighbors in a platonic sense, even though some of them test my patience by cutting the lawn at 8 p.m. when I’m getting ready for bed. (OK, so I like to get in bed early. Is there a problem with that?)
Others can’t get enough of their leaf blowers and use them to blow everything from leaves and grass clippings to dust on their driveways and acorns in their gutters, which causes a lot of air and noise pollution.
I suppose I shouldn’t complain because we have a dog that barks so much she could be the Lady Gaga of the canine world. For the life of me, I can’t understand why it annoys my neighbors. To my ears, it’s music.
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.