Thursday, January 01, 2009

No High Heels, Please

Nicole's article about noisy neighbors finally saw the light of day at the SF Chronicle, and it's better than even we remember it, whenever the heck that was. Our fact-checkers and librarians are off for the holiday so we can't be sure, but careful readers will find a clue that it has been at least 5 months since this baby was submitted.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, as the case may be) this particular problem is timeless, so the Chron could have waited until next New Year's Eve to print it. Even as the lives which play out in apartments change the apartments themselves remain unaltered windows -- make that sound tunnels -- to other people's worlds.

I once lived in a tiny SoHo apartment, an illegal sublet, which made me even more self-conscious about rousting neighbors who may have been in a position to scotch my sweet deal. And in a perverse reversal of the power dynamic Nicole beautifully describes, it was my downstairs neighbor who held sway.

I was religious in my aversion to making noise. I listened to no music. I watched TV from about 2 feet away (it was a small apartmet, anyway). I never wore shoes indoors and, unlike Nicole, didn't have to make any compromises about not even wearing high heels. I had no pets. For a long time, it was me and only me who lived there.

All was well, for months. But I worked late often and often stayed out even later and one night I came home to find in the stairwell (it was a 6-storey walkup) the daughter of the apartment below making out with a guy from the hood. It was about 3 a.m. Days later I ran into mom, who excoriated me for making noise all the time. I was dumbfounded (more than usual), inviting her by default to elaborate. Her daughter couldn't sleep and was missing school (or work, I forget) because of all of my damn noise keeping her up.

Still dumbfounded, we parted with me mumbling something about being sorry and not making noise anymore (remember, I was there on borrowed time). Then it dawned on me: daughter was staying out late, making out with guys, and mom knew nothing about it. When cornered about not being able to wake up in the morning, lack of sleep from the noisy upstairs neighbor became a convenient and believable explanation, assuming (as I did) mom was a heavy sleeper or hard of hearing (remember, she complained on behalf of her daughter, never herself).

We managed an uneasy truce, me and the old lady downstairs (I usually kill with old ladies), but she exacted some evil revenge on the day I moved out. She reported it to the landlord, who then was able to confront the legitimate tenant from whom I was subletting, blowing his cover.

Wait -- this wasn't all about Nicole? My bad.


nicole said...

Are you *sure* you weren't wearing high heels and caused all that noise after all???

John C Abell said...

@nicole I keep telling you -- I don't have anything to lend you. In your size, anyway.