Monday, May 18, 2009

Apartment Living

I've lived in several different apartment complexes over my lifetime. I've lived on the top floor, the garden level, and in between. But one thing I've learned is this: the top floor trumps them all. Sure, you have to walk up three flights of stairs (good exercise!) and it's a pain to move in and carry your groceries, but it's worth it for the noise factor. You don't have to worry about people walking around, dropping things, stomping, etc.

That is one of the main reasons that I chose the top floor when I moved into my apartment building last fall. That and it has vaulted ceilings and a fireplace, which the other levels don't.

But last night, I had a knock on my door that made me immediately want to move to a house.

My downstairs neighbor is nice enough. She's always been pleasant, smiled at me, made conversation. But last night, she told me that my daughter is being too loud. She said that whatever she's doing, it is really loud in her apartment below and would I please tell my daughter to stop whatever it is she's doing because she has to get up early and she can't sleep, blah, blah, blah.

Deep breath.

Ok. Since I have lived in a downstairs apartment before and listened to the crashing and bashing, I know exactly what she's talking about. But...I also know that ordinary walking can create such noises. Creaking floors that sound quiet in my apartment may sound too loud in her apartment. When my daughter runs into my room to tell me something, that may sound loud below, too.

So I find myself torn. Having been there, I know how irritating it can be. But here's the thing - that's apartment living. Unless there is extremely loud partying going on, jumping up and down for hours at a time, or screaming and yelling, you deal with it. The quiet hours at my apartment are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and I make sure that my daughter isn't doing anything during those hours (she's usually asleep!). I try to accomodate as much as possible.

Here's the behavior that my daughter was doing that so offended my neighbor (and this was before 10 p.m.)- she was pretending to be a dog. Consequently, she was walking around on her hands and feet. She'd made herself a tail and ears and we found a mask on the internet that we printed out for her. She was having a blast and to me, it wasn't loud at all. She wasn't stomping or pounding or barking or anything.

Now I understand that even walking in my apartment sounds noisy to the apartment downstairs, so I'm sure that my daughter's galloping didn't help, even if it didn't sound loud to me. But what irritated me was that my daughter heard my neighbor say all this. My daughter took off her mask, her tail, and her ears and put them in her closet and said, "Well, I guess I can't play that anymore." That broke my heart.

This is an extremely fine line. I can't expect my daughter not to be a kid. I have to respect my neighbors below, but they have to respect that I have a child, too, that isn't just going to sit still all day. Neither do I want her to sit still all day! At night, if she wants to pretend to be a dog, by heavens, she should be able to - within reason. And it wasn't that she had been sequestered all day and hadn't been able to get outside and play - she was outdoors all day yesterday at her dad's.

My downstairs neighbor smokes on her deck. Sometimes, when she's smoking and I'm home and my patio door is open, the smoke comes into my apartment. So what do I do? I shut the door. I deal with it. I don't go downstairs and tell her to stop smoking. And second-hand smoke is much more hazardous than dealing with the noise coming from an upstairs neighbor.

It's apartment living. It's give and take. I try to accomodate and keep my child relatively quiet. I keep her quiet during the hours specified. When she gets too loud (which is rare), I calm her down.

What do you think? Am I over-reacting to this?


  1. I wish your neighbor could read this. Any reasonable person would be moved by your words and accept a bit of noise.

  2. Travis, I'm thinking of writing her a letter and slipping it under her door. Maybe I should print it out? ;-)

  3. Everywhere you live, you have neighbor noises. In the summer, some of my neighbors mow their lawns at 9:00 at night (I live in Michigan where it's light until 10:00). When my kids are in bed trying to fall asleep, the lawn mower sounds like a crew of construction trucks in the front lawn. But I don't go out and tell the neighbors to mow their yards earlier. I turn on the sound machine in my kids' rooms and it helps drown out the outside noises. I think you're right. We have to put up with the noise and adjust! That's just part of life!

  4. Ditto what Travis said.

    Your neighbor needs to back off and respect that you're raising a child, as you should be, with consideration of your neighbors. Not enough people do that!

  5. Always a tough situation, but yeah, neighbour noise is always something we deal with. The ONLY time we've ever done anything was about a place near here that was holding all-night raves with sound that carried - ALL night.

    Your neighbour needs to understand that you and your daughter can't tiptoe around. I also think it was beyond the pale for her to say what she did when she KNEW your daughter was listening. She could have asked to speak with you out in the hall. Just my .02.

  6. Yup - print it out and hand it to her, rather than push it through the door. it explains your side of things, and how you deal with her smoke.

  7. Hi, i'm a long-time lurker/first-time poster.

    I wouldn't go say something to her. Chances are, she's already over the incident. How petty will that make you look if you're still obsessing over and hollering about something that she doesn't even care about anymore? She got her sleep, she's good.

    Had your neighbor come to you and said that just this one time she was getting up super early and requested that your daughter maybe play something else or move her playing to another room (maybe her bedroom is under where your daughter was playing?), I could see asking your daughter to maybe do those things. Telling her to stop playing the way she did was unacceptable.

    I agree with you 100% and I applaud you for realizing that you shouldn't have to tiptoe around your own home. It's neighbor noise and she just needs to deal with it. If she doesn't like it, SHE can move out.

    You've had your chance to blog about, let off some steam and think about the incident and I hope you let it end there. Printing out the article and slipping a copy under her door is passive aggressive and is only going to embarrass her. You're better than that.

    Dig out your daughters' ears and tail and mask and make one of your own while you're at it and get on with the puppy acting! Explain to your daughter that before 10pm you can do whatever the heck you want in your own house. Tell her that courtesy must be given to other residents after 10pm, but before that, she can do what she wants and play what she wants, however she wants. She can still play after 10pm (if she's not asleep) but she just has to do it a little softer, like by being on her bed or up on a couch so as to soften the noise. Teach her that she shouldn't back down when a neighbor is being pissy. Your daughter should not be punished because you neighbor is an idiot.

  8. It's not just apartments, but homes too. Anywhere you live next to other people. Sad, but true.

    I once moved out of the coolest condos ever because while I thought an end unit would be quiet, it was backed up to the garages, and the local kids played handball against the garage doors. It was a normal noise when you were outside. Inside? An amazingly loud thumping. Actually knocked my pictures crooked. I brought the kids inside once so they could hear the noise, and then they voluntarily moved their play to another set of garages for awhile. But I couldn't ask kids not to play outside, so I survived an entire year there and moved as soon as the lease was up.

    I hope your daughter gets to keep playing without anyone complaining.

  9. You are right on target. Let your daughter have fun durng the specified hours, within reason. It is apartment life.

  10. Tess - I used to live below a single mom with three rambuctious boys. It got really irritating at times, but I never once complained because, well, they're BOYS and they're going to be active, y'know? At another complex, I called in my neighbors one time when they were partying at an obscene time in the morning. There's stuff you can deal with and stuff you can't. :-)

    Diane - What stinks is that she's been nice about everything and she was cordial last night, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. "Poor me, I have to be up early!" I think she works AT HOME. I'm gone all day long! I can't be quiet 24-7!

    Cassandra - Thanks for your thoughtful comment. You make a lot of sense. The problem is, she's complained to management before about this and I've received a "friendly reminder" from management about it. So I don't know that she's going to stop at this point. But you're right - in no way am I going to restrict my daughter from playing something that she enjoys so much that isn't hurting anyone, but only making a slight amount of noise.

    DKoren - Absolutely. I think there's a line there that we shouldn't cross - we should be respectful of our neighbors. But we shouldn't bow to their every demand, either.

    Heather - Exactly!

  11. I don't think you're overeacting at all. You have your 10-6 rule and I think that's fair. If your daughter was jumping around at 4 AM that would be one thing (or the neighbor was vaccuming for two hours straight at 3 AM. True story.) But you're not doing any of those things. Don't let this incident squash your child's imagination and don't be a hostage in your own home. It's part of apartment living. If the neighbor can't take it, she can always move. You take care of you. I support you.

  12. Hi Lexicon - Absolutely. I figure if I'm staying within the "quiet hours" that we should be ok. I just couldn't believe it when my daughter put her things I know that this woman is also a mother, so if she could have seen that, it may have changed her mind.

  13. My daughter lives in an apartment complex and is an assistant manager in one. Stuff like you described happens. The neighbor needs to back off. You are the norm with noise and she could have it so much worse! If she bothers you again, maybe talk ahead of time with the management so they know you are trying to work with her but some requests are unreasonable.
    We lived on the bottom once and the top too. I prefer the top!

  14. Terri - Since she's already complained to management once (and the apartment manager lives across the hall from me!) I am wondering if I need to say something to the management this time so they can hear MY side of the story. Sigh...

  15. She's complained to the manager!?

    The next time you see your manager in the hall, ask him/her if they've noticed an obscene amount of noise coming from your apartment inside the alloted "quiet" times. Mention that you understand that your neighbor may be bothered by some noises during the day but that she may be a little more sensitive than most. Suggest that the management could perhaps send the woman a letter explaining the difference between appropriate and inappropriate noise in an apartment building and the correct way to handle complaints for inappropriate noise.

    You want to have the management do the talking to her on your behalf because that's their job. If you say that you understand the rules and are working within your restraints and are willing to continue doing so this shows that you are cooperating with the management and you will be seen in a better light. If you request that something be said to the woman and they fail to do so, the next time the woman complains, they will have no one to blame but themselves. Management is there so you don't have to listen to raves at all hours of the night nor be bullied by some woman who is oversensitive and infringing upon your happiness in your own home.

    And heaven forbid the manager says that you do indeed sometimes have too much noise during "quiet" hours, say that you have been monitoring the noise levels and will have to be even more diligent in the future and thank them. The only way to fight kindness is with more kindness and then everybody wins.

  16. Jody - I agree that we need to adjust to noise. We can't always have everyone work around our time table or our "noise" level. :-)

    Janna - That's the thing that I don't understand - really, how much noise can one 9-year-old girl make?

  17. Cassandra - Yeah, you'd think that if it was too loud, the manager (who lives across the hall from me) would have said something. The whole thing just irritates me. Sigh...I did think of emailing the manager, though, and talking to her about the situation.

  18. I live in a two story house and whenever my kids are upstairs, I can hear them. Its the facts. You live with it.

    This woman is being unreasonable, but unless the manager steps in, I would avoid any confrontation with her.

  19. tell her to deal with it!

  20. I would continue to be cordial upon seeing this woman, but any talk about the noise issue should be directed to her through the management. I think I might keep them informed of these little things, too, for your own interest. At the same time, I'd let your daughter continue on the way she has been; it seems like you've set reasonable rules and you can't deny her simple play. It's a tough situation, Melissa. I hope it works out.

  21. How irritating. I know that when my two are just walking upstairs, I can hear them, as we have wooden floors.

    I would have a chat with the manager about what happened, and see if he/she can come up with some solution.

  22. Going to management first is so out of order. She should have come straight to you first and then gone to management had you not been able to reach an agreement between you. Might be worth chatting to the manager, let her get to know what a reasonable person you are and you may find out if this woman has complained about everyone and everything before. If she has, then she is the one that should be reconsidering her residential arrangements. If she doesn't like living beneath noise, however great or small, she can move. Her choice.

    And now I'm going to roll out another soap box cos it's almost the same thing - people who complain about electricity sub stations, pylons, public car parking on their road that was all there LONG before they were. If they don't like that kind of thing, they shouldn't have moved there in the first place.

    Make a 3rd set of ears, etc, and invite the neighbour to come join in and play. Perhaps she's lonely - and I'm not surprised ...

  23. If she doesn't want any noise she should pay the extra $ for a top floor apartment, that is one of the reasons why they are more expensive. If the lady says something to you again slap her : )

  24. It really is too bad when people cannot/will not see outside themselves at all.

    Personally, if me and my kidlets were observing those quiet zone hours, I wouldn't worry too much about Groucy Greta on the second floor.

  25. Rene - Yeah, I don't plan on confronting her. I did send a lengthy email last night to the apartment manager, though.

    Brian - Amen!

    Joanne - Agreed. It is simple play and I definitely do not want her to think she can't do it just because she's a bit noisy.

    Debs - Yep, I sent an email to the manager, so hopefully that will take care of the problem.

    Diane - I think you're right. She's single, though has one of her teenage children living with her, but I think she might be lonely.

    Troy - Agreed. That's why I moved to the top floor - so I wouldn't have to deal with the noise!

    Angie - Yeah, we observe the quiet hours, so she really doesn't have anything to complain about. I can't tailor my life around hers - if she has to go to bed before the quiet hours start, I shouldn't have to accomodate my schedule, should I? Or is that just the neighborly thing to do?

  26. Ugh. I once had an apartment neighbor who repeatedly complained that my dogs were too loud when they played on our deck. (This only happened during the day, for periods of half an hour or less.) The same neighbor routinely had screaming fights with her husband at all hours of day AND night that could be heard throughout the entire complex.

    Tons of wonderful suggestions above. Good for you for emailing the manager. In a show of neighborly compromise, I'd consider moving up quiet hours to 9:30 pm--but ONLY if your neighbor gives a compelling reason, ie if she has to be up at 4 am for work or somesuch.

    You're right--this is all part of apartment living, and your neighbor has to be reasonable. When I was in an apartment, I would have been SO grateful to have upstairs neighbors who observed 10 pm-6 am quiet hours!

  27. Christine - Yep. Apartment living has its little quirks, doesn't it? But I just got an email back from the apartment manager - she completely understands my side of the story and has told my neighbor the same thing - that it's apartment living - deal with it or move out! ;-)


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