Allow me to preface this tale with a bit of back story, if you will. I’m 23, physically disabled, and live with my parents (of whom my mother is also physically disabled), and our current living conditions were selected with both my mother’s and my disabilities in mind. Unfortunately…those very same living conditions have ended up being hell!
The three of us moved from Colorado just under a year ago, when my father, after being unemployed for two years, found a job with IBM in Iowa. The place we’re currently living in is a two-bedroom apartment on the ground floor – the building, so you can visualize this, has three floors with two apartments each (this building is units 13-18) – we’re in unit 14 which is the very first one straight in from the front door, next door to us in unit 13 are the lovely older couple J&J, directly above us is unit 16 where a man, his wife and two young children live, next to them in unit 15 were a younger couple, B and W, and directly above them is unit 18 where D and T, friends of mine who recently moved in, are living with D’s new baby. (Unit 17 is vacant, and has been since a few months after we moved in – thank goodness, the two living there were constantly in domestic disputes that almost led to the whole building calling the police!) This building is very new – so new, in fact, that it was only just completed before we moved in and we were only the second tenants to move in, and they’re still putting up new buildings on the lot next door. Great, we thought, brand-new building, stated to be up to American Disability Association standards, soundproofed between every unit so there won’t be noise problems…
Okay. Back up a step. Look at that last sentence again. Namely, “soundproofed between every unit”.
Oh, there’s soundproofing all right…between horizontally adjacent units only! There is absolutely nothing between vertically adjacent units, which is the huge problem. The family in unit 16 aren’t so bad when you take into account they have two young children, I suppose, but those children…oy vey! They’re three and six years old, I believe, and their very favorite pasttime seems to be lead footing it around their apartment at all hours, day or night, seven days a week. This family moved in shortly after we did, and it was apparent from the very outset that there was going to be a gigantic noise problem, which was in fact acknowledged by the parents (well – the father – we have yet to ever see the mother!) a few days later; my mum and I encountered the father (who I will call F, not knowing his name) and the youngest child in the hallway, going up the stairs to their apartment, and F asked us with an exaggerated show of great concern if his children had been bothering us with all their running around and shrieking. Yes, in fact, they had, and Mum politely said as much, to which F smiled, uttered the most insincere “Sorry” I have ever heard out of a human mouth, and pointed at the child he was carrying up the stairs in explanation before beating feet back up to the apartment quick as a wink! I can’t help but wonder if that encounter is what opened this large can of worms, but I stand in full agreement of Mum’s decision to politely but firmly inform F that yes, his children WERE being a problem for us. One of the things you have to take into mind when you live in an apartment building is that there will likely be neighbors above, beneath and beside you, and do your best NOT to bother said neighbors – or am I just crazy for thinking that?
Since then – that was about two weeks after we moved in, I think, and if you’ll recall, we’ve been here very nearly a year – the problem has only gotten worse. F does nothing to corral his children and won’t even take them outside to work off the surplus of energy they constantly have (the entire family, apart from the mother – I’d almost think she doesn’t exist if not for the fact she’s been taking care of the children while the father is at work – has bikes; these bikes have taken up permanent residence in the front hallway and have only moved perhaps once or twice in an entire year, which cuts the hallway size down by more than half – how are you supposed to get a wheelchair past that?), and the end result is often that we bear the brunt of this energy being worked off by way of the loudest stomping, banging, shrieking and crying imaginable. During the daytime we can understand it and don’t really mind it so much – kids will be kids after all, the older one’s in school during the week so she’s not adding to the problem, and the mother seems to be physically unable to take them outside and keep an eye on them while they perform their wild and crazy antics in the parking lot – but in the evening, with both parents home, and stretching on into the night, and even into hours that one should never see outside of college or a sleep disorder, it gets to be extremely annoying and fatiguing. (As the resident insomniac, I’ve heard these children stomping and shrieking well up to four or five AM – when do they get any sleep??) Speaking to F has done no good, the mother won’t get involved, noise-canceling headphones can’t even hope to drown it out, and even complaints given to the landlady by B and W before they moved (because of those children – even with the soundproofing between their units, everything was clearly audible!) were of absolutely no use. The family of unit 16 “owns” the building and they are not giving up their figurative claim.
Again, I understand that kids will be kids, and the poor things get no other chance to run around but in the apartment, but this is ridiculous. Their elephantine galumphing literally vibrates our apartment; we can’t so much as hang a single thing on the walls because they’ll knock it down. They’ve utterly destroyed at least parts of unit 16; when you step outside and look up at their window blinds, they are now bent, broken, and in some places nearly nonexistent, and maintenance has been in repeatedly for broken (not blocked – BROKEN!) bathtubs and toilets, which I’m sure is partly due to the children’s unshakable tendency to drop the toilet lids so hard you can hear them hit from outside the building. They’ve also destroyed parts of the main building itself – the front door was broken for several months after we moved in because F and the children would literally slam their way in and out and damaged the closing mechanism beyond repair (it’s since been replaced with a more robust one that unfortunately makes more noise, and they have not yet learned it might be nice to close the door gently instead of just letting it close with a WHAM that shakes the building) and the railing on the staircase has more than once been loosened by the youngest child banging on and shaking it. And in the past four months, they’ve also gotten so loud that D and T – in the unit ABOVE them – can hear every bit of it as well, and they’ve even started disturbing J&J next door, who need peace and quiet due to J-the-husband’s medical condition! (D and I have joked around about buying a pair of tap-dancing shoes each and taking up dance lessons on her kitchen floor, and T – who may well be one of the most doormat-ish and agreeable people I’ve ever known – was fully on board with this plan! Naturally, we never went through with it, but it still makes us grin…) No one is quite sure what to do about them, as complaining doesn’t work, talking to them doesn’t work, being equally rude with the noise is just horribly impolite (and the place turned out to be fragile enough it would probably cost anyone who tried it their security deposit…)
Thankfully, my family has found a positively perfect house and we’re moving into it in about a week.
Unfortunately, I think F has taken our very obvious pending move, and the fact that I’m currently alone in the apartment as my parents are back in Colorado packing up the house we’re going to sell there, as an opportunity to encourage his children to go all out with their antics, and to go all out with his own.
The noise is no longer intermittent. It’s constant. They’ve started playing very crude and inappropriate music at all hours, loud enough that everyone in the building can make out the lyrics. Someone, possibly the mother (hmm – might have to rethink that she won’t get involved), will take out the vacuum, turn it on and simply leave it in one place for hours. Water has cascaded right down the inside of my bedroom wall more times than I can count in the past few months. F has taken to smoking extremely pungent and foul cigarettes in the hallway of our very obviously NON-smoking building, setting off every smoke alarm in the entire building. Toilet lids slam several times in a row – I can only assume the children are making a game of repeatedly picking them up and dropping them. The front door is constantly being slammed by F as he makes his way in and out, in and out, in and out, doing absolutely nothing but abusing the door. The younger child runs out into the hallway and shrieks and cries like she’s being beaten. (She’s not – I’ve taken to cracking the door open and peering out when I hear it just to make sure!) The older one screams with great glee out the open living room window whenever someone dares venture out on the decks below. And today, I don’t know exactly what it was they were doing, but they rattled my room hard enough to KNOCK OVER several standing objects, including my bookcase (cheap and not too stable, admittedly) and my computer monitor.
At that point, I’d had enough. I was at my wits’ end from listening to this constant cacophony, and on the verge of being horribly sick from a devastating migraine. And I was finally willing to test out exactly how fragile the walls and ceilings in this building really are.
I fetched the broom, and the next time there came a burst of noise, I delivered several very sharp, very LOUD raps to the ceiling directly beneath those stomping, shrieking hellbeasts.
A moment more of thumping, then suddenly – blessed silence – and if they do it again, well, I’m keeping the broom close at hand!
I hate retaliating in kind, and if this casts me into Etiquette Hell, so be it – but what else was supposed to be done? The family won’t listen, the landlady won’t listen, the property owner won’t listen, and everyone in a position to care seems blissfully oblivious that the hellions of unit 16 are forcing all the other tenants to find other lodgings. Thank goodness it’s only a week till we’re out of here… 0614-11