When in (Left of) Rome

loud neighborsHe read the email from our landlady. It was a threat of eviction. “Oh hell no,” he yelled. “Who does that bitch think she is?” He referred to the next-door neighbor who just moved in two weeks ago and whom we had yet to meet. Apparently, we were being too loud—definite grounds for eviction.

We looked at each other disbelieving what we just read. For noise? This would not do. In all the years living in Los Angeles (Hollywood) noise complaint never even crossed our minds. Tenants grew concerned if they did not hear noise coming from next door. This was an insult. We were threatened with eviction on a monthly basis for important things, like rent. Noise pollution was beneath us. Except, we didn’t live in Los Angeles anymore.

But, this is a story of how we met a next-door neighbor for the first time ever. Noise did bring us together, but we didn’t meet her until four months after her initial complaint, when we, again, received another eviction threat from our landlady for the same complaint. The Neighbor, as we have christened her, is an older woman with medium length gray hair. We hardly cross paths, but when we do, we both divert our eyes as if the air in front of us was so engaging that we noticed nothing else. I wondered if she, too, came from a big city, but then again, someone like that wouldn’t bother with petty complaints.

Now, it must be understood that we weren’t worried about actually being evicted. We were well within our rights. In fact, we adjusted our already normal volume levels so that we had to squint to hear anything. Still, the complaint was logged and it was about to escalate.

I suppose the underlying issue wasn’t that we were unreasonably loud, but in reality, we were inconvenienced: we were forced to meet our neighbor. That’s something you just… Don’t do. In a city of over 3.8 million (the 3.51-square-mile Hollywood neighborhood, alone, boasts about 80,000 people), you have to be extremely careful whom you let into your guarded life—and that includes neighbors. You never know what kind of wackos are out there.

So, I wrote a friendly letter on the insistence of the landlady who changed her eviction tune once we talked to her and she was aware that we were schooled on noise ordinance. It took our neighbor four days to respond.

The meeting went well. In fact, it was quite painless. She was a good hostess with a pleasant demeanor, but she didn’t offer us a drink. But considering the nature of this meet and greet, I let it slide.

Then, it occurred to me: We were the wackos to this guarded neighbor. We became that which we feared the most. But we’re working on it… Together. We’re not bad neighbors at all and while we can be malicious within our almost-private four walls and can call her everything under the sun, her name is Anne.

23 thoughts on “When in (Left of) Rome”

  1. I liked that phrase “squint to hear.”
    This post is a great example of what Michelle talked about in today’s Yeah Write post. I recently wrote about not knowing my neighbors, too, but your story is completely different, in your own unique voice and from a completely different perspective. Great read!

    1. Thanks! I almost left that phrase out. I was inspired by your post actually 🙂

      1. That’s awesome. Both the part about almost cutting that phrase and the post inspiration.

  2. Stacie says:

    Powerful last sentence, Obed. It’s amazing how neighborly interactions change so much depending on where you live. Still, even in the burbs, it seems like there’s always one neighbor I’d like to replace.

    1. Thanks Stacie! It’s our turn to be the raucous ones. Even though we’re rocking out to Broadway musicals mostly (my partner is working on a musical right now so that’s why.)

      1. Stacie says:

        Nice! I’m a CA native living in NJ the last 3 years. My favorite part of being here is the proximity to Broadway (we are 20 miles away). I now go to several shows per year – love it! But I’d go home in a minute. The weather here is KILLING me.

        1. Nice! That’s why I’m not in NY… yet. But not in CA either 🙁 Love to visit NY some day (again)

  3. Natalie DeYoung says:

    Such a true observation about the neighbor in LA thing. And this neighbor must know nothing about real noise, which is a full on mariachi band playing the Mexican polka at full blast every week (welcome to my neighborhood).

    1. Ha! Well, even though I’m Mexican, I would be annoyed by the Mexican polka, too!

      1. Natalie DeYoung says:

        I usually don’t mind it. At such decibels right next door, though, it can be a tad much. 😉

  4. Robin says:

    My daughter recently got a similar complaint from a downstairs neighbor, claiming that my 3-year-old grandson made such a racket the dishes fell off of their kitchen table. Apparently, he has the force of an earthquake. Her neighbors are 19 – 22 years old, who want to sleep off weekend partying until at least noon. Our daughter also settled this with a nice letter to the neighbor – after writing the one about how she really felt, which the neighbors never saw 🙂

    I really enjoyed your story. We’ve all had neighbors like that. And I agree with cynkingfeeling – “squint to hear” is a great phrase.

  5. zoe says:

    well written. definitely hit home with this one. We have had some wild neighbors… not wild actually…weird…I mean how loud can a couple of rabid meditators really get?

    1. … they can do a lot! LOL

  6. My Muted Voice says:

    I enjoyed this and really loved the last sentence, an important message in one sentence.

  7. Joe Owens says:

    This reminds me of a favorite saying of folks where I live. You never know what “they” are doing. The “they” we fear just might be us. We are all dealing with the same concerns and sometimes fears. We all just want to live our life and don;t realize how common situations can be harmless for one and threatening for another.

  8. I love that you share her name in the end–wonderful!

  9. Well done! I also loved the line, “we had to squint to hear anything.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *