The Perfect Life #9
Dear Dr. Perfect,
My neighbor blasts his music too loud. I try not to dim anyone’s fun, but after three weeks of polka at 80 decibels, I am at wit’s end. I’ve asked him to stop. While he seems really nice, I don’t know if his English is strong enough to understand my request. The police won’t do anything, as they seem to be polka fans. Should I hire a hitman? My scarred eardrums need solace right about now.
In Search of the Sound of Silence
Simon and Garfunkel sang about the fractured void of communication in their hit song “The Sound of Silence.” Uou just need to revisit the smooth folk-rock of one of America’s great duos. Transport yourself to simpler times of mass casualties in Vietnam and a new season of Gilligan’s Island on TV. Your neighbor is inconsiderate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work things out. It might just involve a carefully layered strategy.
We’ve all been in similar situations, leaving some to live off the grid completely in log cabins deep in the woods. Alas, the survivalist lifestyle isn’t for me. I enjoy my morning coffee and heated foot bath massager far too much. I got a great deal on one too, using my Brookstone elite member gold card. You don’t want to know how many various types of massagers I own.
I once had an upstairs neighbor in my old apartment complex who practiced interpretive dance, day and night. Next door to me lived a family of five who regularly blasted Ingmar Bergman films. I didn’t get it either. The couple on the other side just yelled a lot about everything. One of their arguments involved the proper way to eat a baked potato.
In all circumstances, I wore headphones, for it was far too tiring to confront every lunatic in my building. My advice columns during this period bore the brunt of my irritation and were noticeably angry in tone. I responded to a woman from Seattle who asked the proper time to put down her ailing feline. I told her to abandon him in a park and get a new cat. The tremendous fallout that followed elicited an apology from yours truly, and I never let my emotions get the best of me again.
I’m now fortunate enough to own a house, far removed from the shackles of condensed dwelling. I still have neighbors, but none have crossed me yet, which is good, because I do hold grudges. On to your issue, polka music at such decibels is problematic. If I had to wager the amount of Golden Gate Bridge suicides from polka music alone, I’d say at least half.
Confrontation in these situations is usually the right answer but not necessarily the easiest. You’ve already spoken to your neighbor and tried to build a rapport, seemingly crippled by a language barrier. Like our former First Lady, I speak seven languages. I don’t like to boast, but I spent a lot of time and money on those Rosetta Stone CDs. Most of us in this country, however, are doomed to knowing one singular boring language just in time for the latest trashy prime time reality show. Don’t let my erudite, snobbish tone fool you. I’m still in touch with the common folk and here to advise you.
You tried talking to your neighbor and seem to think that your pleas of lowering the volume were misconstrued. I would argue that the polka fiend in question heard you just fine. He’s simply being obtuse. He knows the police will side with him, naturally, because law enforcement tends to favor polka. Where do you think their uniforms derived from?
A hitman would be understandable, but then you’ve got a messy murder on your hand that could easily be traced back. Nothing says paper trail like a hitman. They always crack under pressure. You can’t reason with your neighbor, you can’t kill him, and the law has failed you. Where can you go from here? Allow me to make some suggestions.
Polka originated from the Czechs or the Swedes or the Polish or something. I don’t really know, and I don’t want to know. Despite my misgivings, it’s a rather lively musical form. Have you ever heard a depressing Polka song? I think not. Your neighbor is just having a good time. He most likely blasts the music to block out the negative voices that normally consume his diseased mind. You’re going to have to gaslight him, and it’s going to have to be big.
Stage a pagan ritual within an earshot of your neighbor’s property. Pull out all the stops: big bonfire, woodland or Venetian masks, and willing actors to sell the thing. Blast some Richard Wagner for good measure. By the time he looks out the window, good and drunk, he’ll know that you’re not someone to be toyed with. At the least, he’ll be too shaken to ever bring up the incident again. Part of him, however, will know, that you’re not the passive American bore he took you for.
This is but one suggestion in my esoteric catalogue. I’d need another column to suggest more. The complexities of living next to one another can be a precarious thing. The Bible urges us to “Love thy neighbor,” despite violations of personal space and affronts of sound. I had a neighbor with five or six dogs, small, loud creatures, whose collective cacophony of high-pitched wails grated on my soul. Short of building a soundproof dome over my house, there was little I could do. It is better to hear even the most irritating of sounds than to not hear at all. A wise man once taught me that. He, like most wise men, was named Hershel. There will come a time when the polka music stops. Until then, take a breath and embrace your plight. Zing boom tararrel!