A few years ago, a thirty-something couple moved into the house behind us. They had two girls under age five and another baby on the way. When the mom told me that her husband once danced and sang on a table, I assumed she was indulging in nostalgia rather than foreshadowing.
Until festive lights went up in the backyard. This was followed by a disco ball, loud music, and the chanting of “Drink, drink, drink!”
Another neighbor called and asked where the frat party was.
“At the newborn’s house,” I replied.
Our new neighbors had parties for their daughters’ birthdays that lasted way past the bedtimes of all the children I knew. Hell, they lasted past MY bedtime. The adults might have been oblivious, but the kids weren’t. One night those girls and their little friends actually chanted, “Wake up the neigh-bors! Wake up the neigh-bors!”
The late partying bothered other neighbors less than it bothered us. But we had dogs that got up early. Then we (SPOILER ALERT) had a baby that got up before the dogs.
It wasn’t just late partying, either. Our neighbors turned their garage into a playroom. The detached garage was right next to my back fence. The door was never closed. Those little girls had screaming fights and screaming contests daily. Parental discipline was in short supply. So was pet care.
Family friends and their kids added to the decibel level. One young visitor had a temper tantrum of such extreme volume and duration that the Noisy Neighbor Dad fled his house. I was gardening in front of my house when he passed me with his own kids on scooters.
“What’s going on over there?” I asked pointedly.
“One of my friends is trying to teach his kid a lesson,” Neighbor Dad replied with a shudder. “We had to get out of there.”
“I know what you mean,” I replied with a nod. “It’s so annoying to listen to kids just scream and scream when they aren’t even your own, right?”
He nodded uncomprehendingly and hurried off, leaving me with incessant screams and so very much irony.
Of course the Noisy Neighbors got a karaoke machine one Christmas. We got to listen to “Jingle Bell Rock” being butchered all Christmas Day.
They upped the ante on New Year’s Eve. The party started at 8 PM. There were fireworks. Loud music. Hordes of children (screaming, of course).
Andy and I closed our windows and curtains. I put in earplugs.
I still woke up at 2 AM, with a bass beat was shaking the house. The Noisy Neighbors were blasting “Hotel California” on their karaoke machine.
I am not a fan of calling the cops on neighbors. Especially not our local cops, who in some cases scare me more than criminals. I’ve also seen more than one neighborhood feud make the homeowners involved nasty, petty, and bitter. Much as I wanted sleep, I decided to handle it myself.
I got dressed, leashed up my big dogs, and banged on my neighbor’s door. And then I banged some more, because no one could here me over the off-key shouting of, “…pink champagne on ice/ We are all just prisoners here/ Of our own device…”
Noisy Neighbor Mom finally opened the door.
“It’s two AM,” I told her. “Your bass is shaking my house. Please turn it down.”
She apologized profusely. I couldn’t make myself do more than nod to her before heading home.
The murder of “Hotel California” mercifully ceased.
I slept in a little the next morning. I would have slept in a lot, but the dogs’ 2 AM adventure meant nothing to them. Before 6 AM, they were whining at the bedroom door. Within a half-hour, we headed out, a little behind our usual schedule.
My Noisy Neighbors’ house sat at a T-intersection. As my dogs and I approached, another neighbor with two dachshunds came around the corner toward us. Yet another neighbor with four big rescue dogs appeared in the crosswalk, aiming to pass behind the dachshunds.
I rarely ran into other morning dog walkers. We’d all figured out which time and direction to walk to avoid potential canine conflicts. Especially the dachshund woman, because her dogs were the most aggressive and had the least training.
Predictably, those dachshunds went nuts the second they saw us. They barked and strained at their leashes, their heads swiveling like miniature tank turrets. They were ready to take on my giant dogs AND the four dogs crossing the street.
My dogs responded with their own ferocious brand of “Fuck You and the Napoleon Complex You Rode In On” barking. The dogs in the crosswalk added a chorus of “Come Here and Say that to My Face, Pipsqueak!” The neighborhood champion Basset Hounds began to howl, and the bull mastiff in another house went berserk as well.
It was the canine cacophony from hell. The loudest, most annoying barkers were the dachshunds–right under the Noisy Neighbors’ bedroom window.
On a day when those Noisy Neighbors were undoubtedly hungover and trying to sleep in.
I hauled my dogs across the street and let the yapping, snarling dachshunds pass. My dogs continued responding in kind. Normally, I shush my dogs if they bark before 7 AM.
That New Year’s Day, I did not.
As we continued on our way, I think I heard more than one little girl crying and calling for her parents.
Their hungover, exhausted, miserable parents, who would not be able to sleep in as expected.
Good thing my New Year’s Resolution wasn’t to be less petty.