Monday, July 10, 2006

Meet The Neighbors

Since we moved into our house five years ago, we have gradually come to know many families on our street. (Having a dog helps greatly.) But the family right next to us still remains a mystery. We only know two things about our neighbors.

1) They could probably buy us all and still have a lot of cash left over;
2) They love placing their stuff as close to our property line as they can get.

I already wrote about how, during the 2004 election season, they put up a Bush-Cheney poster within inches of our front lawn. That one, I actually found amusing. What I don't find amusing is a pair of decent-sized speakers they have installed on their fence, inches away from our property and quite close to ChinchillaBoy's bedroom window, as illustrated by this high-quality drawing:

The first summer after we moved in, we were stunned to hear, every night, hours of really loud opera music and military marches. This lasted for a year or two; then the music went away, to be replaced by nightly parties on the patio that lasted till the crack of dawn. Needless to say, we were not getting quality sleep all those years. Then, last spring, after an especially annoying party, our neighbors' backyard activity suddenly ceased, and we enjoyed a summer of peace and quiet. This year, the music started again.

At first, it was very low and extremely mellow - show tunes, classical - and it stopped promptly at 10PM. We actually found it enjoyable. Then we noticed the volume going up by a little more every night, and the concerts ending later, again, by ten or fifteen minutes every night. Then, gradually, the mellow music was replaced by the more lively kind, and, finally, last night we came back from our camping trip to an ear-splitting rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, followed by a series of equally loud marches.

Our neighbors were back in full force. I peeked through the cracks in the 8-ft. tall solid fence - their backyard was empty. Apparently, the music was there entirely for our enjoyment. It was 9PM and we were dead tired, and hoping to turn in early after our weekend camping trip, so we could at least look alive at work (Mr. Goldie and me) and summer camp (ChinchillaBoy) the next morning. Oh well, so much for that.

Suddenly, I could not take it any more.

I guess it was The Star-Spangled Banner that did it. I paced up and down my backyard, followed by the dog, thinking, If this is the land of the free and the home of the brave, then maybe it's time for me to act like both. For five years, by virtue of seniority, more money, and louder audio equipment, our next-door neighbors had been determining what music we listened to on our nights and weekends. It was time for us to get back in charge.

As far as I've been told, if you have a complaint against your neighbors, you don't go to their house to talk it out with them. This is an invasion of the neighbor's privacy, and besides, the neighbor may turn out to be mentally unstable and/or armed. I was told instead to either write them a nice letter, or notify the authorities. My gut feeling was strongly opposed to the nice letter. I still feel like it isn't a good idea to give my neighbors something in writing that can be used against me.

As far as notifying the authorities, it goes against the Russian culture. We don't snitch, unless of course we have no other choice.

I went back into the house and changed into nice, matching clothes. Leaving the dog at home, I marched towards the neighbors' door and rang the bell. I stepped back and turned up the cute.

I have been on tech support for the last six years. I have a reputation of being able to tame the most irate user. How much worse can a neighbor be, I figured.

The door opened. Well, one of the doors did. The patriarch of the house talked to me through his screen door.


"Hello," I replied, "wonder if you wouldn't mind to please turn the music off in your back yard?"

"In my yard?"

"Yes, just in your yard, please, if you can" - followed by my best puppy-dog eyes.

The patriarch spoke very slowly. Either he was extremely mad, or he wanted to make sure that I understood his E-n-g-l-i-s-h. I have an accent, so I get that a lot.

"And why do you have the gall to tell me to turn the music off in my yard?"

"Because," I continued in the same nice voice I'd been using, "we live next door, and your speakers are pretty much on our property."

"This is my yard. And I mind my own business. And I strongly urge you to do the same", and he slammed the door in my face.

I walked back home, thinking that the man had just given me permission to call the police if need be. I started shuffling through my address books, so I could have the police department's number handy if I needed to call them at, say, midnight.

Five minutes later, the music stopped.

We won the battle. But the war, in all likelihood, is on.

I admit to you that I am scared shitless of our next-door neighbor, though I certainly did not let him see that last night. I just pretended he was one of my users, and kept my cool.

But I don't want to listen to his patriotic music selection any more than he would want to listen to ChinchillaBoy's rap and hip-hop CDs.

What do we do now?

The Goldie has spoken at 12:27 PM

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