5 ways to cope with noise-sensitive neighbors

     (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-2928803/stock-photo-near-symmetry-between-two-front-doors-side-by-side-philadelphia-pa.html'>Neighbors image</a> courtesy of Shutterstock.com)

    (Neighbors image courtesy of Shutterstock.com)

    Philadelphia’s close-quarter housing can be a catalyst for tight-knit neighborly communities.  But who hasn’t gotten a noise complaint from a neighbor? Here’s to how to handle those neighbors.

    Row houses — that staple of the quintessential Philadelphia neighborhood — are great for minimizing housing costs and maximizing living space. Row houses allow us to squeeze over 1.5 million people into 140 square miles of city.

    Close-quarter housing can be a catalyst for tight-knit neighborly communities of the “Go ask Mrs. Johnson for a cup of sugar” variety. After all, what brings neighbors together better than … well … physically bringing neighbors together? The positives are plenty — unless your neighbors are super-sensitive to noise. Suddenly, those American block party dreams seem entirely out of reach.

    I’m not a very loud person. I generally keep my noise to myself out of respect for others, but sometimes even I can get a little too rambunctious. What young Philadelphian hasn’t gotten a complaint from a neighbor? Perhaps that televised KISS concert could have been knocked down a few decibels. Maybe you jammed a few too many pals into your prison cell of a back yard for that summer barbeque. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been home alone with a bottle of scotch on a Friday night watching a Lord of the Rings marathon as on TV and you couldn’t help but verbally express your frustrations with Frodo for being such a pathetic, hesitant little child in such a monumentally dire situation. Maybe the cops who came to the door that night laughed at you, swapping gibes and high-fiving. Maybe that made you feel a little bit like Frodo.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Even if you don’t think that your noise warrants a call to the cops, the fact remains: Someone just called the cops.

    Here’s what you can do to avoid that particular embarrassment.

    1. Turn it down

    This one is obvious. Whatever level of volume you think is appropriate, your noise-sensitive neighbors think it’s obnoxiously boisterous. Some walls are thinner than others. On the other side of your living room wall could be your neighbors’ bedroom. Most likely, they’ll hear the slanderous names you award them every time they call the police on you. 

    2. Trade contact information

    Look, the Philadelphia police have more important matters to attend to than you. Believe me, they’re sick of ringing your doorbell. They probably already know your neighbors are over-sensitive and you’re just a little too loud. The solution: Have a face-to-face with your neighbors. Give them your phone number. Having a party? Give your neighbor fair warning. Heck, you could even invite them. And ask them to call you before calling 911 — and do it respectfully. Make your goodwill evident.

    3. Communicate

    The only way the last point has any chance of working is if you go out of your way to be friendly. Say you’re coming home from work at the same time as your neighbor. Swallow your pride, suppress your ire and try to shed a smile! Say hello! Throw ’em a wave! For Pete’s sake, just ask them how they’re doing! It’s incredibly easy, and believe me, it goes a long way.

    Maybe the next time your neighbor hears you sobbing uncontrollably to a Jim Croce record, they’ll knock on the door and ask if you need some consolation instead of dialing Philly’s finest. 

    4. The good old baked goods trick

    Let’s be honest. If your neighbors are constantly calling in noise complaints, they won’t be quick to trust any baked goods you deliver to their doorstep. This isn’t 1954. People watch Dateline. The modern alternative to a tray of homemade sugar cookies is springing for delivered goods. What human being without a nut allergy wouldn’t appreciate a tin of butterscotch pecan cookies from David’s delivered to their door? If you want to go the healthy route, go for a fruit gift basket from Edible Arrangements. Nothing says “Forgive me” like an artisanal basket of delectable fruit treats.

    If you’ve made an attempt at any of the last three points and this doesn’t work — it’s time to fight fire with fire.

    5. Revenge!

    You’ve got the message. You’ve reverted to a hermit’s life of pure silence. You haven’t received a single phone call or text from your neighbor. They choose to ignore you — or worse: Maybe they heckle you, calling you “Smiley” when you greet them. That fruit bouquet you invested $20 in? It wound up in your back yard feeding the block’s roach and rodent populations. Still, the police come a-knockin’ whenever you so much as take a tumble down your narrow stairwell.

    At this point, you’re being harassed. Your neighbor doesn’t seem to understand the nature of living in a row house. You’ve gone out of your way to make life easier for your neighbor’s over-sensitive ears, and those efforts have gone unreciprocated. Here’s what you do, plain and simple — call your district police station and file a harassment complaint. It’s your last resort. It should never have to come to this, but it can be necessary for those relentlessly grumpy neighbors who have nothing better to do than complain.

    If you can resolve the situation without involving a third party, all the better. We all know there’s enough outright irreverence between community members in this city to go around. Take it upon yourself to find a solution. Do it for your neighborhood. Above all else, just be respectful. Who knows? Maybe some day you’ll earn a tin of butterscotch pecan cookies for your efforts.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal