July 10, 2003
Rebuttal


David and I are "liars," according to Upstairs Neighbor Guy.

We made up all that stuff about noise and dysfunction and interrupted sleep, just to get him in trouble with building management. What we really want, of course, is for him to be evicted, no doubt so we can steal his luxurious second-floor apartment. (Which, he is convinced, we are sneaking into during the day ... no doubt to measure for the new carpeting and the jacuzzi we'll have installed, as soon as we finish bumping him off.) 

He doesn't even own a radio, he says.

Furthermore, *we* are the ones who make all the noise around here.

I didn't actually get a chance to read his rebuttal letter. When our nice little landlady stopped by to show it to us, after work, I was in the bathroom busily sandblasting four layers of 'line eradicator' and 'shadow concealer' from my face. (It's going to take more than one decent night's sleep and $175 worth of cosmetics to get rid of the dark circles under these eyes, I'm afraid.) By the time I emerged, scrubbed and rosy as a summer potato, she was already gone. But David read the letter. He says it looked like it was written on the back of a pizza menu: that it was the weird, wobbly handscribble of the extremely old and/or the seriously deranged.  

"It's just as well that you didn't read it," he tells me gently. "It would have raised your blood pressure all over again." 

If that's the case, then of course he's probably right. I don't need to get all wound up again. The whole point of going to our landlady and registering a formal complaint in the first place -- besides the sheer emotional itch-relief of TATTLING on somebody who has been making your life absolutely miserable for weeks and weeks -- was to try and dial my blood pressure back down to normal.

But it still pisses me off to hear him characterize US as the noisy neighbors.

We're not perfect. I'll admit it.  I am inordinately fond of my Celtic harps and my Alice in Chains on Sunday afternoons, especially when David is out of the apartment and I'm enjoying some precious hard-earned Alone Time. But 99.999% of the time, David and I are model tenants. Our checks don't bounce. Our appliances don't explode. (At least not on purpose.) Our recyclables are never mixed in with our non-recyclables. The Alameda Police Department has never had to show up at our door and drag either one of us off in handcuffs, kicking and screaming. More to the point, we don't go out of our way to disturb our fellow tenants. Quite the opposite. We get up in the morning and quietly drink our Italian Dark Roast ... listen to the weather puppets on TV ... conduct our various individual grooming rituals ... all in relative (I would call it "intimate") silence. Then we go away for ten hours. In the evening, there is a modest amount of household noise before bedtime: dishes clanking in the sink, dinner preparations, conversation, phones ringing, televisions jabbering in the background. Sometimes David plays his guitar. Sometimes I run the vacuum cleaner around our postage-stamp-sized living room. 

The distinction to be made here, though -- and it is a critical distinction, I believe -- is that we're not doing any of this stuff at three fudking thirty in the morning.

Even so, I feel like we've just been put on notice. 

"You realize," David says, "that we're really going to have to watch the noise level from now on, right?" And he glances meaningfully at our living room ceiling.

Oh darn, I'm tempted to say. No more primal scream therapy? No more parakeets? No more rollerblading in the bathroom, or bungee-jumping off the top of the refrigerator, or getting drunk and throwing plates of spaghetti at each other?

"I know," I sigh. "I'll be careful."

And I mean it. All sarcasm aside, I really will be careful ... for the next little while, anyway. I know that Upstairs Neighbor Guy is going to be monitoring us, like an Assistant Vice Principal casing the back parking lot, hoping to catch us in the act of playing a Translator record one fraction of a decibel too loud ... leaving the TV on while we run to the store for milk ... accidentally setting off the smoke alarm when we're toasting sourdough for bruschetta. In fact, he'll probably spend the entire weekend laying in the middle of his living room, with his ear pressed against the floor, listening to absolutely everything we say or do: every conversation, every giggle, every whisper, every moan.

Which is why I think maybe we should go for that *Triple Yahtzee* on Saturday night. Why not REALLY give the old nutjob something to listen to?



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or we could play *nellie the elephant* ...