In June, I moved into a new apartment. It's a side-by-side duplex with a shared wall. Little did I know that the wall would be ridiculously thin.
I can hear my neighbor yawn.
And I'm sure she can hear me fart.
It's annoying as hell.
The first month I lived there, the woman who rents the apartment was away and her mother stayed there to take care of her cats.
Her mother loves cop shows. I know this because every night I heard blaring sirens, rumbling doomed music, and explosions like they were happening in my living room.
My neighbor hung her TV with a sound bar on a shared wall. There are three other walls in her living room, but she chose the shared wall.
Yet, I have a feeling that even if her TV was on a different wall, I’d still hear every shot fired, every victim scream, and every skid in every police chase.
When my neighbor got back from her trip, I sent her a friendly text suggesting we get together and brainstorm ways to deal with thin walls. Before we arranged a time to meet, she texted, “No one has ever complained before.”
Ten minutes before our arranged meeting time, her mother arrived. When we met, her mother roared, “I will not take that television down off that wall! I paid to have that television hung on that wall!” Her mother was so angry. Like a grizzly bear ripping the head off salmon.
“I'm not asking you to take it down,” I said, heart pounding. My brain got fuzzy and all I wanted to do was get out of there. I calmly suggested we turn on her TV and go over to my apartment and listen.
My neighbor turned on a show featuring two people talking quietly. No sirens. No doom music. No victims screaming. When we went over to my apartment, we could barely hear it.
I looked like a crazy lady.
“You can hear nothing!” the mother snapped.
“I don’t want to argue with you,” I said in a soft voice.
“No one has ever complained before. I never complain,” my neighbor said.
“Well, if something I'm doing is bothering you, I don’t want you to feel like you can’t complain. You need to feel comfortable too,” I said.
“I’m fine and I’m not going to walk on eggshells,” she said.
Before she left, she agreed to take some foam soundproofing panels I'd purchased and put them behind her TV. They do nothing. When I try and watch TV in my living room, I get so distracted by her TV that I can’t focus on mine. So, I don’t watch TV in my living room.
My neighbor is a medical student. I hear every zoom class she takes. I hear her bitch about work to her friends on the phone. I hear her fight with her mother.
Recently, I wrote to my landlord and asked about soundproofing.
“No one has ever complained before,” he wrote back.
So, now, when I can literally hear the woman next door yawn, I look like a whiny complainer.
Because my next-door neighbor and the tenant before me never told anyone that they could hear every word of their neighbor’s private conversations, I look unreasonable.
THIS is why we need to speak up.
You may be fine with "sucking it up" or "dealing with it" or doing whatever you have to do to ignore the fact that you're uncomfortable because you don’t want to have a confrontation or "cause trouble" or whatever, but by doing that, you not only prolong your own discomfort, you screw the person behind you.
And shouldn't we be looking out for each other? Shouldn't we be thinking about the people who will come after us?
So, when something isn’t working for me, I share it. I tell whoever owns the thing that isn’t working for me that it isn’t working for me. Because if I don’t tell them, how will they ever know?
In what situations have you spoken up? And how do you think it impacted the people who came after you?