The Luv Doc: Sleepless in Springdale
The problem with neighbors is that some of them are unneighborly
Dear Luv Doc,
I live in what used to be a quiet neighborhood in East Austin. In January a couple moved into the rent house next door and ever since then the neighborhood has become not so quiet. They like to be outside a lot. Which is fine, but if they're outside they are always playing loud music and drinking, often late into the night. They also talk loudly (maybe to be heard over the music?) and sometimes get in loud, angry arguments that involve a lot of cursing and screaming and door-slamming. My parents used to fight a lot when I was growing up and my neighbors' arguments stress me out and bring up a lot of bad memories. I have some friends who say I should call the police. Other friends say I should try to talk to them, and still others say I should invest in some good earplugs until they break up or move out. What do you think is my best move? Other than moving?
– Sleepless in Springdale
As my friend/nemesis Motorcycle Michael used to say, "The problem with neighbors is that some of them are unneighborly." That's a bit of a paraphrase, but Motormike wasn't a stickler for meticulousness so I am sure he would give me a pass. In fact, he was really easy to get along with unless you happened to be one of those people who feels the need to establish boundaries. For Motor, boundaries were something to be regularly crossed with maddeningly joyful impunity. To be fair, he had the weight of righteousness on his side. Boundaries are mostly bullshit anyway – tools of the oppressors that keep the little guys in line. I can't even begin to imagine how he would have handled the COVID situation. My guess is that he would have handled it in an unneighborly fashion.
Speaking of neighbors, I have one who likes to roll his trash bins to the street in the early morning hours, and by "early morning hours," I don't mean that 8-11am installation window that the pest control/landscaper/cable people like to skirt the edges of, I mean the 1-3am range of a serial killer who is secretly trying to get rid of sawed-up body parts. Now, most people would assume that the low rumble of a few bins being rolled to the curb is only a mild and momentary nocturnal nuisance, but hear me out: Each trip with said bins seems to last either several hours or just short of the amount of time that would motivate me to get out of bed and try to figure out what the fuck is taking so long. Seriously. I don't know if it's possible for something to roll more slowly. It sounds like a frail, 90-year-old woman is dragging an ox cart full of heavy granite stones up a steep hill. Rumble rumble ... pause ... rumble rumble rumble ... pause ... and so on until just before daylight or the complete loss of my sanity.
I've looked, and I know for a fact this motherfucker only has three bins. There is just no way it can take that long to roll them to the curb. Oh, and – news flash – my neighbor is not a frail, 90-year-old woman but rather a healthy-looking college kid. I mean, he's not Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, but he certainly seems stout enough to roll a few bins to the curb in slightly less time than it took to make the Bataan Death March. In the end, I don't know which is going to finally spur me into some sort of action: My incredulous anger or my genuine curiosity. I mean, he's got to be a serial killer. There really is no other reasonable explanation.
To be honest, your situation seems equally perilous. Any seasoned cop will tell you not to get involved in someone else's domestic dispute. You might end up getting chased down the street by some naked, methed-up crazy wielding a baseball bat. Why is he naked? I don't know. That's why he's crazy. Your neighbors might not be naked methed-up crazies. They might just be fun-loving, occasionally emotionally agitated folks with an inability to modulate the volume of their voices. You're going to have to make that call. If they seem like approachable, reasonable people, then by all means, talk to them, but try to do so when they're in a sober, emotionally unagitated state. If, however, they are the type of people who slowly roll their trash bins full of chopped-up body parts to the curb at 2am, maybe call 311 from a pay phone with an anonymous tip, but be forewarned: It's easier to find a pair of earplugs than it is to find a pay phone these days.