Make a Joyful Noise unto a Different Address

PARTMENT NOISES are not listed anywhere in the lease, and you can rest assured that no number of pre-move-in visits will reveal them. They await your arrival as a bona fide tenant, your first night over.

Some are harmless, if at first pesky: pipes rattling, fridge turning on. Granted, these can be unpleasant, but they needn't be taken personally unless your paranoia is feeling neglected.

Noises that can and should be taken personally are those created by humans, especially if you're cursed to have rented thin walls. The flimsier your building's construction, the sooner you'll have a dream like this: the bathroom wall between you and the adjoining apartment turns out to be a shower curtain. Who picked out the shower curtain, you or that total stranger on the other side? You wake up depressed, because your dream is telling you to move up in life. But, since you can't afford to live anywhere else, give yourself something to do: seek and destroy.

Herewith are a few tips from moi, a devoted noise buster.

  1. Don't make the same mistake as Woody Allen's character in Manhattan, who wasted precious time trying to identify the noise. Your prime directive is to pinpoint its location by nosing after it like a bloodhound. Once located, you knock firmly, but without hostility, upon the door behind which it lives.

  2. The following is a great line, which I can't take credit for, but which I'm stealing so I can give it to the world. When your neighbor opens the door, smile confidently, and say, "I hate to meet you like this, but . . ." Isn't that neighborly in the sneakiest way? Doesn't that just throw them off long enough for you to weasel in your complaint?

  3. Usually that does it, but only for the time being. People, being what they are—apes with electronics—will almost always revert to behaviors mapped deeply in their brain's ancient limbic system. The limbic system can't help feeling that someone's getting the better of it if it doesn't assert itself now and then with subwoofers. So be prepared for the Repeat Visit (RV).

  4. RV 1: If your neighbor greets you with a sheepish wince, speak in the voice of the weary mother who's been through all this countless times before. (Men, you can do this as well as women, I've seen it.) Your squeamish neighbor will crumble beneath the Maternal Dressing Down. It's not likely you'll need to return a third time.

  5. RV 2: You get the maternal treatment. Oh, this is tough, and you'll feel yourself giving way, but you must rally and remember who's in the right. You are, dammit. You good, noise person bad. Return your neighbor's Mother with Ward Cleaver, archetype of manly resolve. Transform the Mother before you into the Beav, and speak to him as if he's just broken that kite you two spent weekends constructing. Don't think of the bizarre psychological labyrinth you're traveling right now, because it's pretty sick. Just remember the noise-free environment awaiting you; it'll all be over in a minute.

  6. RV 3: Occasionally one meets up with the bat-wielding psychopath, who likely will not respond favorably to either of the previous techniques. Here I must suggest that you are completely on your own.

Over time, as you continue not to be able to afford living anywhere else, develop a snarly attitude and become your building's curmudgeon. Andy Rooney your way through the halls, banging on doors and threatening to call the police. The older you are the more people will accept this behavior in you. But remember: it is the rare curmudgeon who does not cross the line between effective complainer and dismissible grouch. For instance, is anyone listening to Andy Rooney?

But guess what: he doesn't seem to care, does he? Likewise, if you're still living in that crappy apartment at Andy's age, just enjoy yourself as you rant and flutter your bushy eyebrows. Statistically, you should be pretty hard of hearing by now anyway.