The man upstairs

Alright, it really needs to stop.

I tend to think of myself as a fairly patient person. Others have been known to disagree, but I have no time for them.

Seriously, though, I understand that life is all about give and take, and I’m generally willing to go along to get along.

However, my upstairs neighbor has apparently decided that he is a Guitar Hero.

Oh, I’m not talking about the video game that seems to have so many people enthralled these days. No matter how good or bad you may be at that game, at least it won’t be any louder than the average television.

No, I’m talking about an amped-up, badly-but-very-enthusiastically-played electric guitar. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

Yes, my apartment lease (like most leases) contains clauses about noise regulations and particular times of day when things are to be quiet. I don’t recall the times off the top of my head, but “quiet time” is probably something like midnight to nine in the morning. As far as the upstairs neighbor goes, there’s no problem there—probably because he knows the law would not be on his side if he annoyed the neighbors during that time.

But as far as I’m concerned, there’s no good time to play an electric guitar when you live on the second floor of a three-story building. If you think about it, that location actually sets you up for maximum annoyance. You manage to nail the people living above you and below you, and everyone else living on your floor.

Oh, yes… as far as noise nuisance goes, my neighbor is the perfect storm.

Unfortunately for all of us, however, he is not nearly the perfect guitar player. He manages to hit all the right times, but none of the right notes. He’ll wail away at 11:00 on a school night, forcing studying neighbors out to the library and sleeping neighbors deeper under the covers. He’ll jolt us all awake at 9:00 on a Saturday morning, when he’s technically within his rights but entirely without reason.

And to top it all of, he’s not just playing…

… he’s practicing.

The distinction between playing and practicing is very important in most cases, and especially in this one. You see, playing generally means that you’ve mastered something and are now performing it—or, at the very least, that you’re about as good as you’re going to get. Practicing, however, is another matter entirely. It’s a process of trial and error, of learning as you go, of making mistakes.

Lots and lots of mistakes.

The other night, for example, as I sat at my desk anxiously poring over my legislation and regulation reading for class the next day, the man upstairs was giving himself another sort of education entirely.

With the help of a friend (who, evidently, can sing about as well as my neighbor can play), he was teaching himself Just What I Needed by the Cars.

In case you don’t exactly remember (or have never heard) the song, go ahead and click the link to take a listen.

When you do, you’ll quickly realize (as I did) that the song involves a number of lengthy (and somewhat intricate) guitar solos. As far as he was concerned, I would say they were definitely too intricate. And as far as I was concerned, I would say they were certainly too long.

I don’t mean to gripe to excess. I’m very glad that my neighbor enjoys playing his guitar, and I truly hope (indeed, for all of our sakes) that he continues to improve. Perhaps someday we’ll see him in the newest, hottest rock band to grace the stage of the Marcus Amphitheater or the TD Banknorth Garden.

But somehow, I very much doubt it.

And in the meantime, I wonder what must be going through his head? (Besides shamefully mutilated chord progressions, that is…)

Is it that he thinks he’s good? I mean, it’s perhaps fair to assume that people enjoy listening to good music. Personally, I wouldn’t know, since I haven’t been able to hear any of my own music for weeks, but I remember a time when I thought that music was nice.

Or is it that he just thinks no one will mind? We do inhabit a fairly live-and-let-live world, in which one’s own personal choices are not to be interfered with (or even judged) unless they cause harm to someone else—and sometimes, not even then. Maybe he thinks that anyone bothered by a little guitar practicing is being overly sensitive and judgmental.

I mean, haven’t you always wanted a discotheque directly above your head?

In the end, I don’t really know what’s motivating him, but his total obliviousness with regard to any shred of neighborly decency has nearly led me to my breaking point.

Speaking of breaking, by the way, I’ve begun to have Jimi Hendrix-esque fantasies of what I might do with his guitar if I ever got my hands on it. I’m sure whatever I come up with be simply… smashing.

And still, I soldier on. I may have stopped sobbing softly into my pillow as I attempt to fall asleep each night… but then again, I may not have. I can no longer hear well enough to say for certain.

Of course, I know that all sorts of solutions are possible. I know this because we’ve tried most of them.

We’ve done the knocking-on-the-door approach, the pounding-on-the-ceiling approach, the having-a-rather-terse-conversation-about-being-a-considerate-neighbor-approach, and, in final desperation, the earplugs approach… all to no avail. Sometimes, I guess the man upstairs just has other plans.

And with only a few weeks left in my current apartment, at this point I’m willing to grin and bear it for a few more weeks.

After all, they tell me that the place where I’ll be moving has nice, white, padded walls, and you never hear any sounds, never, never…

I think I’ll like it better there.

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1 Comment

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One response to “The man upstairs

  1. Andrea

    A lot of apartments have clauses that state if a neighbor makes a noise complaint, they will issue a written warning to the offender warning of the potential consequences. If it happens again a certain number of times then the individual can be evicted. This happened in a building I lived in when we were downtown in Madison, and the building was made very poorly and you could hear everything like it was right next to you. The person below us received noise complaints about playing the guitar at all hours and they were asked (told?) to leave. Later, the people upstairs tended to throw parties, which involved seriously noisy foosball playing, loud bass, and just noise, in general. We tried the knock-on-door approach (which often would not be heard) and after management was called and they received their letter, the noise disappeared… since you only a few weeks left, hopefully you can make it. But in the future, consider calling! Your neighbors might thank you! 🙂

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