You Don’t Know Me, But I’ve Heard All About You

March 3, 2011 | By | Comments (0)

Noisy neighbors. Do you have them? This week’s etiquette dilemma comes from a reader who lives below a “heavy walker.”

Karebear78: I live in a fairly new condo complex, which is fairly sound proof. However, the person who lives above me is a very heavy walker and paces throughout the night. The breaking point was last night when my neighbor started vacuuming at 2 a.m. I have been meaning to say something or slip a note under the door. However, I don't want to be confrontational or be hurtful. Any suggestions on how I can address?



 While your condo complex may have been built recently, I have news for you: it’s not the least bit soundproof. If you hear someone walking around on the floor above your head, it’s not because your neighbor is a “heavy walker.” It’s because of how the building was constructed.


People have a right to walk —or, yes, to pace— in their homes, at any hour they choose.  Likewise, they have a right to vacuum. And in this case, you have no idea why your neighbor was cleaning house in the middle of the night: perhaps out-of-town relatives are coming to visit today? Maybe a dinner party is imminent? It’s even possible your neighbor is an insomniac for whom the whirr of a vacuum is a sedative, reminding her of a childhood in which her mother seemed always to be there, vacuuming in the background, in a comforting way. (Or maybe that was my childhood.)


In any case, your neighbor probably has no idea that her life sounds so loud to you. In fact, it appears she doesn’t know you, at all. And you don’t know her.


So say hello. Knock on her door on a Saturday afternoon, and when she answers, offer her the plate of homemade cookies you will be holding in your hands as a peace offering.


Say: “I’ve wanted to introduce myself formally for awhile now, since I feel like I already know you from hearing you above my head.”


Then make a joke about how paper-thin the walls are:  “I only hope you don’t hear me belting out ‘Rock of Ages’ in the shower.”


Chances are, she’ll invite you in for a cookie. And now that she knows you, she’ll be more reflexively quiet, out of respect.


If this doesn’t solve the problem, I suggest you get yourself onto the condominium’s homeowners’ association where, as a board member, you can actively push through a plan to retrofit the complex to reduce noise.