Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Boy Band Next Door

I love my neighbors. They have a band. They like to party. They particularly like to sit on their front porch and smoke and talk loudly. I love my neighbors. I love them so much that I called the police the other night — correction, at 2 a.m. — to let them know just how much I care.

We live (by choice) in an eclectic neighborhood a few blocks from UAB campus. The house next to ours has been rented by students since I purchased my home more than five years ago. Last year, new tenants moved in. I soon met a nice young woman who walked her little dog in the mornings. I exchanged "Hey!"s with the 20-something guy who became her roommate. A few months later, on a warm Sunday afternoon when strains of acoustic guitar wafted from next door, I thought, "Cool!"

But as the days (and nights) went on and the concert continued with amplifiers and percussion, my thoughts changed. Band members came and went. None of them said "hey" or even made eye contact.

After four days straight of "band practice" that lasted from 10 a.m. to well into the evening, I cracked. That evening, at 9 p.m. I walked next door and pounded until the guys took a smoke break and heard me. I smiled and introduced myself.

"I'm sure you don't realize how loud you are," I said. "But I can hear you playing inside my house."

"OK," the band leader said, in classic single syllabic, text response.

"You've been playing all day ... and I work at home ..." I said, " and you've been playing every day this week."

He stared at me and I realized I was now "the old woman" who shook her fist at the kids and tried to spoil their fun.

"I get it, you're just having fun," I said. "But just please, consider your neighbors."

"We're winding it down," he said. "We'll stop at 9:30."

And they did. But a few weeks later, the band started in at 1 a.m. The drums and base guitar were pounding so loud it woke Jack, who, in turn, woke me from a very deep sleep.

I pulled on a pair of jeans and a jacket and marched next door. I had to pounded on the door before anyone answered.

"I told them not to play!" said the band leader.

"Please tell them again," I said. 

That was six months ago.

Since then, we've called the police twice when the parties and music went on well after midnight — once on a weeknight, and after one particular inebriated guest mistook our azalea bushes for a urinal.

Although they probably think me very intolerant, calling the police and filing a disturbance report is actually a compassionate thing to do.

I love my neighbors — all my neighbors, including the elderly Vietnam vet who lives across the street and takes care of stray cats and a funny little dog. I love the autistic man who lives a few houses down and who quotes baseball statistics as he walks to and from the bus stop on the corner. I don't know every person on my street but I love them all enough to not want their property — or lives— destroyed by drunken drivers.

The Boy Band Next Door may think I should mind my own business, but when their friends wake me up at 1:30 a.m. because they are yelling across the street, they become my business. Ignoring their insensitivity or chalking it up to "youth" isn't going to help anyone. I am quite certain that the consequences of their choices will catch up to them. If I hasten the process along, so be it.

And let me be clear: I do not like confrontation. I will avoid conflict as much as possible. So for me to go next door and ask people I barely know to stop making so much noise, is not a natural response for me. And yes, writing this essay is my way of processing it after the fact, because I now feel weird and awkward and vulnerable having shared my feelings with these kids — knowing that they could retaliate and do any number of distasteful things to my home.

I don't like confrontation one bit, but I look at it as practice, because there is a lot of noise in this world right now that is disruptive to our collective peace. Non-action is action. And not taking action — allowing someone to piss in your azaleas — becomes complicity after a point. I have to learn to stand up against the things that disturb me and use the resources that are provided to not only take care of myself, but to help take care of my community.

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