I think I’m a fairly tolerant, easy-going and accommodating person. I also believe that I’m very sensitive to the needs of others and treat my fellow men, women and children with respect. I now believe that this has been put to the test, and perhaps, even taken advantage of. By who? My downstairs neighbor. Let the epic saga begin…
My room mate and I live in an apartment complex that is three stories tall, with about 12 units in it. We are on the top floor, with neighbors next to us and below us.
Our complex has these community guidelines which state that you can not run “major appliances” between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. Examples of “major appliances” include:
- Washer & Dryer
- And apparently…our garbage disposal.
This means that we can’t start the dishwasher before going to bed at night in order to use electricity during off-peak hours, reducing strain on the grid and saving us money. It also means that I can not get up in the morning before work and fluff any clothes in my dryer to remove wrinkles; consequently, I also have about 4-5 hours after getting home from work to do any and all laundry (that’s maybe 2-3 loads and usually one doesn’t end up getting dry in time) before the curfew.
Not too long after we moved in, our neighbor gave us a friendly reminder that our appliances were running past the curfew, till maybe 10:15 or 10:30 p.m. at the latest. We tried to be more cognizant of the time, but sometimes you only have 10-15 minutes left till a load is done in the dryer, or the dishwasher takes a little longer than you expect. He also notified the apartment manager about this, so she called to give us a friendly reminder. Apparently what set him off was the garbage disposal used one night past 10 p.m. He lodged a formal complaint and we received an official warning from the manager, denoting which section of the community guidelines we had violated. I called the apartment manager and talked to her about the issue, explaining that the appliances had only been ran *occasionally* to maybe 10:15 or 10:30 at the latest, and that as of late, the only thing we had used past 10 p.m. was the garbage disposal. She explained that he had made it out to be worse, that this was a recurring nightly infraction; so, after agreeing that the this seemed pretty extreme, and me offering to give him my number should any future issues occur, the manager thought we were at a good place. So did I.
Boy was I was wrong.
Episode 1 – August 23, 2011
The neighbor came upstairs and knocked on our apartment door while I was in the shower, so my room mate answered it. He informed my room mate that he could hear some kind of a buzzing sound coming from our apartment, and more specifically, from my room. My room mate said he’d talk to me when I got out of the shower and we’d get back to him. After getting dressed, I went downstairs to talk to my neighbor. He invited me in to listen for the sound…the fan in my room was on at the time. I couldn’t hear anything. I asked him if it was perhaps either the air conditioner which we had been running earlier, or perhaps the exhaust fan in my bathroom. He said he was pretty sure it was neither. So, after going upstairs and turning everything off, I asked him if he could still hear the sound, and he said yes. I still couldn’t hear anything. Conceding, at the time, that it could by some odd chance actually be the fan in my bedroom, I accepted his offer to give me some bubble wrap and styrofoam padding to place under the base of my fan. This would make for a lovely addition to my brand new fan in my bedroom. Classy indeed.
The next day, I checked with him to see if he could hear anything (bubble wrap under the fan; bathroom fan off), and he said, “Nope I can’t hear a thing from either source. It’s wonderful!!!!”
Episode 2 – August 26, 2011
I receive the following text: “Did the bubble wrap give out?” What? Are you kidding me? So I grabbed a blanket and placed it underneath the base of the stand, on top of the bubble wrap. I asked him if that worked and he replied, “Yes, but its not coming from the bedroom. I’ve [g]ot some styrofoam. Should I bring it up?” I told him I’d turn off the a/c to see if that was it. His reply, “yes and that’s a shame because you need your air. It sounded like it was coming from the dining room. Not from the air or the bedroom. But it’s gone now. That’s weird the air is never been a problem.” I also turned off my room mate’s fan, then turned it back on to see if perhaps that’s what he had been hearing. That wasn’t it. So he had me turn my a/c back on. That wasn’t it either. So to recap, we only had on my fan, his bathroom fan and the a/c. I also noted that I had been watching a movie; he said that was definitely not it. In fact, he said, “thanks again and sorry for being a pain, but the vibration was the loudest yet. No, I’m watching a movie too. A loud one. And no, it wasn’t my movie I was hearing.” The sound was apparently completely gone now (again). He noted that the folks upstairs had left the a/c on most of the summer before and it was never a problem. I suggested that perhaps there was a vibration elsewhere in the building that he was hearing. His response, and I quote, “there’s all sorts of vibrations. This is a cheap construction job. This is a sub-sonic one that is new and weird. First time in 6 years?” Apparently this sound he’s been hearing is subsonic and it’s the first time he’s heard it in six years at this apartment–hmmm…a sign of getting older perhaps?
Episode 3 – September 20, 2011
“Hi Lance, can I ask you to ‘fluff up’ your fan blanket a little? The buzz is coming through again. Thanks!” Yes, one month later, after I thought perhaps the issue had been resolved, the fan made it’s way back into his auditory range. So what did I do? I set it on top of the dresser.
He asked if I was freezing (the weather had turned cooler), but I told him that I like fresh air to come in because we generally lock up the apartment during the day to keep the warmer air out. Also, I enjoy the ambient noise the fan makes when I sleep. I’d like to point out, it’s a very low, light ambient noise, as the fan is on the lowest setting possible.
Episode 4 – September 21, 2011
The next morning, “I hate to say this but the new location actually made it worse, or seemed to. I was up & down all night.” I was at work, so I offered to add more blankets and try a different location when I got home. He said the blanket had worked great until the last week or so. So, I added a really thick blanket underneath and ensured that the base of the fan was not touching the sides of the walls at all. This seemed to do the trick.
Episode 5 – September 20, 2011
I receive this text today: “Hi Lance, would you have maybe 10min this weekend to chat?” Thinking that this can’t be a friendly, neighborly chat, I reply, “What’s up? I’m in Texas–have been here since Saturday.” (Well, left my place at 5 a.m. Sunday morning.) And added, “BTW: I’m not back until later Wednesday.” He said we could just talk later, but I’m not one of those guys–I can’t just “wait till later to chat.” So, I asked if there was something he needed. His response, “I just wanted to talk about the fan… Like always. Is there a chance [your room mate] could turn yours off while you’re gone? Would you mind if I asked him to?”
Here’s the kicker…my fan has been off since Sunday morning.
So I responded, “Well that’s the thing: mine has been off. Since [Sunday] morning…I turned if off when I left (no use running a fan in a room I won’t be in for 10 days).” I think this caught him off guard. Maybe just a little, “Oh wow. I don’t even know what to say…I can hear [your room mate’s] when I’m in my office (his office is below my room mate’s bedroom) but have never cared cause I don’t sleep there but it couldn’t be that strong, could it?” Well, probably not unless my room mate acquired the turbine from a Harrier jet while I was gone.
So he adds this, “Are you sure yours is still off? It’s only become an issue again since I’ve started closing my windows at night from the cold. Should I talk to [your room mate]?” So I called my room mate, and verified that 1) the fan was off and 2) he had not turned it on at all. I explained, “So if you’ve heard something since Saturday, it can’t be something of ours, or it’s something out of our control…there’s nothing on in my room. I highly doubt that you’d be able to hear his fan (both are brand new fans, same style).” And at this point, I am pretty much just fed up with the whole situation. I’m tired of the text messages. I’m tired of the nit picking. I’m tired of being so overly nice and accommodating. So I figure, let’s find a way to settle this one and for all, and offer this, “If you’d like, I can call [the apartment manager] and set up a mutually beneficial time for when I return, and have her listen for the sounds, using a process of elimination as we turn the individual electronics on/off?” Whether this is a good thing or not, he agreed, “That’s probably a great idea, at least I’d know if it’s in my head. Which is an even scarier thought…” I hate to tell you this, and I’m not a doctor, but I think it is. He went on to ask if we had ever heard any kind of hum in the background, like a big a/c unit in the distance. Of course, neither of us have noticed anything like that.
So stay tuned for Episode 6 – My downstairs neighbor gets committed to Eastern Washington State Hospital.