Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Let's Give Em Something To Talk About" Thoughts About Bad Neighbours

There's a famous country song by Bonnie Raitt called ""Something to Talk About" . that revolves around a man and a woman who are not involved with each other but are nevertheless the subject of gossip and speculation. The gossip gives them ideas which form the central theme of the song. The title reminds me of a most unromantic story told to me by a friend.
My friend David is a great grandfather now. Years ago when he was single, he moved to New York and rented an apartment. The rent was very low and it was in a good neighbourhood. What could be wrong? When he moved in he found out why it was such a "bargain"
The day he moved in, his downstairs neighbour, an older woman pleaded with him to keep the noise down. Tipping the movers extra to show consideration, they tried hard to move furniture quietly . As a gesture of good will, he exchanged phone numbers with her so they could stay in touch on matters of common concern. The next day, he came home from work. As soon as he sat down, he turned on the television. The phone rang.
"Please!!" the woman shouted. Your BLASTING your television I'm trying to REST!!"
Dave turned down his television to a bare minimum.
The next day, he got a complaint that he was slamming doors. He trained himself to close doors silently, even the refrigerator.
The next day, he got a phone call pleading with him to stop "stomping all over the floor".
With humble apologies, he switched to stocking feet as soon as he came home.
David expected his first apartment after his naval service to be a place where he could kick back and be himself. Instead, he nervously awaited the next angry phone call. Once, the landlord even called and asked him to "try to make the old lady happy." He was starting to wonder if that was even possible.
One night, he got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. When he came back to his room, the phone rang again. "For HEAVEN'S SAKE" she pleaded, It's eleven o'clock!" Can't you wait until morning to flush the toilet?"
At that moment, David had a flash of insight. He knew exactly what he was up against. He smiled and apologised yet again. The next day, he took all of the accumulated noise precautions of two months with extra diligence. He called as many friends as he could reach to come over on Saturday night He bought six cases of beer and two aluminum trash cans that he filled with ice. He bought potato chips, corn chips and filled empty plastic ice cream containers with onion dip , guacamole dip and taco sauce. He replaced his stereo speakers with ones that were twice as big.
On Saturday night, his friends came up the stairs, loud in their speech and with heavy feet. There was no need to knock, although they did so loudly. Predictably, the phone rang.
Hi Mrs. Sullivan!" he answered "The party starts at eight. Come join us."
At eight oclock, the window panes started vibrating from the stereo. Dancing and laughter filled the apartment as beer cans piled in the trash can. Around eleven thirty, David picked up a broom and pounded on the floor with the handle.
"Hey Mrs Sullivan! he shouted drunkenly. " Is that loud enough for you? Should we take our shoes off? At around twelve thirty, out of respect to the other neighbours, he turned down the stereo and scaled down the volume of conversation. The next day, the noise was coming from Mrs. Sullivan's apartment. She was moving. When he came down the stairs, she eyed him nervously and turned away without a word.
When I heard that story, it reminded me of Israel, taking one measure after another to appease neighbours who will never be satisfied. My friend David at least had the silent understanding of other neighbours that Mrs. Sullivan was a loony tune, but Israel is surrounded by a chorus of nut jobs finding a litany of faults in her behavior.
Israel's tormentors are lethal, which Mrs. Sullivan was not. I find myself praying for the day that Israel's leaders will come to the same realisation that my friend David did and do what is needed to assure public safety. Unfortunately, Israel's leaders still tiptoe in stocking feet and wait until morning to flush the toilet. But the people know what's up, and they want to have a party.

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