Take yourself on a little journey, by yourself, outside. Not in your car, but on a walk. And without your mobile device playing your favorite tunes through ear-buds. It’s a beautiful summer’s day, so why not?
Stroll through your neighborhood and listen. In my neighborhood you can hear the breeze in the trees, passing cars, various birds chirping and squawking, dogs barking, trains slowly rumbling through and occasionally tooting the engine’s horn, day camp kids in their oversized, brightly colored matching t-shirts laughing and playing, the distant fog horn when the wind comes in from just the right direction…and women screeching, screaming, moaning and whatever that staccato yelp was I heard the other morning.
I do love summer after being cooped up inside with all the doors and windows tightly shut against the damp and cold of a long fall, a dark, grey winter and sometimes dreary spring. I love to open wide all my windows and sometimes the doors and let the summer breezes wash through my home. The problem is, all my neighbors like to do the same.
If you live in a multiple family dwelling, like an apartment building or condominium complex, you know exactly what I’m talking about. People who live in tight quarters (for the most part) understand the need to be courteous about making too much noise. The rules are simple: Don’t play your TV or music too loudly, don’t slam your front door, mind the colicky baby or yappy dog as best you can, don’t carry on long and animated conversations in the hallway, and be mindful that the sound waves created by heated arguments, loud parties and squeaky bed-springs acutely carry through thinner-than-they-ought-to-be walls and floors.
But single family home dwellers are unfortunately unaware of these rules. Or, they forgot them. Our homes are expertly crafted, especially nowadays, to keep heat, and by extension, sound inside. Double paned windows and insulation have hermetically sealed us in good and tight most of the year. But then comes summer, and for those of us who live in otherwise cold or temperate regions, there is no need to invest in expensive air conditioning. So we break the seal of our otherwise contained homes and let the summer breeze cool us off. And so also out pours all the sounds usually held within.
I guess I’m pleased there are many ecstatic and, by the sounds of it, deeply in-love lovers in my neighborhood. When I think about it in a detached manner, I suppose I’d rather live in a place where people are happy and…satisfied…rather than feeling down and out and…frustrated. However, that doesn’t mean I want to know anything about it.
Recently my morning walks have had an accompanying soundtrack, along with chirping birds and occasional barking dog, of couples getting their morning exercise in a different manner than I. Nighttime on hot evenings is the worst. A woman screaming is a frightening sound, especially when it awakens you from a deep sleep. You feel compelled to listen a bit longer to make sure she’s not in any real danger. I’m not a voyeur by nature, so I’ve opted to sleep with earplugs on open-window nights and, though I prefer to keep to my silent thoughts on my walks, I’ve started using my MP3 player in summer so as to avoid feeling like I’ve rudely walked into someone’s bedroom.
…As I think about it… I don’t know why the fellas tend to be more pianissimo than their lady-love counterparts. I can recall hearing a baritone groan only once, so I guess I have at least that to be thankful for.
Anyway, awkward moments in life create funny stories, and on this topic I have a couple. My cat has a goofy habit of running in from wherever she’s been hiding to chat with you when she hears you start talking, which is usually because you are on the phone. One windows-open night, someone was hollering up quite the storm. The cat came out of her hidey-hole, jumped up on the window sill and started meowing loudly in reply. Not sure if she thought the woman was talking to her, or if she was registering her complaint about not being able to sleep through all that racket.
The other time took place in the backyard of friend’s house. It was very late on a balmy summer’s night and several of us were enjoying a clear, starry sky, bright full moon, and quiet conversation, when the unmistakable sounds of lovers in love came from one of their neighbor’s houses. Our conversation abruptly stopped as we tried to silently decide whether to call it a night and go in, leaving the couple in relative privacy, or just wait it out, when we realized it was not an actual couple, but the volume turned up too high on a television. After a while the moans and groans started again, and it began to dawn on us that my friend’s neighbors weren’t watching an R-rated film but an X-rated one. And then similar sounds started coming from another home, this time unmistakably from the real thing. Our host snidely remarked, “So much for trying to be polite and keep our voices down,” which prompted one of our friends to suddenly yell, “Surround sound’s great and all, but seriously folks, we’re just trying to enjoy a quiet night here! Give us a break!!” From somewhere else nearby came an emphatic, “Damn straight!” We were writhing in our chairs trying to stifle our giggles when we at last heard a window close in one house and then a glass door slide shut in the other. We then let loose and busted out laughing.
So, this summer’s night, when you snuggle in next to your ever-lovin’ sweetie, or tomorrow morning when you awake to find their irresistibly adorable sleepy-head preciously burrowed in a pillow, and things begin to passionately progress, take a moment to remember whether you left your bedroom window open. And if you become aware of someone outside giggling, or a cat incessantly meowing, know that making eye contact with your neighbors tomorrow is going to be very awkward.