Noisy Neighbours

I’d like suggestions on what we can do to help insensitive people desist from their selfishness?

I WAS woken last weekend by a screeching drill across the road. Fair enough if you want to do a bit of home reno but not on a Sunday morning at 7.30.

Due to acoustics, given the height and proximity of terraced houses in our street, even the quietest noise reverberates. A conversation across the road is audible, so it can be presumed the fellow understood the implications of pouring such an unsavoury cacophony into the street. I guess when you gotta drill, you gotta drill.

But I was very distressed. I work all day; I’m at uni all night; and in between I help my daughter with her homework. I cook, clean and keep my teeth flossed. I try to stay toned, and not walk around with a skunk line down the middle of my hair because I haven’t got time for my L’Oreal grease and oil change. To do all this, the one thing I need is my Sunday morning sleep-in.

But it’s not just this story that has me on the hop. It’s insensitive neighbours in general who do my head in with their blaring music and yelling goodbyes at 2am, and their poor ol’ dogs who spend the day protesting imprisonment. The smell coming from surrounding homes can be excruciating. In summer the air is thick with barbecue smells, which for a vegetarian is hard going. But this time of year there are the fireplaces. Burning wood smells lovely to me, but according to reports it’s one of the most toxic things we can breathe. And even my doorstop doesn’t prevent it seeping in.

Pollution is everywhere around us. Supermarkets now spew candy smells from air vents; teenagers wear cheap perfume; people scream on mobile phones in restaurants and on trains; billboards leer at us. It’s sensual overload. I just want to come home and feel safe and immunised from it all. Our neighbours must feel that way too. So how can some people be so selfish? My girlfriend lives next door to heavy smokers and the fumes waft up the wall of her terrace to the extent that she can’t have the windows open. And what about people who park with their engines on while they chat?

I could utter a whole lot of expletives here, but I’m going to suggest this. For selfish and noisy neighbours like the drilling bloke down the street – this is your punishment. I vote we tie you to a chair and play Celine Dion’s Titanic theme My Heart Will Go On loudly into your ears for eight hours solid. Or maybe the theme of Sesame Street, which was used in Guantanamo Bay as torture, according to a recent ABC documentary. Maybe my readers can suggest better songs?

Post your thoughts on my blog.

Full story The Australian

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39 Responses to Noisy Neighbours

  1. Andrea 16 October 2011 at 12:29 am #

    I read the post at the top… the “get over yourself” post. I have to admit I was tempted to echo. Because a part of me does think that and DO that. You just deal with the extra noise

    Admittedly though, this comes from a realisation that I too, play my music too loudly. jump around and dance, scream and laugh and cry too loudly. My neighbour below me probably want’s to strangle me all the time.

    I’ve gotten used tot he random banging that makes the house shake. I don’t know or care what causes it. That’s their deal. I get used to, in fact rather like my older downstairs neighbours old Elvis tracks wafting up the stairs.

    But there are those times. When some drunk idiot teeny bobby is out past their bed time in the middle of the road having a domestic with their tenth boyfriend that week. My solution again… Is to ignore it.l They’ll travel further up the road and wake someone else up.

    I get the urge to open my window and scream at them. And knowing me. One day I will. Just do it. Be unsocial once in a while and just scream at the fools.

  2. Amy 30 September 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    I had to laugh reading this. I’m a shift worker on a 12 hr shift 24/7 rotating roster. Do I get up in arms when my neighbours drill and I’m trying to sleep? No. I put earplugs in. And go back to sleep. Get over yourself. Cities are full of densely populated streets. If you don’t like it, move to the country. You chose a Mon-Fri 9-5 job (or whatever) , for all you know the drilling neighbour has no other time in which to do his drilling! He could be a shift worker, an emergency service worker, a doctor, anything, he could just be time poor. Selfish neighbour, indeed! Not many people enjoy drilling in the early hours- did you ever think it was done out of necessity rather than to annoy the elite neighbours who are too delicate to deal with such noise?!?!?

  3. Julie K. 29 September 2011 at 3:05 am #

    As for the song my suggestion is the German hit “Schanppi das kleine krokodil” – Shnapi the little crocodile. It is the most annoying melody ever.
    I used to “torture” some kids with that song. Believe me, after 20+ plays there were begging on their knees to stop!
    Alright, now seriously. Have you ever talked to any of your neighbors about this? Perhaps your neighbors might not be aware that you are bothered. There are some useful bad neighbors related tips here
    . Just don’t be passive about this.

  4. Lucy 22 September 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    We once owned a chicken farm and found out that the long arm of the EPA was very effective. We were told “no noise or smell should go beyond the boundary fence”. (We told the smell not to go, but it refused!). We found that we were an easy target and were discriminated against, with Councils unwilling to get involved in suburban issues. I fought back and we kept our farm – eventually selling it. But we found the law very intolerant towards us because “you are making money”!!

  5. Karina 21 September 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Dear Ruth,
    Thank you for your article in The Australian, ‘Selfishness Simply Stinks!’. With strong cooking smells and cigarette smoke from both of my neighbours, and constant BBQs in summer, I share your frustration. My particular concern, however, is the wood smoke from fireplaces, which is more dangerous to health than most people probably realise, and which I find extremely debilitating. Most people are now aware of and are concerned about the health effects of cigarette smoke, but seem to turn a blind eye to wood smoke. When I have approached neighbours about how distressing wood smoke is for me, I am treated as though I am infringing on their rights, without any recognition or concern that I, and the entire neighbourhood, have not just a right to breathe clean air but also a necessity for clean air, if we want to stay disease free and healthy. Having taken this issue to the EPA, the local council, and the local member for state government, only the green member of council showed any real concern, but was unable to find a way of enforcing change of behaviour. So, I thank you for putting it out there. I don’t feel quite as alone in my sensitivity.


  6. Lucy 21 September 2011 at 12:59 am #

    Ruth, it’s great that you attend to your blog and we are happy to make comments because of this. Good luck!!

  7. Ruth Ostrow 20 September 2011 at 12:01 am #

    Hi all my wonderful readers, even my critics I have to apologise… the SPAM filter hid your emails from me. I have now found you all and I am so so sorry it has taken a couple of days to post, but I found them all great even if you like to give me a serve 🙂

  8. Ruth Ostrow 19 September 2011 at 11:59 pm #

    To all my wonderful readers, even my critics I have to apologise… the SPAM filter hid your emails from me. I have now found you all and I am so so sorry it has taken a couple of days to post, but I found them all great even if you like to give me a serve 🙂

  9. Ruth Ostrow 19 September 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    Yes grumpy but think it isn’t leaving Byron Bay, rather leaving behind those wonderful female hormones…. if you are over 45 years of age Anne you will know exactly what I mean. If you are under 45 then ask your older friends 🙂

  10. Ruth Ostrow 19 September 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    LOL yes that must have been a freudian slip 🙂

  11. Lucy 19 September 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Today I’m in my unit in Vienna and the dogs in the tiny apartment next door have been howling all morning. This is unacceptable and there’s no wonder such a controversy surrounds pet ownership. Inconsiderate neighbours ARE the problem. This is Animal Cruelty 101!!

  12. Lucy 19 September 2011 at 2:45 am #

    Billycampovan is typical of the kind of internet troll who populates forums like these. Ignore him/her immediately please!!

  13. Ruth Ostrow 18 September 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    Hi Ken, loved your letter too. I used to live in a rainforest and believe me I remember the noisy of the birds in the trees chattering endlessly usually at about 4pm in the arvo; and the sound of frogs at night… loved being woken and disturbed by such beautiful noises.

  14. Roy 18 September 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    Hi Ruth,
    Read your article in the Australian about noisy neighbours. I suspect you wrote it as a bit of a laugh but in all seriousness noise is like a creeping cancer. It is all pervading and is on the increase. Doof doof music, motor vehicles, loud shouting and screaming when neighbours invite friends over for a swim in their pool. The just don’t give a stuff about anyone else until it affects them. Try and get the authorities to do something about it and it is all too hard. They say you have to be more tolerant but if it affects them they scream the loudest. Perhaps more articles in newspapers about noisy neighbours might start to do some good.

  15. Ken Munsie 18 September 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    poor Ruth !!! …
    I also have noisy neighbours – they woke me early this morning arguing …
    The bottlebrush tree outside my bedroom window is covered in red flowers dripping with sweet nectar …
    You’d think those two king parrots would be more considerate !!!!
    Oh well, the joys of living in the bush – free of noisy city “inconsiderates” …
    Love your column – cheers – Ken

  16. billycampoven 18 September 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    The worst part of your story in the Oz was learning that you are vegetarian. OMG. You’ll have to pay more carbon tax now because you eat more carbon dioxide scrubbing plants. And your farts still smell.
    You and Bernard Salt have something in common. Did you sign up to his facebook anti-rudeness campaign yet? Have you heard of ear plugs? Revenge? Moving back to Byron Bay? There’s no noise out in the desert either.
    As revenge, record the sounds in your street and play them back at inappropriate times, then blame the person who made the original noise. Keep a BBQ going 24 hours per day cooking tripe. Head on out to Granville and round up a few V8 loving bogans to come and do the laps of your street while you are on vacation in Antarctica. Get Bob Brown to start an inquiry in to the how rudeness increases climate change. Or best yet, pay some of the carlton crew or some bikers to do the door knocking evangelist preaching thing but in full bad guy uniform. Twice per day – breakfast and dinner. Every day. Until all your neighbours move out.

  17. aussiemama 18 September 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Move to Japan! Originally from the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney I have lived in Yokohama for the past w years. I am still amazed at the politeness of the Japanese – all mobile phones are OFF on the trains except for playing games and/or reading. The only people to make calls or accept them are westerners. Even in restaurants and other public places you don’t hear mobile phone conversations. People speak really quietly all the time. Ladies tend to cover their mouth while speaking on their mobile, esp if they laugh.
    Neighbours are so considerate. I had a small complaint about my neighbour leaving ‘stuff’ in the common hallway day a huge basket of organic food wrapped in kilometres of cellophane and ribbon was presented to me (much to my embarrassment)
    We are moving to England next month – wonder how we’ll cope!

  18. JohnH 17 September 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    The price of city living, Ruth … and exactly why we moved from Crown Street after 17 years to a pleasant nook above parks and a golf course 18 minutes from Central with trains every 15 minutes.
    Oh, by the way — in the Oz column, that would be “sensory” overload rather than “sensual”, I would have thought — unless you’re into a bit of masochism.

  19. Lucy 17 September 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    You asked about noisy neighbours, I think? Yes, it’s a huge, huge problem and a consequence of urbanization. People really don’t care about anyone but themselves – the vast majority, that is. This is why legislation and the law is required, the same as it is to force people into seat-belts. We see a rise of road rage, violence, aggression and other anti-social behaviours because people simply cannot curb their selfish instincts. I’ve tried to deal with these things over the years and I find barking dogs and screeching hoons the worst things of all to deal with. I once told a man at the Council, when I unsuccessfully complained about a barking dog, that each time somebody approached my house I would play, via outside loudspeakers, the first bars of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. He seemed surprised, but when I argued it was no different to the noise of dogs barking when somebody approached a house he had to agree. So, I use classical music loudly to ‘remind’ the neighbours about their own responsibilities. Imagine: classical music as law enforcement. Oh God!!

  20. Peter 17 September 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    I suggest some “aversion therapy” , and taking an idea from Anthony Burgess’s Clockwork Orange. Tie them to a chair plugged into loud Beethovens Choral Symphony (or music of your choice) and at the same time watching pictures of them noise making.

    After a bit of that all you’ll need to do is play Beethoven or whatever.

  21. Glenda 17 September 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    Thea Astley wrote a book once called “Vanishing Point” where a guy drove around with a loud speaker on his car playing classical music as loud as possible. This is what I would like to do – maybe the 1812 overture would stop them in their tracks? I was living in an area of apartment blocks, working from home, and plotted murder (or at least insertion in a certain orifice) every day on the men – and I’m sorry, but it IS only men! – who wandered around revving up the leaf-blower. Maybe if they all co-ordinated their efforts to blow at the same time on the same day of every week I could have coped. Or the blokes fixing the roof two blocks away who played rap music – replete with dumb commentary from the radio announcers – at full blast. Even with every door and window closed I couldn’t block it out. And yes, the next-door neighbour’s fire in was drawn straight into my bedroom. And below me the lady stood on her balcony and smoked so that the smoke wafted straight up and through my balcony door. Now I am on an acreage with vacant land next door – and guess what! Motorbikes! Even though there are signs everywhere and the owners put blocks across to try and stop them entering, to no avail. Leaf-blower operators in the making!!

  22. Anne 17 September 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    Ruth, Ever since you left Byron Bay, you have become grumpy. This is not the first complaint column about the city. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! Maybe someone is trying to tell you something about when and where to work, or to sleep. Mostly life swings between 50% good and 50% bad, or more or less one way or the other; noise, smoke, rudeness is the bad bit. Be grateful it isn’t from a war zone outside your front door.

  23. Steven Dews 17 September 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Dear Ruth
    I could not agree more with every point you made
    regarding ‘selfishness of neighbours’. My wife and I have lived here for about eleven years having moved from a very ‘full’ UK. We lived in Sydney which as cities go, is arguably the best in the world. However, after nine months the noise of, home renovators that are unable to cut an inch square piece of wood without a machine, leaf blowers, the glass collection guys at 6am and all the stuff you mentioned we moved to a wonderfully peaceful and beautiful valley called Congewai, 2 hours North of Sydney .
    Our nearest neighbour is 2k away so all we can hear is the sound of animals, the wind in the trees and…. best of all, no TV or mobile reception!
    We cannot stop noise pollution from inconsiderate people so we either accept it or if fortunate enough,… move.

  24. Liz 17 September 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    Piss and moan, whine and groan. What you are describing are the joyful sounds of inner city living. If you don’t like it move. You are expecting others to change their behavior to make you happy. Only you can do this. Grow up. You don’t need to sleep in on Sunday morning, you need to get you life in balance.

  25. Shane 17 September 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Your heading is on Selfishness. Have you thought about doing an article on Success or Ambition because both can lead to Selfishness by focussing on the self

  26. Graham Spottiswood 17 September 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Your column in today’s Australian really hit the spot for me!
    My problem with neighbours is a bane of my life and I have moved house so many times to avoid issues…wasting lots of money along the way. Dogs have been the major cause of stress for me. So NOW I rent and do not own property and use a lot of white noise background and ear plugs to cope. I have come to realise that I cannot change the behaviour of anyone else and that I am the solver of my own problems. But it would be a hell of a lot better if the problems did not exist!

  27. Miranda Kell 17 September 2011 at 8:46 am #

    You lost me at BBQ smells… Play Celine Dion to yourself Princess Ruth and toughen up!

  28. 17 September 2011 at 5:11 am #

    I had neighborliness like that once. Young, Loud and full of fun. They would have huge parties with no consideration for the neighbours or street. I would play a CD on repeat of Highland Pipe Band Music the morning after and then go out for a few hours. Today, if the ocaasion arises I play Greenday because I love their music. I’m the son of raging love….

  29. Ruth Ostrow 16 September 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    I met him once. He is a classical musician. He was upset that that hit was all people remembered him for. I wanted to say: How could we EVER forget it?

  30. Ruth Ostrow 16 September 2011 at 10:43 pm #

    All that sweet green icing flowing down. I love the high drama. I don’t think that I can take it, cos it took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have that recipe again…Oh NO. OOOOH NOOOOOO”

  31. Ruth Ostrow 16 September 2011 at 10:42 pm #

    His song Shilo was almost as bad. A love song to a dog. Or maybe it was a woman after all??? Shilo when I was young I used to call your name, when no one else would come, Shilo you always came…and you stayed…”

  32. Ruth Ostrow 16 September 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    Air Supply? “I’m All Out of Love?”

  33. Ruth Ostrow 16 September 2011 at 10:39 pm #

    I love the co-dependent songs the best. I remember Bread ” I would give everything I own, give up my life, my heart, my home…. just to have you back again.” Didn’t stop to think that if he gave up his life and his heart he wouldn’t be getting much joy from the relationship.

  34. LoveaLaugh 16 September 2011 at 10:37 pm #

    Celine Don I’m Everything I am Because you Love Me.. Talk about co-dependent. I can imagine my noisy neighbour strapped to a chair listening to that one over and over and over. The thought makes me smile.

  35. Franky 16 September 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    The Greatest Love of all. I sick in my mouth every time I hear it. But wait there is more. The worst song ever written is All By Myself. Please I defy anyone to come up with something worse.

  36. meredith 16 September 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Barry Manilow’s great hits. Or what about that Neil Diamond song “I am I said.” Don’t get me wrong I was a huge fan of Hot August Night, but if you listen to the words of that self centred, self pitying bit of self flagellation you’d have to wonder where his head was: I am I said, to no one there, and no one heard at all not even the chair…” Huh?

  37. Stuart 16 September 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    What about Whitney Huston’s AND I…I….will always…Love You….I will always….lovaaaaaVe
    You….oooooo…..I will always Love you.

  38. Stuart 16 September 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    My torture songs would be McCarthur’s Park which is probably the worst words of any song ever written. I would also use The Macarena on loud volume. Take that you bastards!

  39. Joseph 16 September 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    The song to play over and over again is Joe Dolce Shuddup A Your Face.

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