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Look, I'm a reasonable person. I understand that when you live in a 19-story co-op, you're going to hear your neighbors sometimes. I've put up with old people blasting their TVs, major traffic outside my window and the jarring sounds of a dropped toilet seat many times a day. But surround sound was a first.
Imagine lying on the couch, delving into the most scandalous chapter of your favorite new book and the wall next to you starts to thunder. Fast forward to the next night, after a long day at work, sitting on your couch about to turn on the TV program you’ve been waiting for all week and ... the violent booming starts again, so startlingly loud, you swear that Zeus is living on the other side of the wall.
Now, my neighbor is not a teenager. Nor is he a bachelor in his 20s. He is a 60-something, married man, a grandfather who really loves his surround sound. And his family does too, as I discovered when his 30-something son moved in with the family to save money. Apparently, love for surround sound is genetic. And as it’s passed down from generation to generation, it grows stronger. The son’s favorite hobby was to come home from work and blast video games through our living room. This sounded like standing right next to a thunder clap.
With the son's arrival, the reverberations started to occur on a nightly basis. Who was I to break up the father-son bonding? But I was at my breaking point. I mean, you have a three-bedroom end unit that’s 1200 square feet and you choose to put your surround sound against the one wall you share with your neighbors?
I chose not to talk to my neighbor because I didn't want to seem like a nag. I didn't talk with the co-op board or property manager either because, well, besides the noise, he was a nice guy. I had no reason to get the guy in trouble and sound like a whiner to my board and management.
I looked into sound panels. They are extremely expensive, huge and would only work on his side of the wall. I seriously considered talking to him and splitting the price. Split the price? Wait a minute, did I just say that? Oh, my fiance’s favorite, we bought a bookcase and sound board material. We wedged the material in between the bookcase and the offending wall. All this just to stop the sound. Didn’t work.
Then I looked into tapestries because I found out they block sound (I did a lot of Googling). I didn’t end up buying them because I decided enough was enough. I knocked on the door of my neighbor’s apartment and politely explained the situation. It got better. However, the thunder came back a few weeks later. I knocked on the door again—this time while he was watching Avatar. He seemed irritated at the disturbance, but I still asked him to come over to listen to how loud the sound was against our wall. He declined my invitation, instead saying:
“It’s a 5.1 surround sound, it should be that loud."
I shook my head and laughed. That was my neighbor's logic. He promised he'd turn it down and that he did.
Whether he moved his system to a different wall or just turned it WAY down, I have no idea. But now I live sanely--curled up on the couch with a book or my power wand in hand. The good news is the surround sound is gone, but the bad news is his cigar-smoking habit wafts through our shared heating unit. Yep, another challenge, but that's another story for another day.