Monday, October 13, 2008

My noisy neighbors

I bought my house and property in March of 2007. That is when my nightmare began. Several daytime visits to the property with my real estate agent during January and February confirmed the quiet nature of the location. Real estate disclosure forms made comment about a catering business next door and occasional nighttime noise. It wasn't until the second or third night in the house that I knew I had a big, BIG problem.

There is an ancient commercial icemaker installed outdoors and just across the old wooden fence from my bedroom window. The condenser unit for the contraption is mounted on the roof of the building above the icemaker, and the icemaker sits atop a very large capacity ice storage bin. Worse, it has fill and temperature sensors which turn on the machine whenever usage or settling from melting occurs - meaning, it can turn on at any time of day or night. Summer of 2006 was very hot and the icemaker ran all the time. In this old house, sleeping with the windows shut was intolerable, and sleeping with the windows open was impossible. The machine made my life completely miserable.

Three women live next door and operate their catering business from their residential property. I didn't see them much, with their 4:00 a.m. departure time, 1:00 p.m. return time, and a very early bedtime. On weekends we'd wave at each other. After one long stretch of continuous 24/7 operation, I asked if the machine was supposed to run all the time. I was told it was being fixed so it wouldn't. (It was fixed to go back on to its fill and temperature sensors.) When fall and winter temperatures arrived, the machine would often remain silent at night. But nighttime startups were frequent enough to hold hostage any real, peaceful sleep because of the possibility of the machine starting up in the middle of the night, especially after the 3:00 a.m. usage.

I suffered one hellish summer as "the new kid on the block." None of the neighbors made any effort to welcome me; all contacts were initiated by me. I did not complain about the noise to neighbors or city because, for all I knew, it was legal.

My anxiety mounted at the thought of spending another sleep-deprived summer like the last one, so just before Christmas 2006 I went next door and made an appointment for the weekend to talk about "neighbor stuff." The day arrived. Minutes before the appointed hour they postponed it for a couple hours. Minutes before the next meeting time they postponed it indefinitely. I requested that they schedule a convenient time. I never heard from them.

In late February I went next door and asked to speak with the Alpha female. The conversation about trees, fences, dogs went along well enough... until I mentioned the icemaker. She instantly transformed into a she-wolf, with raised hackles and bared fangs. Anger and hostility infused every hissing word she uttered. The attack was so vicious it sent me reeling. I thought, "What did I do to deserve that?" The meeting, of course, ended badly.

I barely escaped the Alpha female's attack with my hide intact and my head still attached. OK, I had made the necessary personal contact required by civil people living next to each other, but the noise was still unresolved. It did occur to me that the over-the-top response was less directed at me personally, but that this problem had come up with her neighbors in the past. That truth took quite a while to be borne out, as you will see.

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