Many people are quick to make judgements. We’ve seen that recently, in Jamaica, in the business aired publicly on social media by one person about her allegedly noisy neigbour. The neighbour happens to be a national sporting idol. The complainant is the wife of a national musical idol, and has some celebrity status of her own. That spiced up the dispute in many people’s minds. Many weighed in with their opinions about the complaint, and what some of its words meant in a broader social sense. Lots of people did not like the approach or its tone. Another neighbour weighed in that the disturbances were not so bad, in her experience. The initial complainant, perhaps feeling stung by the negative public criticism, has since apologized abjectly for the tone and content of her complaint, but made clear that she’d been driven to excess by frustration. 

Many said, in essence, “Go and speak to the man.” The lady said she plans to do just that.

But, this seemingly simple approach can itself be loaded with problems. I speak from personal experience. I remember approaching different neighbors about their behaviors and being told to “shove it!”, after I complained about a loud party going on next door through the night till day break. Or, if I didn’t like it, I could move. Or, if it bothered me so much (the broken fence that had fallen into my property), then I could replace it myself. Or, I should let my insurance pay for the damage (by the tree on their property that fell onto my house). In none of those situations did talking to my neighbour remove the nuisance or help me make much progress. I called the police about the party, and they shut it down; my neigbour never had a nice word to say to me after that. I put other matters in the hands of a third party to try to resolve. Some were successful, some not. In every case, I never felt that neighborliness was on a happier footing after my talking. 

But, just look at another neighbourly dispute, not involving any celebrities. In England, this week, a lady was sent to jail for two weeks because her neighbours complained about her noisiness. She was enjoying her sexual escapades too much. In fact, she breached a court order that barred her from making “loud sex noises“; she was a repeat offender. This time, the judge concluded she had breached an anti-social behaviour order by “screaming and shouting whilst having sex” at a “level of noise” that annoyed a neighbour. Birmingham City Council had taken legal action after a neighbour complained. It was just sex that was noisy: the judge said she had also breached the order by arguing with her boyfriend, swearing at a neighbour, “banging around the house” and “running around in the property”.

Those kind of disturbances pose lots of issues about social delicacies. “I heard you and your boyfriend last night…” could easily be met with accusations of nosiness. People are often quick to defend themselves and respond with accusations. 

I hope the local dispute resolves itself amicably. I happen to live close by to the people concerned, and know first-hand about some of the type of noises that created the reported disturbances. I cant pinpoint their source, though one of my direct neighbours is also into dirt bikes, and when I’ve heard them roaring up and down outside in the early weekend or holiday mornings, I’ve not been happy. I hear the noise of parties often. The area is generally quiet, so noise travels far. Noise is also a creator of stress and the distress from it shouldn’t be blown off as trivial. 

We all have different breaking points, and when they’re reached the snapping can be loud.

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