Saturday, February 5, 2011

Quiet Hall Woes

When it's midnight on a quiet hall and your next-door neighbor, who is ill with Random Fever Illness and has mostly lost her voice, knocks on your door and asks politely whether you and your guest will please stop singing along to YouTube videos because she can hear you, the correct response is a quick apology followed by compliance. The correct response is most emphatically not to turn to your friend and burst into giggles, then turn back to your next-door neighbor and say "We half-expected this."

A woman with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity told me once that people sometimes like to "test" her by wearing scented products around her to see whether they will trigger an athsma attack or some other kind of reaction, and then when they inevitably do, these people will say something like, "Sorry, I worried that might happen."

If you were aware of the possibility of that happening, WHY would you do the thing that causes it to happen?

Okay, some background on next-door-neighbor girl, who I'm going to call Judy. Judy is a very nice person and is usually really pleasant to me. But she does enjoy lound noises, and this means that several times this year, I have had to knock on her door and ask her to turn down her music/ flute playing/ midnight singing. And she always complies with my request, as she did tonight, though sometimes not without passive-aggressive comments. (To be fair, I have to add that I was definitely passive-aggressive earlier today when I responded to her friends' shrieks of laughter by asking if they were okay.)

And I had sort of thought that Judy's repeated rule-breaking and noise-making was just done out of her desire to hear loud sounds and not with any thought of me. I didn't judge her for this because everyone sometimes does things that they think are fun without considering what the implications will be for other people. But when she said to me -- through giggles! -- "We half-expected this"... That kind of changed my mind.

Because if you're doing something and thinking "This will probably make the person living next to me feel so bad that she is moved to ask me to stop," isn't the right response to refrain from doing that thing?

This might be unfair to Judy for a number of reasons. Probably the most important reason I might be shortchanging her is that, while I have asked her on several occasions to turn down her noise, I have never explained my disability or sensory issues to her. I have never told her that last year I was trapped in my room for four hours because loud music from the floor above messed with my brain so much that I couldn't remember how to get out. I have never explained to her that even a faint noise, even a constant noise, even a noise that she would easily tune out can make me feel like six kinds of shit. I've never told her that from my room I can hear the house fellow's baby crying and cars backing up and people taking showers and pulling paper towels from the paper towel dispenser, and layering her singing over all this -- at midnight, when I'm sick and exhausted and even more lacking in spoons than usual -- is just too much. I probably should tell her all this, and maybe I will, but at the same time I feel like I shouldn't have to.

Because this is a quiet hall and I chose to live on a quiet hall for a reason, and that reason is that in a quiet hall you are required to keep noise down to a level where it can't be heard in the hallway or other rooms. And you're required to comply with requests to turn down your noise.

I feel like people who want to be loud at all hours but still choose to live on quiet halls are like non-disabled people who use disabled parking spaces. They can live anywhere they fucking want; I can only live here.


  1. I was feeling sort of bad for that girl because I'm really loud too, but then I noticed the part where you all live on a quiet hall. What the fuck. Why did she live there.


    I'm so sorry.