Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me.

(I haven’t thought of that song in about forever, but it seemed fitting for this post. I just looked it up on YouTube and watched Tony Orlando sing while Dawn sleep-danced their way through the backing vocals, all of them standing in what looks like a courtyard of the New York Botanic Garden conservatory. Weird, pre-music-video days!)

I haven’t lived in an apartment building in ten years. And haven’t lived in a building where I heard much from my neighbors since … maybe 1988? I’m unaccustomed to this level of audio familiarity with strangers. A sampling:

One of my neighbors enjoys ping pong. I have twice been in the hall and heard a mother and child in the midst of an epic, take-no-prisoners table tennis battle.

One neighbor has two small, yappy dogs who clearly disapprove of everything they encounter, yipping angrily from the moment they enter the hall until they disappear into their apartment or the elevator.

One neighbor who tries valiantly to rap along with his faves … but who doesn’t really know the words and is always just a little bit off rhythm.

One neighbor has a singularly inconsolable baby who is decidedly not a morning person.

Another neighbor who is often in loud conversation with whatever he’s watching on TV.

It’s not awful, no. It’s just unfamiliar, hearing this much sound from people who aren’t actually in my home. One night I had the comical experience of hearing the music accompanying the scary movie one neighbor was watching. Just the creepy music. It was unnerving, made me feel as if I was in a scary movie and whatever the Big Bad was, it was coming for me.

On Superbowl Sunday, I had the surprise of discovering that this unexpected intimacy is about more than sound. Not only did I hear the very loud responses to whatever happened on the field, my apartment filled with the unpleasant smell of unbelievably skunky weed.

Yet, even with all these little incursions on my quiet, I was surprised to wake up one night to a sound I couldn’t place. I lay in bed trying to figure out what I was hearing. And then I realized that, yes, that would be my neighbors having … ahem … relations. Oy.

I am currently researching a quality white-noise machine to place beside my bed.

Lest I give the wrong impression, I’m no silent sister over here. I send my own little audio postcards. When I’m not laughing loudly while listening to my favorite podcasts, my neighbors have to suffer through my repeated renditions of “Shiny” from the Moana soundtrack or whatever else I’m singing as I get ready for work in the mornings. So far no petitions have been started to force me to shut up.


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers! With hundreds of folks participating, there’s more than a little something for everyone … and plenty of room for you to join in!

9 thoughts on “Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me.

  1. Loved your vivid descriptions. I grew up in the same neighborhood as Tony Orlando! I could hear him and other guys singing doo wop under the lamppost by my 2nd floor window. And one of my next door neighbor’s didn’t have a phone so emergency calls for them were made to our phone and we would bang on the wall to let them know to come answer the phone. Here in Brooklyn, we once heard our former neighbor through the wall in distress and discovered 80 year old Harry on the ground having fallen off a ladder changing a light bulb. We got him to the hospital. I worry sometimes what my neighbors here from our apartment as we sometimes raise our voices debating different positions about the world and our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Charlotte, I love knowing that Tony Orlando used to sing outside your window! That is so fabulous! I also love the community of your building — phone-sharing is something I wouldn’t have imagined. And for Harry’s sake, I’m glad you can hear your neighbors. There’s a good side to thin walls!

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  2. Oh, this sounds like my first couple of months after I moved. When winter hit last year, the noise of steam going through the radiator when it first kicks in sounded to me like the scurrying of critters I did not *ever* want to see in a brand new apartment. The relief once I identified it – whew!
    My then new neighbor was a little surprised when we opened our doors simultaneously and he realized it was me blasting Clearance Clearwater Revival, Donald Byrd and Linkin Park. Que sera, sera,si?

    Yes, a white noise machine, or in my case jazz CDs on my Bose, gets the job done at bedtime.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Drunken Whispers

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