Another Query: Retributivist Solutions for Noisy Neighbors

While I’m in bleg/query mode, maybe someone has a suggestion–hopefully a punitive, retributivist-type of suggestion–for what ought to be done to/with/about people like this.

I live under neighbors like the ones in the video, and have for about a year now. For the ultimate journey through cognitive dissonance, I’d suggest trying to make your way through Sartre’s Being and Nothingness while your upstairs neighbors are going at it and feral mice crawl into your bed.

But hey. “Be well.” This is no social crisis, just another tricky day at the apartment complex.

(ht: Kate Herrick)

5 thoughts on “Another Query: Retributivist Solutions for Noisy Neighbors

  1. Here are several solutions: (a) move (best), (b) noise abatement on your own end (white noise machine, sleeping with noise-cancelling headphones on), (c) buy the building, kick the upstairs folks out, and move in genuinely nice, quite people. Here are several likely non-solutions: (i) call the landlord (unless you have a good landlord who prides himself in having a quiet, orderly building – sorta rare), (ii) talk to the folks (people are generally entirely unaware what the impact of their floor noise is on others, even when they are not extraordinarily insensitive people; even good, sensitive people tend to not get it unless they have been on the receiving end themselves). As a downstairs building owner, I read folks the riot act (in a firm but very nice way): any of having a shoe-less household, first-rate carpets-and-padding, correcting especially bad heel-first walking may be imposed if necessary. I still get strange noises… That video is hilarious, but also my nightmare as I’ve been through it…


    • Translation: there is no solution. Moving just moves you from one noisy place to another. White noise machines don’t really work for sporadic noise. (I use Mack’s earplugs, which work remarkably well, but don’t really qualify as a solution.) And well, as for buying the building….I can barely afford the rent as it is.

      It’s amazing that the two non-solutions are almost self-evidently not solutions. Landlords throw up their hands, and the noise-makers themselves are oblivious to the fact that they are noisemakers.

      On a more theoretically serious note (since the practical issue is going nowhere), I find it somewhat baffling that landlord-tenant disputes are almost invisible in the standard literature on business ethics. Here’s a Google search of “business ethics.” Reading it, you get the impression that business ethics = corporate social responsibility. It doesn’t change if you do a Google Scholar search.

      I think it’s an interesting question to ask: which sort of problem is the average student more likely to encounter in his or her own life, a landlord-tenant dispute, or a dilemma over corporate whistleblowing? Ordinary issues like the responsibility of noisy tenants to quiet down seem to fall through the cracks (I wish the neighbors would fall through the cracks)–as do ethical issues about how to handle such people. But they seem to pretty rich in practical implications. If my neighbors won’t shut up after repeated entreaties on my part, am I justified in hauling out my Gibson SG and my Marshall stack, turning the volume up to 11, and playing my not-very-well-rehearsed cover of my favorite Metallica song? Does that satisfy a principle of proportionality? Why the hell not? The lease calls for quiet after 10 pm. If I can’t get compliance by asking the neighbors or the landlord or the police, it looks like I’m on my own. And that’s the one weapon I have at my disposal. A last resort maybe but still a resort.


    • Orion will definitely work for noise-retaliatory purposes. Now that I’m venting, I should add that my neighbors are guilty of another transgression: they smoke in front of the building, a few yards from my open windows, then discard the butts in the immediate area of the building. Result: the smoke drifts into my apartment, and the immediate vicinity is littered with hundreds of cigarette butts. For a problem like that, only one Metallica song will do the trick:

      Deadly nicotine
      Kills what might have been
      Never seen before
      Breathing nevermore


      And don’t get me started on the fact that my neighbors never manage to close the front door to the building. I guess in that context, the appropriate song would be this one.


  2. Pingback: Rethinking Rights (and Freedom): A Series | Policy of Truth

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