I had sort of an argument with the neighbor downstairs today. He was playing music quite loud, so I called on the phone and said “Hi, this is Greg from upstairs. Do you think you could turn the music down a bit?” He didn’t respond at first so I went on to explain that my wife was sleeping, and could he turn it down a little?
His response was something like “Hey, it’s three in the afternoon, I should be able to play my music if I want!” I said something like “I just wanted to let you know that I can hear it, and if you can turn it down a little, that would be cool.” He said something non-responsive like “Whatever” and hung up.
About a minute later, he calls me back, and says “Hey, this is B, do you think you could be a bit quieter when you walk around the house? I can hear it whenever you walk, I just wondered if you could be respectful of my being downstairs and not walk so heavily.” This was clearly a tit-for-tat, but I played it straight and said something like “Oh, I didn’t realize it bothered you, I’ll try to be considerate.” I thought this was a little childish, even a bit insincere, to not say anything for a couple years, but to complain right after I had complained about something. But I didn’t say that. He did turn the music down a bit, so that was cool.
I realized after a minute that I suddenly felt very cold. It wasn’t any colder in the house, and I don’t normally get cold when it’s 70F, but I was almost shivering. I think it was the effect of feeling how angry this man was. I had managed to deal with his rude, disrespectful tone and I remained calm and collected, but there was some effort expended there.
I thought to myself, that he must have some pent-up anger and rage at something, which caused him to overreact to me. Not a quality I look for in a friend, but it probably was not because he was truly angry at me; I had probably just caught him at a bad time or something. The way I walk was probably not the real issue, and I felt that he was overreacting to my call. I mentioned it to C and she seemed to agree that it was overreacting.
I managed to forget about it for a while and finish what I was working on. I left the house at 7:15 to pick up dinner and on the way out I took the garbage and checked the mail. B came out of his apt right as I was getting the mail. He saw me and got a strange look on his face, like he couldn’t figure out why I was standing there, and he sort of stopped like he was expecting me to say something. I said “How’s it going.” His immediate reaction was relief, that I was standing there checking my mail, not standing there because I was waiting for him to come out so I could say something rude. He said “OK..” and after a pause he said “I mean, it must not be going that good, since I can’t play my music.” Sort of an awkward transition, but he brought it up, so here we go, I guess.
We continued walking, since he had trash in his hand and so did I; I followed after him, saying something like “Hey, sorry about the walking, I honestly didn’t know it bothered you.”
He said something like “Yeah, well, it does.” His tone was aggressive, but his body language suggested that he was trying to get away from me and avoid my eyes. He went on to say how terrible it is to have people walking in the upstairs apartment. I listened to what he had to say for a minute or so, and he sort of wound down with that, so I said something like, “Be honest with me, is it my walking that’s a problem, or are you mad that I called you about the music?”
This was more to the point. The conversation continued, and it was clear that he was upset that I had asked him to turn it down, like I was telling him that playing music was wrong and bad and he was trying to defend his right to play music. I explained that I didn’t dispute his right to do it, I was just making a polite request, and if he felt like being considerate, great, if not, so be it. I didn’t mean to make him upset, and I apologized if I had.
(He didn’t seem to get this, like, why else would I have said anything other than to tell him what he was doing was wrong and to make him upset. Of course it was my fault that he was angry, I imagine he thought. Of course I got him upset on purpose, otherwise why would he be angry? To admit that I probably didn’t mean to get him angry would be to admit that he got angry for no reason. Of course I was being provocative. Of course it’s my fault he is angry.)
I kept saying “Sorry about that, I didn’t mean to make you upset”. The possible answers are “No, you must have done it on purpose” which would be pretty easy to deny, or “Yes, I’m sure you didn’t mean it, I’m just angry, it’s an irrational reaction.” But instead of either of these, he kept ducking the question.
“I think I’ve tried to be a good neighbor.” So you’re saying I haven’t been a good neighbor? “Well, I mentioned the problem with the bathroom and you never got that fixed.” Well, I thought I had told you before, there was a problem with the toilet, which I fixed, and I had no idea there was still another problem with the tub until you said something a second time. “Well I have never had any complaints about my music until you moved in.”
Yes, as I said, music is not bad, I just asked you as a favor, if you feel like turning it down a bit, I would appreciate it. As I said, I didn’t mean to make you upset. I know we’re not friends, but I would like to think we could be polite and considerate to each other. He said something like, “You don’t think I’ve been polite and considerate?” Well, I have seen you polite, and I have seen you rude. No real response to this.
All this time, I’m following but not quite keeping up with him, because I want to stay behind where my car is, and he wants to go back into his apartment. He is subtly trying to get away from me, and get out of the conversation, but won’t accept my apology or offer one of his own. He keeps looking back and turning like he is walking away, and I keep turning his “parting shot” around and asking him what he means by it. We went through a couple iterations of him walking a few steps, saying something something dismissive, then me asking him if that’s really true or to explain what he means, and him turning back around to say something else. At this point he would start talking louder, and after a moment or two, I would walk up closer to him and look him in the eye, which pretty much forced him to lower his voice, or risk being outright aggressive instead of passive-aggressive.
Anyway, he finally walked off without getting the last word in; the final bit was another repeat of “Well, like I said, I didn’t intend to make you upset, and I apologize” (which really means “It’s not my fault you’re mad”) and “Sorry about the walking, I don’t know if I can change, but I appreciate you telling me” (which really means “Why didn’t you say anything before, perhaps you’re not being quite sincere”) and he managed to wander off with “Yeah well okay” instead of a parting shot, which was nice.
This whole exchange took about 12 minutes. I got into the car and drove to the restaurant. I realized I was cold, standing outside in the 56F brisk air didn’t help, but I had my jacket on. The real reason I was chilled was from dealing with the negative emotion washing over me and keeping my calm and not running away. I blasted the heat up to high and got warmed up about the time I got to the restaurant.
I have no idea what to do next, but perhaps it’s best to just see how it goes, and be polite if I see him. I was like shocked and reserved all through dinner. I’m still kind of numb, but writing about it sure helps! Mmmm, release valve goodness. Mood has gone in the last hour from shocked, to uncomfortable, to drained, to resolved, and now just tired. I think I handled myself well. Thanks for reading.