Saturday, August 26, 2006


In the grand tradition of next door neighbors, one of mine and I are presently engaged in entirely pointless yet unrelenting psychological warfare.

Am I referring to Crazy Neighbor, the middle-aged guy who smokes in the dark and wanders over to my apartment with wine whenever he sees I have friends over? No, not even. This is an entirely different neighbor. The one with all the freakin' kids. The one with Tatertot.

I actually do have another neighbor who is quite lovely. She's never home, though, because she always travels. Good thing, because she's about Crazy's age and would inevitably fall prey to his dizzying intellect and highly evolved seduction techniques. So that leaves me to contend with this motley crew (I accidentally spelled it like the band name the first time around, because I'm just that metal).

On weekend mornings, the Tatertot clan enjoys having breakfast together on their patio together at about 6:30 AM. This breakfast presumably involves food, but mostly yelling. Not angry yelling, but the inexplicable need to screech in whatever language they all prefer to English when they're together.

So I usually wake up, curse them, then close my window and go back to sleep. But one afternoon Mama Tatertot said to me (and keep in mind she calls me by The Nickname I Detest More Than Life Itself), "Reddy, I heard you close your window this morning. Did we wake you up?"

Were I truly balls out, I would've said, "Yes, you inconsiderate, highly fertile monster, and next time I'll be hanging out the window like a sniper with a rifle, waiting to pick off whichever of your loud-ass offspring has slower reflexes."

Instead I said, "Oh, it's okay. I just closed my window and went back to sleep."

She looked at me like I had no idea how the world works. "Well, when the weather is so nice, we don't like to be stuck in the house all day. The kids like to be outside, and Husband works all week..."

I'm not sure what to do with all this irrelevant information. "Right, no big deal. I just close my window."

"It's just that when you close your window, the kids hear it, and they feel bad. They feel like they've disturbed you, and then they want to go inside."

Is she trying to make me feel bad for closing my window after they wake me up in the morning, as though I should lie there gleefully basking in their noise? The nerve of me! "Well, they shouldn't feel bad. Once I close my window I can't hear you anymore."

"It's just that when they hear your window slam, they feel bad, like they've made you mad. They really like you."

"Slam" feels like the word she's trying to work in here. What kind of Jedi mind tricks are these? Am I closing my window too hard, and thus disrespectfully? "Honestly, this all happens when I'm half-asleep. I don't even pay that much attention."

"Well, we'll try to keep it down."

"Don't worry about it. I'll try to close my window... um, quieter."

We both laughed a little. Then, this morning: The Louds were louder than ever; must've had a lot to say about those Grape Nuts. I closed the window. And later on today I was sitting on my patio, on the phone, and she walked over. Of course she'd be the kind of person who sees that I'm on the phone but just starts right in talking to me like I'm not.

"It happened again," she said.

"Um, hold on a sec..." I covered the mouthpiece and looked up at her. "I'm sorry?"

"The kids just feel so bad when they wake you up."

I used to have a roommate who was comprised entirely of muscles, nerves, and passive-aggression, and several times I found that, if she was annoyed by something I had done, she'd dance around the issue to such an extent that I would finally have to say to her, "Tell me exactly what the problem is," and then somewhere in the flood of words that would follow were the few that answered my question... It's your turn to clean the kitchen. Your boyfriend sleeps over too much. I don't like when you leave twelve towels in the bathroom. Okay then. I just hate the dance. Use your words and let's move on.

Anyway, I wanted to say something along those lines to Mama Tatertot, but at the same time, not really. I don't play my music too loud. I never have more than a few friends over at a time. So if the problem is my window-shutting, which is in direct response to her family's loudness, then, by God, there is simply no issue here. And besides that, I'm on the phone.

So I just shrugged. "They shouldn't feel bad. It's really not a big deal at all."

She smiled, clearly wanting to say something else, I can't fathom what. I smiled back and returned to my conversation. And on some level I think we both know: this is on now, bitch.

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