Going to college and living in a dormitory was a new experience when the time came to do so. Although there were five of us in our house, it was usually quiet (except for the rare flare-up of an argument between our parents and, of course, the loud discipline to one of us who had misbehaved). “Living” as it were took place in the dining area and our basement rec room, and the bi-level where our bedrooms all were was always a quiet area. Suddenly, I find myself in a room, shared with another (I was the only girl and had my own bedroom) that is bedroom and study room and ‘living’ in room. It was in a long hallway filled with similar rooms, two persons per room. There was a communal large bathroom/shower room which wasn’t far from where my room was located in the hall. And way back then, there was a phone booth where we could make and receive calls.
I had to get used to the noise that comes with a group of girls who would travel the hall, the sound of the door leading to the shower/bath room opening (the room had a hollow sound) and closing, and someone answering the ringing telephone and then shouting down the hallway to get whomever the incoming call was for. Although I didn’t really have a friendly relationship with my roommate, she was a very quiet girl who seemed to be constantly studying or reading when she was in our shared room.
At 18, it’s easy to adapt to that sudden seemingly constant noise, and of course, I was sometimes one of the people making the noise as well if, for example, I meandered down the hall to knock on the door of another room for any reason. At 18, I could also fall asleep when there was noise around me.
When I first looked at the apartment I now live in, I noticed and remarked on how quiet the building seemed. There are 6 apartments, 3 on each floor. My apartment is #1, meaning everyone who lives here will pass by my door to get to their own apartments. Occasionally, I’d hear the sound of footsteps on the stairs, most often from the two teenage girls who lived with their mom on the second floor directly above me when they were going in or out. And because they were traveling in a pair, I could sometimes hear their voices when they were talking to each other.
Now, it’s 5 years later. The two teenage girls are both graduated from high school, and apparently spend as much time at their dad’s place as they do here with their mom. Because it’s gotten quiet without them, it feels extra noisy when they return.
But that’s not the worst part. With only 6 units, we’ve gotten to know each other well. Other than the mom of the two teenage girls, every other resident lives alone and our ages range from (almost) 65 to somewhere in the 70s. The nice lady in apartment #6 likes to visit and “check in” on all of the tenants every now and then, and so conversations take place at open doorways when she does. The ‘oldest’ tenant is very hard of hearing and, as a result, talks very loudly. He is on my floor. He’s also a friendly sort, meaning he’ll stop and talk to anyone he sees coming or going. So there is often chatter on the stairs or on the landing where my door is. With this building being over 200 years old, there isn’t much in the way of insulation other than on the outside walls, so the noise travels easily. My living room wall faces the stairway, and my bedroom door is just off the entrance to my apartment, so there is a lot of noise and commotion throughout the day.
And even that may not be the worst part. The laundry room area is directly beneath my apartment, and there is ZERO insulation in the ceiling of that room/the floor of my apartment. When it is quiet, I can hear the coin slots being slid into the washer and dryer to engage the machines. If there is more than one person downstairs at one time (the teenage girls did their laundry together), I hear the conversations. And our dear hard-of-hearing tenant always takes his cell phone and his support dog downstairs when he goes down, so his voice is loud if he’s commanding the dog or talking on his phone.
At 18, I might have been able to get used to that kind of noise and learn to block it out. At (almost) 65, that’s not so easy. I can’t fall asleep if the TV is on, have only fallen asleep once when people were talking (on the couch of a friend’s house, New Year’s Eve, and alcohol was involved). I sleep with a fan on for the white noise. If I’m in a hotel, I turn on the fan in the bathroom to run all night to help block the noise. And living alone, I’m quite content with quiet around me, so I’m more sensitive to the noise.
In a way, I feel like I’m once again living in a dormitory like I did in college – people in the halls, voices here, there and everywhere. When I’m really tired, I hear voices and get frustrated. And when everyone seems to be inside and settled down, I can almost count on the guy across the street who has been working on his truck for seemingly forever to start working on it and revving the engine repeatedly. Now that we are getting more daylight, this goes on until it’s completely dark.
While I am not in any way a proponent of segregation, sometimes I’d like to be segregated away with other quiet people!