The noise of summer

Now that warm weather is upon us, we can annoy our neighbors much more than we did in winter.

We spend more time outside. We work in the yard. We throw open our windows to summer breezes. And we share with our neighbors all the ballgame-cheering, door-slamming, music-playing, loud burping and intrahousehold shouting that we'd normally keep to ourselves.

In many neighborhoods, houses are built so close together that residents can reach out their windows and shake hands with people next door. When those windows are open, neighbors hear conversations and spats and other interactions they'd really, really rather not hear.

In such places, you must be careful when you call your children inside for dinner. You can end up feeding every kid on the block.

In my current suburb, there are fences between houses and the facing windows mostly aren't the kind that open. But I remember once, a couple of houses ago, when I thought a neighbor was shouting for help, when she really was hollering at her daughter. Fortunately, I realized my mistake before I dialed 911.

Years ago, when I lived in an apartment, a concerned neighbor knocked on the door while I had friends over.

"Is everything all right over here?" he asked. "I heard screaming."

My answer: "Dude. It's the playoffs."

In such close quarters, you learn which TV shows your neighbors enjoy, what music they like, which teams they root for. Almost always, these tastes will be the direct opposite of your own. If you're considering a relocation, you should ask potential neighbors: "Do you like bagpipe music?" If the answer is yes, immediately look elsewhere.

Those of us who work at home are especially susceptible to these warm-weather disturbances. We're trying to concentrate, trying to conduct business, and all we can hear are the kids down the street shrieking in a swimming pool. Yes, those kids are cute and, yes, that water's cold, but dang, we're trying to work here.

In my neighborhood, many people use lawn services. These services naturally operate during business hours, which is perfect for the residents who go to regular jobs. They never even see their lawn people. They come home from work, and, shazam, their grass is magically shorter and well-groomed.

But we work-at-home types get to hear all the mowers and blowers and weed-whackers. As those old TV commercials used to say, "That's not helping my headache."

Once, I was trying to write when a construction crew showed up down the street to install a swimming pool. The workers spent the day heaving large rocks into the back of a dump truck. Boom, boom, bang. As if that weren't bad enough, one burly worker entertained his colleagues by singing at the top of his lungs all day, and let's just say you won't see him on "American Idol" anytime soon. It was one of those times when I was glad I don't own a gun.

Not that we're guilt-free at my house. My sons crank up the volume when they're playing guitars, and their, um, performances probably aren't to the taste of the neighbors, if you get my drift. We've been known to throw noisy patio parties. And we have the loudest air conditioner in the neighborhood; it apparently wants to be a 747 when it grows up. Fortunately, our neighbors are tolerant types.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go back out to the patio. I'm barbecuing a bagpipe.

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