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damage control

The question

With the warmer weather here, I like nothing better than to sit outside in my backyard, have a cup of coffee and read a book (or the newspaper). But my peace and quiet is often ruined by my (much younger) neighbour sitting in her backyard blasting her radio. This includes commercials, at top volume! The effect is very distracting to the point where I can’t concentrate on what I’m reading and have to go back inside. The thing is, I like this neighbour and have always gotten along well with her. We chat, she actually very kindly helped me with a household project and has been over many times for a glass of wine. But at the same time she is really infringing on my ability to enjoy my property. I don’t want to get her back up by asking her to turn down the music. Am I being too nice or should I say something?

The answer

Noise pollution is a real pet peeve of mine.

And it’s true, it gets worse with the warmer months.

It’s almost a reason to prefer the frigid Canadian winter. Everyone’s inside shivering and not blasting their music at you.

A variation on that statement: just as smoking is best done outdoors, so noise is best created indoors.

I live across the street from a park. And sometimes, when, say, I might be trying to have a nap on a Saturday (hey, I work hard), suddenly someone on a makeshift stage in the park, maybe as part of some festival or product promotion, will fire up some oversized mega-blaster speakers and blare some horrible music in the direction of my house to the point the windows are practically rattling in their frames.

And I think: What gives them the right? Even if they were to wave a permit in my face, I do not recognize their moral right to invade my space with their noise.

Cars drive by, blaring music out of the windows.

And as in your case, neighbours blithely blast their noise pollution.

I even believe there’s such a thing as “visual pollution.” I wrote a column a while ago about a guy nude in his hot tub in his backyard and said, essentially, that’s unfair to the neighbours. But that’s a discussion for another time.

(I recognize these are all largely urban phenomena, and rural readers are probably awash in Schadenfreude right now.)

But people blasting their music at you is totally unfair and as you say, an infringement/impingement.

And commercials? That would be monumentally irksome.

So, yes, I’d say you have every right to lean over the fence and say something.

Nicely, of course. Politely. To me the most diplomatic course would be to operate on a case-by-case basis and not make any larger generalizations.

In other words, not: “I’m sorry to bother you, but the way you’re always blasting your music is killing me.”

But rather: “I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m just trying to read a book and your radio is distracting me. Would you mind turning it down a bit?”

If as you say this is a congenial neighbour who has helped you out and been to your house and been friendly in the past, she is probably a reasonable sort and will accommodate your very reasonable request.

If not, well, to be honest, it might sound wimpy but I wouldn’t take it any further. A friend of mine works on a show called Fear Thy Neighbour and the hair-raising tales he’s told me of minor conflicts that blew up out of proportion have convinced me, along with my own experiences and instincts, that the last thing you want to do when it comes to neighbours is: escalation.

Because you don’t want to carry around the burden of being in constant conflict with your neighbours – even though, I know, it’s not your fault.

Be a peacemaker. Do you have a front porch? Maybe read there.

And smile and wave and say hi when your neighbour goes by. Be the better person. Maybe when she sees how mellow you are, she, the callow younger person, will learn, baby, learn, see the error of her ways, and turn down the volume.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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