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LJ Idol IX - 21. The Music Made Me Do It (~850 words)

Once in summer camp in Crimea, we played on a set of rocking swings. I was inattentive, and let my big toe be squished under it. OUCH. The nail turned black and blue and peeled off in a couple of months before growing back. The throbbing pain lasted for several days before disappearing unless I jarred my foot or wore boots instead of sandals. The phantom memory and fear of pain lasted the longest causing slightly hysterical outbursts toward the other kids: "Don't you dare get anywhere near my toes!"

Funny thing, human body. It is capable of tolerating quite some pain for quite some time, like that year I lived with two broken molars and could tolerate no sugary food. And yet after it is safe and relatively sound again, the knee-jerk fear of repeating the injury lasts quite awhile.


It is not only physical pain that produces such a reaction.

Our apartment is on the second floor of a multi apartment building (first if you are British), and the flat directly below ours is nonresidential. It belongs to the city of Moscow and is let rather cheaply to organizations that provide recreation for the people who live in the neighbourhood. In the last couple of years, two children's clubs operated there in turn offering language, chess and dancing classes as well as help with homework. None of the organizations manage to stay long, however. Whether it is caused by lack of proper advertising or a great number of similar offers, every year or so new "neighbours" move in below. And every year or so, I stand at attention and wait for trouble, for the longest surviving and worst neighbour we've had was a gym.

A gym in a non-sound proofed and non-vibration proofed apartment of an apartment building? I would gladly spit in the face of whoever came up with that great idea. Maybe it was one for a while when members were few and polite. Yet in time, the place became popular among obnoxious penny-pinching twenty-somethings who wanted a lot of muscle for little cash and showed off among themselves. The result was a sound system turned up almost as high as it would go at all hours and sporadic clanging of repeatedly dropped metal equipment. Have you ever tried to do mental work sitting atop of someone pressing and dropping a barbell? The most obnoxious subwoofer system set to its pulsing lowest might give you an idea. Adding the boom-boom-boom of so-called music at a level when you almost but not quite hear it gives an even better one.

Apart from the flat downstairs, we are blessed with nice neighbours most of whom have been living here as long as our family, who all know each other and almost never cause any trouble. Because of that, the idea of having a confrontation with strangers seemed to me then abhorrent and almost impossible. At first, I could not believe what my ears were telling me. So I waited, and hoped I was wrong, and listened intently to the sounds from downstairs. And the more I listened, the more clearly I could hear the cacophony, and the clearer I could hear it, the more I listened, until my patience snapped and I started researching options.

It soon became apparent that there were not many. Neighbours have a right to produce a certain level of noise between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m., even all day everyday. The gym was open 9--11 and rarely violated that schedule. Neighbours can also produce a certain level of vibration. And the barbell? hardly comparable to an industrial drill that is given as an example of unacceptable vibration source. Contact with local authorities yielded the phone number of a person supposedly responsible for the nest of evil, yet they could not be there all day long and overall did but little to rectify the situation.

All the while I kept listening and hearing more, and grew steadily more irritated until I finally snapped and started going downstairs to read the bastards riot act after riot act. Those were fun times. Ringing the bell until it would ring no more, beating on the door with the heel of my boot, standing up to young men who tried to sound intimidating, condescending, and a lot of things besides to show their friend that they were 'cool', deconstructing conversations immediately upon returning home, learning to carry a sound recorder in my pocket as measly backup. All of this ridiculousness actually happened one time or another, and worked, a little at a time.

And then, just like that, the popular gym suddenly was no more, just when I was ready to finally seek legal counsel. I could not believe my eyes at first, and could scarcely believe my ears when blessed silence was once more a rule in my room and not a late-night exception. Yet for over a year afterward, I was oversensitive to sudden loud noises and sounds on the edge of hearing, and kept listening (in vain, in vain, in vain!) to the goings on downstairs.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 16th, 2014 09:09 pm (UTC)
Glad that gym finally closed / left! That seems like a very frustrating situation.
Sep. 16th, 2014 09:16 pm (UTC)
Yes, the situation felt hopeless, so their moving out was a small miracle.

Thank you.
Sep. 16th, 2014 09:18 pm (UTC)
Nice post!
Sep. 17th, 2014 12:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
Sep. 16th, 2014 09:24 pm (UTC)
ConCrit is welcome.

I have used the words "flat" and "apartment" as synonyms here, but now I am uncertain. Are they synonyms, or is one used in the UK and the other in the US?
Sep. 17th, 2014 06:16 am (UTC)
Flat is only used in the UK, but all Americans will understand the word. Apartment is used by both of us.

You want "a certain level of noise" and not "certain level noise" just there, and counsel instead of council. (A council is like a committee, such as a town council. Counsel is like guidance, assistance, and advice.)

(I've never heard the word dictaphone used in English until just now, but Google tells me we have it too. It's an obscure word. Most people these days would just say sound recorder or voice recorder, maybe tape recorder if that was the device you were using. But the word does exist and is in use to some extent.)

Also, young guys trying to look cool are the worst. And those rocking swings look specifically designed to mutilate children.
Sep. 17th, 2014 01:24 pm (UTC)
Flat is only used in the UK
I feared as much. Is there an American synonym for "apartment" that can be used to avoid battology?

The swings in the camp were even worse than the ones in the picture: they were larger, made of metal and they were not fixed to the ground. I hope that this type of swings has been declared unsafe since, though. In fact, I have included the picture because it took me a while to find at least one of them (and I still do not know neither the Russian nor the English proper names for this type of swings). Maybe it is an indication they are not made any longer.

You surprised me when you said that the word "dictaphone" was unfamiliar to you, but I have looked it up and I think I know why that is. Dictaphone was a company (one of many) that produced 'sound recorders'. Yet to Russians, it's not a brand name, but the name of the machine. The same way, we say "xerox" instead of copier, and even "ксерить", to make copies. (I would guess that the first machines to appear here were those made by Dictaphone and Xerox.)

Thank you for taking your time trying to understand me and helping make this entry clearer.

Avoidance is usually the best policy with regards to such show-offs, especially when you're alone, but these confrontations have taught me that there is a large gap between yapping at each other and doing something physical. In this, my gender helped as well, but I hated every minute of being in that situation.

Edited at 2014-09-17 01:30 pm (UTC)
Sep. 18th, 2014 12:16 am (UTC)
I think in English it's called a teeter-totter. No clue what it is in Russian.

I think in English the generic "dictaphone" entered the language the same way, but it seems to have fallen out of use. I've never heard anybody use it for tape recorders or anything. (And it's definitely never used for computer programs or apps, just mechanical devices. I've seen диктофон programs or онлайн диктофон in Russian once or twice.) (And in English we say "Go take the form and Xerox a copy" the same way, even if we don't have a Xerox brand copier.)

I don't think using the word flat there will bother anyone, exactly, it's not a strongly UK-connected term like saying "loo" or "hoovering the carpet" or something would be. You can say maybe "studio" or "penthouse" or "walk-up" if it was a studio, penthouse, or walk-up. Or "rent", as in, "I took out a rent on the second floor."

Also - American English spells it "neighbors", "neighborhood", without the extra U, if you want to use consistently American English.
Sep. 18th, 2014 01:41 pm (UTC)
Yes, I am aware of the "neighbour" and "neighbor" difference, but there is a small problem. At school, we were taught the British variant of spelling, and it is the one I tend to prefer, and yet the American influence is much stronger overall than the British one (I keep learning that the words that spring to mind first are American). Maybe I should start consciously using American spelling as well.

"Xerox a copy" is an interesting phrase I was not aware of. It is interesting that Xerox is such a widely known brand.
Sep. 17th, 2014 01:09 pm (UTC)
Ah! Great use of the prompt..and that could be really frustrating..Glad that eventually they shifted for good.
Sep. 17th, 2014 01:33 pm (UTC)
Yes, it made me feel helpless and frustrated, and also a bit like a hag, because it was not the users' fault that the gym was not equipped to be where it was. (On the other hand, they should have expected that good things do not come cheap.)

Thank you!
Sep. 17th, 2014 01:51 pm (UTC)
I love reading your entries for the glimpses of Daily Life in Moscow...
Sep. 18th, 2014 02:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

I love reading real-life entries as well. They sometimes show unexpected things about other places, but even better they help me build an image of the person writing them.
Sep. 18th, 2014 05:08 am (UTC)
Ugh, this reminds me of some downstairs neighbors I once had to suffer. Glad you finally got respite.
Sep. 18th, 2014 03:32 pm (UTC)
I hope your neigbours were not there long or you were able to take reason into them.

Thank you!
Sep. 18th, 2014 06:25 am (UTC)
Noise allowed until 11pm? Children and a lot of adults have to go to bed before then! That's atrocious!

Because of the barbell-dropping, I think that might actually be more obnoxious to have downstairs than a dance club or bar. The level of music noise is probably about the same. :O
Sep. 18th, 2014 04:09 pm (UTC)
Yes, 11 p.m. It is quite atrocious. On the forums devoted to the subject, I have read quite a lot of stories from families with small children and noisy neighours :/
Sep. 18th, 2014 04:26 pm (UTC)
that sounds SO FRUSTRATING. "obnoxious" is a great word for it. go you for trying to get them to be quieter, tho, especially since yeah, guys trying to impress their guy friends are the worst.

and i'm with mallorys_camera - i love the little glimpses of life in moscow.

(i bet americans don't know what "dictaphone" is because no one uses them any more. it's obsolete technology. i vaguely know what they are, but i'm old. :D and i don't know what they look like because i don't think i've ever seen one.)
Sep. 18th, 2014 06:36 pm (UTC)
Haha, I remember these memes with a picture of the larger (5"?) floppy disk asking "do you remember using this?" Maybe we should start one with a dictaphone instead.

I had to buy one 6 years ago to help me with intense classes in French, and back then voice recorders in phones either did not exist, or were only there in expensive models. It's unbelievable that since then so much has changed.

Thank you :)
Sep. 18th, 2014 05:46 pm (UTC)
I hate it when muscle heads drop weights. The friend I wrote about this week used to lift weights with me at the rec center on campus, and she and I would make fun of those guys.
Sep. 18th, 2014 06:31 pm (UTC)
Why do you hate it? I don't really mind when they do in the gym I usually go to (when I am read for such noises), just NOT where I live!
Sep. 18th, 2014 08:07 pm (UTC)
Nice job. Glad they closed!
Sep. 28th, 2014 11:26 am (UTC)
Thank you. So was I. :)
Sep. 18th, 2014 09:53 pm (UTC)
I really enjoy these entries about Russia/USSR. Keep writing them! I learned long ago only to rent top floor apartments. Of course, my sound traveled down, so I tried to keep my noise to a minimum. I can't imagine what it would be like to live over that gym.
Sep. 28th, 2014 11:29 am (UTC)
The apartments on the topmost floor are not the best, either, at least not in the older buildings. You risk a leaking roof, even if there is a 'technical' space above you and not just the roof. There are usually all manner of pipes in that space and it could get messy (it sometimes does in our granny's apartment).

So if I were to choose, I'd say floor 5 and above, but not the very last 2.

Thank you :)
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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