Hey gang. It’s time for a post that has nothing to do with NYC photography, record stores, politics or punk rock. Settle in.
You may be a pet person. I’m not. Never have been. Never will be. It’s just not in my DNA. My kids fleetingly wanted pets. My wife got them fish. It didn’t end well. Or at least not for the fish. We didn’t eat them, or anything, they just died. And that was that.
Gwen is a grad student of some variety who moved in a year or two ago. Her predecessor was a bug-eyed, boozey, chainsmoking lunatic who was evicted after being derelict with his rent too often. It’s a co-op. That apartment used to be a sublet. Being that Gwen’s a student, I don’t know how she manages to pay her rent or her maintenance, but that’s not my business, and I ultimately don’t care.
We barely see Gwen. We periodically detect what Don Henley once cryptically referred to as “the sweet smell of Colitas rising up through the air” from under her front door, but I honestly don’t give a damn about that either. For all intents and purposes, Gwen was, to my mind, an inoffensive neighbor.
Then, … she got a dog.
I couldn’t tell you what type of dog it is. Suffice to say, it’s small, excitable and shrill. It’s essentially a yappy accessory of the type preferred by folks like Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle in “Legally Blonde.” I can’t see the appeal, myself. But, y’know, whatever.
No, the problem is that as this is still a relatively new pet, when Gwen leaves her apartment, the animal goes into something of a panic, seemingly standing in a state of unallayable consternation behind Gwen’s front door (just across the echoey hallway from our front door), barking … and barking, and barking, and barking, and barking.
It’s loud. And it’s irritating. And it happens too often.
Personally speaking, I don’t see the need to complain in the moment. It won’t solve anything. My wife does not share this perspective.
“Can you ring down to Steve and complain about that dog?” she’ll ask.
Steve is the doorman.
I ask her what Steve is expected to do about it. There’s not much he can do beyond alerting Gwen upon her return of the complaint, and maybe logging it in his book. All that will probably result of that is intra-neighbor acrimony and maybe an awkwardly unpleasant elevator ride or two. But, it should be noted, it is the stardard protocol to alert the doorman of such things.
Last night was another one of these instances. Gwen’s dog was on a tireless barking tear, and my wife was slowly growing more and more irritated by it. For whatever reason, I’m largely capable of tuning Gwen’s dog out and ignoring it, but I’m assurely not able to tune out my wife’s percolating wrath.
I popped out to go buy some groceries, and on my way out, I mentioned to Steve that there was a strong likelihood of my wife calling down to complain about Gwen’s barking dog acorss the hall – not really expecting him to really be able do anything about it. I was essentially saving my wife the trouble of having to call down. He said he’d mention it to Gwen, although he wasn’t convined she was even out, … suggesting that she might well indeed be home and allowing her unpacified pet to bark incessantly. I sneered at the thought, shrugged and went out to buy my milk.
Upon returning, I noticed Gwen’s pooch was still barking its head off. This was not surprising. I should point out that there are other dogs on our floor, although we never hear them.
I went back inside and we got on with our evening.
As I was turning off the lights and getting ready for bed, I noticed a hand-scrawled note had been slipped under our front door. It read as follows…
I would more than appreciate you complain about me and my dog to my face than to our doorman. If I leave my apartment for more than 2 hours, you complain. This happens maybe once a month. Yet you still complain. I don’t complain about your children. It would be neighborly to give me a night a month without complaints. Best, Gwen.
As expected, we’d touched off a spat. I began to positively vibrate with contempt, and started to scrawl a retort, one that my wife dissuaded me from putting under Gwen’s door. If anything, I just needed to write something, whether it was prudent to return fire or not. I went to bed positively seething.
With an arguably clearer head here in the clear light of day, let me re-state the facts.
Gwen’s dog barks. A lot. She knows it. We know it. The whole floor knows it. Gwen’s upstairs and downstairs neighbors know it. That’s just a fact that she needs to acknowledge and OWN.
And whether it happens once a month or 100 times a month (it’s assurely closer to the latter), as her neighbors, we are entirely entitled to complain about it, and alerting the doorman is, once again, the standard protocol in matters of this kind.
Moreover, as her neighbors, none of us are under any obligation to “give her a night without complaints.” I work. My wife works. Our other neighbors work. We all deserve the same consideration. Don’t create reasons for complaints and you won’t get any.
I can remain completely calm and collected about these assertions. Those are just the cold, hard facts, and they are indisputable.
No, the part of Gwen’s note that made me see red was her invocation of my children. Suffice to say, her statement that she doesn’t complain about my children makes the retort entirely personal and asserts a false equivalence that simply does not hold watter.
My children are aged 11 and 13. As such, they do not cry for hours on end, throw tantrums, stomp around or make a great deal of noise, and during the era in which they were that small and more succetible to those activities, Gwen didn’t even live in the building. I would also like to point out that no one complained about my kids then either. If they currently do make any noise – slam a door or shout, etc. – it is limited to a single and rare instance. It is not something that goes on for hours and hours on end like, say, Gwen’s dog’s clarion bark-a-thons.
But Gwen’s letter makes the thinly-veiled suggestion that there is something to complain about with regards to my children. And, let me inform any entitled millennials currently reading this out there who may not be versed in such matters, nothing is going to make you fall more strenuously afoul of one of your elders quicker and with more visceral ramifications than if you scrutinize their parenting or besmirch their children. Even if it’s founded -- which, in this instance, it most assureldy is not -- it is a perilously ill-advised tack to take, much less in a poorly scribbled note.
That brings us to where we are now.
As I was pointedly discouraged from slipping my decidedly less-carefully-worded missive from late last night under Gwen’s door, her word remains the last one … for now. I’m reasonably certain at least one member of my family is going to encounter Gwen and her dog in passing soon.
What would YOU do?