Dear PoP – The Kids are Driving Me Crazy

“Dear PoP,

A question for you regarding those damn noisy kids that are moving into the neighborhood. Specifically, a group of very nice early twenty-somethings are renting a house on my block and insist on having acoustic-guitar jamfests every night on their front porch. I’m not talking 9pm, it’s more like 11 or 12, with at least one night going from 2-4am, when a neighbor hissed at them and they (reluctantly) stopped and went inside. I don’t want to be the grumpy old curmudgeon down the block (especially since I’m only about 8 years older than they are) but as the weather gets cooler and we turn from AC at night to windows, these guys are not only gonna keep me up, but my kids as well. Anyone know any solution to this problem that doesn’t involve me going over and displaying the unneighborliness I’m afraid I’m going to have to display eventually?”

I actually don’t think it is being unneighborly if you go over and talk to them in a casual way. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at how reasonable people can be if you talk to them directly with respect but frankly. I think if you say – it’s reasonable to play the guitar until 9 or 10pm on weekdays but you have little children that need to go to sleep they’ll understand. Of course not everyone is reasonable but that is definitely the first step that should be taken in my opinion.

If a discussion is not able to resolve the problem another reader would like to know when it is reasonable to get a lawyer involved (in a different situation with a stereo blasting at all hours) and if anyone has any recommendations?

71 Comment

  • whew. I though this was going to be a complaint about my 4 year old and 2 year old shouting in the backyard at 6am –maybe I could loan them to the OP to ge revenge on his neighbor kids.

    • Make a plate of really good brownies, cookies, or whatever and then place it in front of their door with a note kindly asking them to keep it down past 10pm. Meniont that you like the music and would generally welcome it any other time of day, but that it disturbs your sleep when it occurs past 10pm. The peace offering will go a long way! Good luck.

      • this is exactly how my husband and I handled loud neighbors. Except we brought over cookies and coffee. It worked out just fine. Now we’re even friends with our once formerly noisy neighbors.

        • I second this–being pleasant might really be all it takes. God knows I lived in such a house once (I was not the noise maker, but a roommate had a ‘band’) and the noisemakers honestly just weren’t aware of how much noise they were causing. However, when the neighbor came over he was really nasty to me, which certainly didn’t make me want to get involved on his behalf. It sucks that these people can’t just realize it on their own that 2am playing is not okay, but being pleasant is your best bet, and may pay off in the long run.

          • Wow, I never even thought of an idea of making cookies or brownies.

            Some of you guys are expert neighbors. Will have to try this tip if I’m ever in this situation.

        • My (generally awesome, 20-something, renter) neighbors actually made ME cookies one time after I totally lost my temper and yelled at them/their friends for being too noisy late one night when we had to get up at 4am the next morning for a flight. Baked goods go a long way toward making friends.

          I don’t yell anymore; they let us know when they’re having a party and try to keep the noise down out back so they don’t wake up the baby.

      • And if that doesn’t work, bake them a second batch using Ex-Lax instead of chocolate.

      • Ditto this. I work at a local university. Our off-campus students respond far more thoroughly and lastingly when we show up with a care basket.

        That’s assuming they’re fundamentally kind people, of course. Arseholes require bad cop. DC Code does prohibit making noise in the night to the disturbance of others. Good luck getting the police to do anything if it comes to that.

        So don’t make it come to that–be the interpersonal superhero.

  • Get some of those anti-loitering, silent sirens that blare high pitched frequencies only young people can hear. I think you can get them in Georgetown. If that doesn’t work, get the garden hose after them!

  • Ugh, I’ve been dealing with these people since college and a number of them never grow up to realize they are not the only people in the world.

    First, go over there and have that nice talk, with respect.

    There are some golden people in the single percentage points for whom that will work.

    Then call the police. Sometimes they will give a stiff fine and sometimes that will work.

    That will likely not end it.

    Start keeping a log of disturbances, with dates and times. Get a sound meter if you can and record the decibels. Make a few recordings too.

    Then get legal with them and their landlords.

    Good luck

    • Yes. All of this. Make sure their takeaway from the “nice talk” is that they are aware their continued actions will result in police calls and fines. Polite doesn’t mean pushover.

      This is an excellent opportunity to provide them a life lesson about how we treat our peers. Think about it from that perspective.

      • You people are nuts. Just ask them nicely to keep it down, and if it doesn’t work the first time bring the kids along the second time, I guarantee that it will work.

        Also, on a more cynical note, keep in mind that young people in DC are quite likely to be attorneys or law students even if they act like hippies after hours. Keep detailed logs of their activities, record them without their permission, and repeatedly call the cops on them for issues that should easily be resolved between neighbors at your own risk. It’s a wonder the guy hasn’t been sued yet.

        • Your plan will sure work if the troubadours are nice. But what if they aren’t? You need to keep in mind both possibilities.

          I agree with above posters, brownies first may work well, but after that cast niceness aside. If I had kids, I wouldn’t be parading them out to some weirdos’ house at 9pm — or 5pm for that matter. It’s a question of how far I’m willing to bend in the name of pretending we live in a world of full of nothing but civility. Plus, I think it’s unfair to the kids to involve them in this adult matter.

          If they require a second visit, it’s evidence of their lack of courtesy. Second visit is from the cops.

  • I think John Belushi had the right approach, myself.

  • The kids probably read this blog…message delivered.

  • Before Wisdom, that’s a terrible idea. How bout- live and let live?

    Maybe you’ll be less uptight “after wisdom”?

    • Having kids who can’t sleep and not being able to perform at your job because you can’t sleep isn’t “live and let live”.

      Try growing up and realizing that you live in an urban area, not in the basement of your mother’s suburban enclave on a 2 acre lot.

      • We’re talking about acoustic guitar music. Not Metallica blasting from loud speakers. It sucks to deal with loud neighbors….but ‘not being able to perform at your job’….a little much don’t you think.

        The neighbors kids should respect the other people on the block. If no one has talked to them yet they might not know.

        • +1 beforewisdom.
          I think we should ask the OP if he/she can perform at work or not before assuming it’s all cool because we assume (again) that it’s nice, folksy, soothing guitar music. Just because they’re not plugged in doesn’t mean it’s not loud. they may have some fool over there who thinks she the next Janice Joplin or something.

          And by the way, if you’ve ever been kept up all night by a kid who can’t sleep, you better believe you’ll be a zombie at work the next day.

          +1 anon, too: if nobody has said anything yet, they might have no idea how disruptive they’re being. then again, they might not care either. gotta ask to find out.

        • True but sound does carry and people often talk louder than they think. I am not sure most of the “kids” realize this or are used to living in such close proximity to others to realize that what they do is actually impacting others.

  • Actually, I think that is pretty reasonable, provided that they are willing to risk that the first turn towards the authorities will likely ratchet up the whole unneighborly war. I am a naive believer that you do resolve more problems by trying to be reasonable and try and talk it out first.

    Then if they are unreasonable about it and war it is then 1) stink bombs, or in the case of a devious person I know who composts take the ripest compost you can get, get it nice and wet get a super-soaker, and …

    That should drive them back inside…

  • Oh yeah, city living. If it’s not the young thugs running around shooting their guns, it’s the nice college-educated kids playing guitar on the front porch. I have both on my block, and for obvious reasons, I prefer the latter. When the thugs cause trouble, I call the cops from a darkened household, peering out the window, hoping they don’t finger me as a snitch. When the college kids have a party on the porch, I politely ask them to take it inside, because the neighbors have to get up in the morning. So far, it has worked, and at least I don’t need to worry about them shooting me or doing damage to my property.

    All in all, be happy you have somewhat reasonable and law-abiding people to deal with. Who cares if you come off as a crank? You’re in the right, and as a more responsible adult, don’t forget that.

  • Don’t mention anything about the police when you go talk to them. that’s about the worst thing you can do. they’ll immediately get defensive if you offer any type of threat, and then go figure out what they are legally allowed to do to piss you off.

  • I would just talk to them – at that age they’re just clueless- it might take continual reinforcement if they’re really clueless, but some people just arent considerate by nature so you have to nag them.

  • On a related note, on 21st st and G (GW Territory) night a frat had hauled a (I’m guessing here) 1985 Buick lesabre on to the sidewalk and was swinging (though effetely) a sledgehammer at it in an attempt to demolish it.

    All of this was observed by two GWU police. I asked if they were allowed to do this sort of thing and the main response was a healthy shrug and to say that “we already called our supervisors”.

    At first I was galled, but then seeing those scrawny 19 year olds try and lift the hammer brought a little joy to my heart.

  • yeah calling the police on your neighbors is always the right thing to do, especially for something as non violent as guitar playing…

    • +1 I am constantly amazed by the comments on this blog evidencing what absolutely uptight people live in this city. The city is not a library or the quiet car on Amtrak. Acoustic guitar playing? This upsets you enough to consider calling the police? Get over yourself.

      • +1 Seriously. Fairfax County is not too far away if the noise is that bothersome. My neighbors sometimes have parties in their backyard next to my window. I just shut the window and let them have fun. The only rude factor is I wasn’t invited 🙁

        • Ah more hipster wisdom… Dude, people and families live in the city. At a certain point we all have to accept that we live in a community.

        • +16

          This is one of many posts in recent days where people email PoP for ideas on how to passive aggressively deal with minor problems that occasionally break up their ennui. Just talk to them and be pleasant and assertive.

          Be a mensch, as many people’s grandmothers might say.

      • No, this city is not a library, but there has always been an unwritten rule among city dwellers – apt and house – and that is to keep quiet after 10pm durring the week. No, it is not a library, but one thing a lot of young kids today aren’t learning is respect for others. It’s simple really. They can do what they want during all times on the weekend, but during the week when people have to go to work and school early, it’s only considerate to follow this policy.

        I also agree that they may not be aware there is an issue until someone tells them.

  • Just talk to them. Talk with them. Bring over your tambourine and join in, to create a sense of understanding, of harmony.

  • As a young mid 20s myself, I would highly encourage a friendly chat. Just head over there and introduce yourself at a time when they are not playing guitar, and mention the family situation. Most people are perfectly reasonable.

    I live with a bunch of other mid-20s in a big house in a predominately family area in the city (woodley). We occasionally have parties every 4-6 months, but always on the weekend, and we are careful to inform all our neighbors, and leave a flier with our phone numbers in case it gets too loud. There is nothing worse than having the police break up a special occasion for someone, like a big birthday party at 11pm on a Saturday night.

    On that note, if you are friendly with the police, they will give you address from which the noise complaint originated. True story.

    If these dudes are not complete self centered egoists, they should understand that they have to keep noise down to some selected and rare times.

    • Can you talk to the rest of the 20 somethings in the city and tell them how it should be done? Its not my responsibility as a neighbor to teach self-important kids how to be respectful citizens of a community. You at least have the right idea.

  • The morning after one of these fests, let’s say at about 5:30 or 6 go over to their front door and lean on the bell or knock as loud as you can. Shouting Hello and Is anybody there several times might help. When someone answers the door inform them nicely that the events of the previous night was disturbing. Have a nice day.

    • The events were disturbing, of course. Not was.
      Bad grammar can really irk some people early in the morning.
      And please excuse my someone as a them. Just trying to be modern.

    • Emmaleigh504

      I swear I tell myself I’m gonna do this to the loud sex neighbors I have, but I always end up sleeping late.

  • Lordy, we’ve been through this one so many times.

    As the more reasonable commenters have said:

    1) Talk to them and ask for some compromise. You give some they give some.
    2) Ask them again, if they screw it up.
    3) Call the owner of the house.
    4) Call the cops. Noise complaints are legitimate after a certain hour.

  • Fundamental problem in DC: people here are worried about seeming unneighborly to people who already are acting decidedly unneighborly.

    Tell them to keep it down after, say, 10 on weeknights and 11 on weekends, or you’ll call the cops. Be glad that these seem like the kind of folks who won’t respond by flashing a gun at you. Hipster guitar jams have at least that going for them.

    • Allow me to caveat: talk to them, escalate as appropriate depending on their reaction. Luckily, you’ve got the law and decency on your side. My guess is a simple chat gets it done.

  • This happens in my neighborhood as well. w/ my neighbors across the street (young group house) I usually go on my porch and ask them to take the party inside. I’ve had to do this approx 5 tx already.

    My neighbors up the street who insist on having a party in the front yard every weekend I call the cops.

    For both, I wait until 1AM; which I believe is the noise ordinance law for the weekends…it is earlier during the week.

  • It is an outrage to expect them to be quiet after 10 pm. Acoustic guitars CANNOT be played indoors! Any idiot knows that.

    You are an Acousticist and you need to move to the suburbs.

  • So, to summarize, the petulant and paranoid yuppie take on life in Washington is that all problems can be linked to the presence of hoodlums and/or hipsters.

    • Well, yes! But you neglected to mention…

      They represent the next generation of unskilled and maladjusted welfare recipients!

      Three cheers for compassionate-coercion!

  • Fact: If you want peace and quiet, you might could need to dip to the suburbs. Why should we 20 somethings have to suffer the pains of crap landlords, shitty services and pointless jobs in silence. Drink beer, make noise, listen to the Clash at 12 midnight on a Tuesday. Why? Cuz the American dream was a bit of a joke, wasn’t it. Wake up tomorrow collect that crap excuse for a check.

  • Water balloons!!

  • Am I the only one who thinks 10 pm on weekdays is late? I think they should take it inside at 9:00 pm latest.

  • Maybe go over and invite yourself to sing along to their guitar jams. Shoot for a style that combines the best of Sammy Hagar and Neil Diamond. Plus bring brownies.

    Ah, the sweet implacability of post-hipster pseudo-irony.

  • You need to grow a pair. Seriously.

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