Monday, October 19, 2009

Turning OFF the Sound

If you’ve followed my posts going back about a year you’ll know how tortured I’ve been by the various kinds of clamor coming from my multitude of neighbors, and I do have plenty of them. In fact, even with my bad pitching shoulder, I could probably chuck a baseball from the middle of my yard and hit the roof of any of a dozen houses. That is how closely packed the homes are in this part of the subdivision.

Last month marked the beginning of my breaking point when it comes to this never-ending racket. A new neighbor on the other side of the wall from my master bathroom put a caged dog under the eaves of their east side roof. This phobic animal is no more than a dozen feet from where my head hits my pillow. From spying over the wall it appears to be some kind of husky or pug mix. It doesn’t “go off” all the time, maybe a dozen times a day, but that’s plenty.

Folks around here routinely acquire dogs with the sole purpose of raising a ruckus in case anyone approaches. These poor animals then never leave their tiny enclosures for the rest of their miserable lives. Most become neurotic and bark at anything, out of sheer craziness if you ask me. You hear them all the time, these wretched animals barking incessantly for hours on end, probably to simply while away the unending hours of close captivity. It nears the height of animal cruelty, but few people here seem to understand this. ‘The very poor and the plight of animals, eh, so what; we have our own problems, so why worry about some stupid dog?’

The absolute final straw was my “favorite” neighbor, the one that nearly caused me to pull stakes and take off earlier this year when I had the temerity to ask the woman of the house to control her new puppy’s continuous yapping. Three times since then they’ve brought in roosters for a few days at a time, each occasion the piercing sound of the cock’s erratic crowing caused nerve-racking exasperation. Even with two layers of foam over all my windows sandwiched between two panels of plywood, it was not enough. So, enough was enough. I called in Eddy, my fiancé’s brother-in-law, a man who has become my personal builder, for a planning session for one last try at fixing the noise intrusion problem.

I told him I wanted to try four things: first, pack insulation thickly between the ceiling and roof; second, attach shag carpeting over all the walls; three, completely seal all the cracks around the air conditioner; and four, rubber seal all the openings around the doors.

He listened carefully and then countered with: “How about this: We’ll brick up and seal over all four windows of the bedroom and bathroom, and instead of insulating the space between the roof panels and ceiling, we’ll install a second ceiling and insulate the space between the two ceilings.” He agreed that we could easily seal around the aircon and doors, and then, if all that wasn’t sufficient, we could go ahead and put shag carpet on the walls.

“All right! Let’s do it!” I gave him an enthusiastic go ahead. That was last Sunday, a week ago.

Monday was a holiday so they started work on Tuesday morning the second I took off for the office at 0845. After working with my last client at noon, I dallied at the fitness center so as not to get home until well after 4pm. By that time Eddy’s boys had finished cementing in two of the three large windows. Before working with installing cement blocks though they first they had to remove all the glass panels along with the louvers and aluminum framework.

By Wednesday afternoon they had the last of the three windows filled in with cement blocks. When I came home on Thursday half the new ceiling was up and all the finishing cement neatly covered all the blocks where the windows had once been.

Friday was a long day. Eddy and his workers stayed till well after 5pm to finish painting the new ceiling and the walls where the windows used to be.

By yesterday, Saturday, they had the bathroom done as well. The small window in there had also “disappeared,” while the new second ceiling with its own layer of thick insulation was up, with the ceiling and walls given a final whitewashing signaling the completion of the big sound proofing project.

The neighbor’s dog yapped away when I entered my renovated bedroom for the first time after all the new sound resistant features had been added. I closed the door and sat in my easy chair with the TV off. I could still hear the dog, but barely; it sounded miles away.

‘Ahhhh! Success!’ I sighed with great satisfaction. I turned on the aircon and ran a small fan aimed at the open bathroom door where I figured the exhaust fan would help reduce the strong odor of the fresh paint. I notice that the low hum of the aircon along with the small fan completely masks whatever hint of outside sound still manages to infiltrate the room.

To further illustrate the effectiveness of Eddy’s work a storm passed through early in the afternoon today. Normally I cannot hear the TV over the drumming of hard rain on the corrugated metal roof panels overhead, even with the volume full up. But now, with the newly insulated ceiling I could barely hear a faint drumming. I listened to the TV just fine without having to adjust the volume at all.

Most Filipinos cannot understand the consternation I feel every time a dog “goes off” or when one of the neighbors plays karaoke at full volume till way past midnight. I’m not even sure other Americans get as agitated as I do when these horrible sounds invade my space. But for me, it is supreme torture; or I should say, WAS torture, because NOW, all that is behind me.

Last night, my first blessed night under my “new roof,” was one of uninterrupted dreams and tranquilty. In fact, I stayed asleep way later in the morning than I normally do, all because of the wonderful lack of outside sound. The kitchen is just across the breezeway from this room and the usual morning clatter of pots and pans, not to mention the conversation of the girls and the maid as they prepare breakfast was no longer to be heard. In effect, this room is as quiet as the inside of a sealed coffin. Thus, I literally slept like the dead. The hundreds of dollars I paid to achieve it was worth every penny.


Anonymous said...

glad you found some peace!

PhilippinesPhil said...

Ommmm Ommmm Ommmm Om mani padme hung, Om mani padme hunnnnnngggg.....

opass said...

My my my. . . you certainly are an eccentric fellow, aren't you? :-)

Ed said...

The area of Baguio where my MIL lives sounds much more spaced out but even there, it is constant noise. I just take ear plugs but I'm only there for a couple weeks at most. If I had to do it daily all year, I would have to take drastic measures like you.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Eccentric is what people are when they got the cash to act on what bugs 'em. A crazy man is some poor schmuck who just sits around and moans about stuff he can't do anything about. Which one are you vato! And yes, earplugs are a good thing. I NEVER the house WITHOUT 'em!

Amadeo said...

For us here, adaptation is such a wonderful option. Or more likely, we have no other options.

We have neighbors whose TV or music sounds blare through the wee hours of the night, and beyond. Driving us to think that maybe the drowning sounds help them sleep.

And on our bedroom front, we listen to the drone of heavy snoring coming out of open windows of a close neighbor at the crack of pre-dawn. Giving us notice that it is time to start our little conversations in bed. No choice, can't go back to sleep!

Can't also close or seal the room and turn on the AC, since its hum also keeps us awake.

So for us, adaptation is the name of our game.