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Random Friday Question: How Much Noise Is Too Much?

Like many people, I like noise, except when I don't.

I love the buzz of a loud restaurant. I will buy from stores that feature particularly interesting or adventuresome soundtracks. But whenever I've had to move, I've gone to ludicrous lengths to make certain that my new location was reasonably quiet in the early morning, even staking out the streetscape in the pre-dawn hours to make sure no early buses or trucks rumble along my prospective home street.

I've infuriated some readers by defending bars and restaurants that pump loud music late at night, yet when I lived above a restaurant that dumped all its empty beer bottles in a crashing cacophony at 4:15 a.m. each day, it drove me nuts. I've ticked off some readers by defending wild-eyed, hatemongering and very loud street preachers who turn a city street corner into a very unpleasant place, yet I would happily endorse any efforts, legal or otherwise, to silence leafblowers, lawnmowers and wind chimes.

The Random Friday Question: How much noise is too much, and is there any useful way to define the dividing line between our freedom to make noise and our desire to live in peace and quiet?

There are activists like the District's David Klavitter, who believe it's only fair to place legal limits on the volume of street performers, protesters and the like, as part of the balancing that we must do between conflicting rights of those who want to send a message and those who want to be left alone. There's even a national movement to limit noise. (Noise Free America has even gone so far as to declare Washington to be the "Capitol of Noise." I'm guessing they've never been to New York City or any American suburb featuring lots of lawns.)

I love their focus on leafblowers, barking dogs and car alarms. There's no larger purpose involved in those noises--the people responsible for those noises are not making a statement, conducting a performance or creating a product. They are simply insufficiently careful about being part of a community.

But the anti-noise movement seems to put equal focus on silencing, or at least quieting, music in stores and outdoor venues, street hawkers and protesters, train horns, airport and grocery store announcements, and bands and deejays at bars and restaurants. That's where they lose me: Those are purposeful sounds. You and I may not like them, but they are intended to draw a crowd, send a warning, communicate information or create a mood. We can choose not to frequent those establishments, or not to live near those eateries. They are part of what gives a community its character, whether that's a busy urban entertainment district or a suburban strip mall or a sidewalk where people are trying to express their anger or frustration on some topic of public interest.

This distinction between noise that serves a function and noise that is merely inconsiderate works pretty well for me, except for one wild inconsistency--wind chimes. People put up wind chimes because they enjoy the sound. They consider it to be music and they believe no one could possibly be offended by gentle notes wafting through the air. The fact that they are wrong about this does not negate the fact that they are in some way trying to communicate with others, if only to express their joy. Yet I would happily see owners of wind chimes sentenced to some horrific punishment involving the repeated and extremely loud playing of "Afternoon Delight" by the Starland Vocal Band. (On second thought, I'm not sure that wind chime owners would necessarily mind this.)

Anyway, there's my inconsistency. What's yours--or have you found a consistent rule that works versus noise (short of an absolute ban on all public sounds)?

By Marc Fisher |  June 15, 2007; 7:27 AM ET
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Starbucks usually has nice outdoor seating areas, whereI can sit with friends and converse. Until they turn on the music at high volume and everyone except the high school kids (who just talk louder to be heard over the music, and have no where else to hang out) leaves.

Wind chimes aren't too bad. Not in the same class as leaf blowers.

As long as it's reasonably quiet between 11PM and 6 AM I'm OK.

After 9/11 the silence in McLean, with no airplanes heading into and out of National, was eerie.

Posted by: wiredog | June 15, 2007 7:56 AM

Something else, for your Friday Reading Pleasure: Someone is trying to kill the office mascot:

Posted by: wiredog | June 15, 2007 7:58 AM

I live next to a new community of mcmansions. Last year, for the four weekends preceeding Christmas, one of my new "neighbors" played religious christmas music outside, loud enough for the entire street to hear. Now, I love Christmas, and I like most Christmas music, but I found it very rude. When they continued to play it after I complained, I pulled out my leaf blower and spent the next hour beautifying my lawn. When I turned it off, the music was off and stayed off. So, Marc, sometimes there is a higher purpose to things like leaf blowers...

Posted by: jj | June 15, 2007 8:01 AM

My pet peeve is landscapers who have to mow over the same area of grass five times. What a waste of gas and the noise of annoying.

Posted by: My 2 cents | June 15, 2007 8:01 AM

Too much noise....comes from my dizzy blonde coworker. She cackles like a chicken, she is loud, and her new email alert bongs are turned up as loud as they can get.

Posted by: Hide the peroxide | June 15, 2007 8:05 AM

The new threat to America's cities is an infestation of suburban empty-nesters, quick to call 911 if a car door slams after 9 PM. Somehow These two-person households can afford inflated townhouse prices and two luxury cars but not double- or triple-glazed, sound-blocking windows. Cities are meant to be dense with activity and excitement, and some of this is expressed in sound. A noisy city is a vital, prosperous, and safe city. Sirens mean someone is hurting and other people care. Sirens are the birdsong of the city. City streets are meant to echo with conversation, music, and laughter. If you require absolute silence, the woods are lovely, dark, and deep, so get out of town.

Posted by: Mike Licht | June 15, 2007 8:11 AM

Wow, someone's daydreaming already this morning, and it's only 8:30am.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2007 8:33 AM

How about the cars with their monster steroes and dual subwoofers powered by 200 watt amps. Not only is the music so loud they can't hear the sirens of the emergency vehicle behind them, it is nearly impossible to have a conversation in my car, even when the windows are rolled up.

I can hear them coming from a block away when I am at home, and that is with the windows closed, the TV on, etc.
When I remodeled the house I had insulation added to the outside over the existing redwood siding with vinyl siding placed on top. I also replaced the windows with triple panes.

The house doesn't need any more soundproofing - the stereos need to be turned down.

Dad told me I have the right to ball my hand into a fist and swing it around any time I wanted, but my right to do that ends on the next persons nose.

The right to play loud music in your car ends when the noise invades my car/house.

Posted by: SoMD | June 15, 2007 8:53 AM

Marc's new book: The Purpose Driven Noise.

Posted by: Mt. P | June 15, 2007 9:08 AM

Ah, to have to deal with the noise problems back in DC. I am in Brazil now, and I have never seen so many cars with large speakers mounted in open car trunks and pointed outwards (away from the driver), blaring music for all to hear (we live on the 18th floor of an apartment and often hear blaring music-- and usually music I do not like, which is SO rude). Plus cars, vans and trucks hired by companies to blare out announcements.

Posted by: Steve | June 15, 2007 9:21 AM

I HATE windchimes - especially when an inconsiderate (or oblivious) neighbor like mine hangs them when our houses are about 4 feet apart. Nothing like a random cacophony of crashing sounds to soothe the soul when it's windy around 3 in the morning.

Posted by: Arlington | June 15, 2007 9:28 AM

I think you hit the nail on the head, Marc. You know you don't like noise, so you take that into account when you search for a new home. That is what everyone should do (within reason- I know some people can't afford to live in a quiet area, etc.).

That being said, I think there are reasonable limits to what level of quiet one can expect. Of course, no one wants someone yelling and screaming outside their window, but that's kind of why you move to a city- it's called life.

Posted by: CDell | June 15, 2007 9:33 AM

People are just too sensitive on this issue. If you know that you are sensitive to certain types of noise, or your neighbor's habits disturb your peace and quiet, talk to them, or MOVE. These people who sit on their porches with decibel meters waiting for the single instance that the noise rises to a level that they can call the police have no business considering themselves citizens, because they are as much of a nusance as the noise.

If you are unusually sensitive to noise, you should make sure that a property is satisfactorily insulated from potential noise sources prior to purcahsing. Additionally, if you live in a community with noise makers, you should talk to your neighbors and try to strike a compromise. There's too many people that complain to themselves and "authorities" about community issues when most problems could be solved through a civilized discussion of the problem.

The bottom line is that if you choose to live in a subdivision or other densly populated area, do not assume that you are immune from noise. Learn tolerance, and talk to repeat offenders if their noise is truly disturbing you.

Posted by: Jim | June 15, 2007 9:42 AM

The thumping sub woffers from cars drive me nuts. I do hope the cretins who do this suffer permanent hearing damage. I realize this will only lead them to turn the volume up louder but their long term hearing damage is my pleasure.

Also the noise makers on the exhaust tips of cars. I don't understand that one at all. A four cylinder car is still a four cylinder car not a muscle car just because you added a noise maker to the exhaust tip. It's sole purpose is to make noise. Why does the MVA/DMV allow these things on cars?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2007 9:51 AM

I lived next door to people who would put their sub-woofers up against the wall to get more bass. In a townhouse, this means that the neighbors next door hear it, those neighbors were me and my girlfriend. Not so bad at 8 or 9 during the week or even up until 1 a.m. on the weekends, I'm find with that, I DJ a lot myself. But, there were inconsiderate enough to live in an end unit and place the speakers next to the shared wall and keep it going until 3 and 4 a.m. It got to the point we would go over and complain. After I warned them that "La Policiaca" will be called the next time they do it, they left. Found out from their landlord they were illegal as were the people that moved in after them and did the same thing. So, in a way, noise can be good for immigration! j/k

Noise is noise, but some noises go beyond being considerate and being considerate has been the most inconsistent thing in the last 15 years. People don't look out for others any more, just themselves. That's why they put huge speakers in their car then roll down the windows. No consideration for anyone else because I want to listen to the music loud. I don't care if someone else doesn't like it. Until that attitude changes, the noise wont'.

Posted by: Jarrod | June 15, 2007 9:52 AM

I lived next door to people who would put their sub-woofers up against the wall to get more bass. In a townhouse, this means that the neighbors next door hear it, those neighbors were me and my girlfriend. Not so bad at 8 or 9 during the week or even up until 1 a.m. on the weekends, I'm find with that, I DJ a lot myself. But, there were inconsiderate enough to live in an end unit and place the speakers next to the shared wall and keep it going until 3 and 4 a.m. It got to the point we would go over and complain. After I warned them that "La Policiaca" will be called the next time they do it, they left. Found out from their landlord they were illegal as were the people that moved in after them and did the same thing. So, in a way, noise can be good for immigration! j/k

Noise is noise, but some noises go beyond being considerate and being considerate has been the most inconsistent thing in the last 15 years. People don't look out for others any more, just themselves. That's why they put huge speakers in their car then roll down the windows. No consideration for anyone else because I want to listen to the music loud. I don't care if someone else doesn't like it. Until that attitude changes, the noise wont'.

Posted by: Jarrod | June 15, 2007 9:52 AM

Although I can see the validity of the argument about noise that makes a statement being worthy of protection, I'm afraid I still see a difference between a street preacher and the thump-da-thump music blaring from cars as they drive past my house at 5 a.m. Yes, these drivers are making a statement with their music (that their maturity level never passed the age 15) but it's not a statement worth protecting.

Posted by: constitution ave | June 15, 2007 9:53 AM

Windchimes? Someone has the nerve to complain about windchimes? You've got to be kidding me!!!

What's next, complaining about the noise squirrels make when harvesting acorns from your next-door neighbor's tree? COME ON!!! It's these type of people that need to live in the middle of nowhere on 50 acres with an electrified fence around the perimeter of their property. I'm glad "arlington" is not my neighbor, because if they complained to me about the "noise" from windchimes, I'd show them what a "cacophony of crashing sounds" really is. If the sound of windchimes bothers you, how could you possibly live in Arlington with the sounds of roaring HVAC units, speeding traffic, and other true noise would supercede any harmonious sound eminating from windchimes. GET A LIFE, or buy some new windows. If you can hear windchimes from inside your house, you're probably wasting energy through poorly insulated windows, so while you complain about the "noise" of windchimes, you're contributing to global warming and to the noise by requiring your HVAC system to operate more than needed.

Posted by: Jay T. | June 15, 2007 9:55 AM

Jarrod, did you ever think that your neighbors were not aware that they were disturbing you? Some people don't realize they're creating noise unless someone lets them know about it. I crank my stereo from time to time when watching a movie, and I have no idea how much sound is seeping to my nieghbor's unit. I have no idea how thick the walls are or if there's any sound-dampening insulation between them. The only way I know if my stereo is making "noise" is if my neighbor tells me. Only with communication and consideration will both parties be happy. Mumbling under your breath, banging on the wall, or complaining on a message board does not help your neighbor understand that they're making noise.

Posted by: Steve | June 15, 2007 10:07 AM

The playing of the song "Afternoon Delight", I believe, is specifically prohibited by the Geneva Convention as a form of torture. Or if it's not, it should be.

Posted by: Claudius | June 15, 2007 10:08 AM

Everybody here should just shut up.

Posted by: Icarus | June 15, 2007 10:16 AM

I used to get angry, frustrated and annoyed when my roommate would come home after the bar on a random Tuesday to cook pizza in the oven that was only a few feet away from my bedroom door. The banging of pots and pans was enough to throw even the best sleepers into a rage. I have to wake up at 7 a.m. for work, while she didn't start her job until noon and had some weekdays off. I have always slept with a fan and it was totally suffecient when I lived alone at blocking out any unwanted noise. My roommate, however, was disturbing my sleep. I found myself cranky and unhappy and complaining to a friend. She suggested earplugs. She said she had used them for years while living with roommates and a boyfriend that snores. I bought a pack and my roommate and I lived in harmony ever since. They may take some getting used to, but the uninteruppted sleep is enough to make anyone happy. Just try them! Be sure to adjust your alarm clock accordingly as most of that sound will be blocked, but so will everything else. Early lawnmowers and all!

Posted by: Jessie C. | June 15, 2007 10:20 AM

One person's music is another person's noise. These posters here who complain about noise probably have never said a single word to a noise maker, aside from "Jarrod," who uncovered some sort of illegal safehouse. As the population increases, and the size of affordable properties decreases, people need to communicate with their neighbors and be considerate and reasonable as we get packed closer and closer, increasingly infringing on each other's personal space.

Complaing to a neighbor about their windchimes, NOT REASONABLE. Placing additional windchimes in response to the neighbor's complaint, NOT CONSIDERATE. Complaining to a neighbor about their teenager coming home at 2 AM with the stereo blaring, COMPLETELY REASONABLE. Complaining about lawn equipment at 7 AM, NOT REASONABLE. Using lawn equipment during the hottest part of a summer day, NOT REASONABLE.

You see, as neighbors, we need to talk to each other and let each other know what bothers us. By complaining to the homerowner's association, condo board, or the police about noise doesn't solve anything, and eventually creates more problems.

Posted by: J-tig | June 15, 2007 10:21 AM

Some years ago I had upstairs neighbors who made a mysterious noise at all hours-- loud music plus a rumbling sound, for a while-- then a crash. Eventually I figured it out: they were practicing roller disco.

Posted by: Matt | June 15, 2007 10:42 AM

I'm worried about restrictions of noise on protesters. I guess it's up to the interpretation of "peaceably," but I always figured that meant non-violent, not non-nuisance. Besides there are already unconstitutional *physical* restrictions on the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and no one's crying about that...we're doomed.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2007 10:46 AM

SoMD, the MD statutes are pretty clear about noise disturbances, so while you don't want to start out by calling the cops on your neighbors, try to drop a hint. We have a "whoompa-whoopma" that just moved in next door recently, and they tend to pull in or peel out between 9pm and 11pm on our quiet, residential street. This has woken the kids (not just ours, but other neighbors') more than once, so I've dropped one hint already, now I'll offer one blunt request to keep it quiet after 9, and then I'm filing a complaint. It's not rocket science, since they are OUTdoors, and it quite literally makes the walls of our house vibrate, and we're about 30 ft. from the street.

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | June 15, 2007 10:49 AM

Just a week the Post had a story on how noise actually affects people's health. It is no small matter. I believe the line should be drawn at from 11 pm to 7 am. That is when most people are trying to sleep. Even so, it does boil down to considerate behavior. A neighbor who blares music is being inconsiderate. A leaf-blower who is doing his job (as long as it is during "reasonable" hour) is not being inconsiderate.

Posted by: DB | June 15, 2007 10:54 AM

I understand that cities are supposed to be vibrant, noisy, lively places. So why is it that an early Sunday morning in New York is so beautiful? There is something mesmerizing about walking out in a place that is overwhelmingly busy six days a week and being created with near silence.

Posted by: Jack | June 15, 2007 10:57 AM

On the other side of the argument, consider the folks who built a new condo building midway up 18th St. in Adams Morgan, smack-dab in the middle of a nightlife hub...

And then complained that it was *way* too loud.

Leave some parts of the city loud. Keep other parts reasonably quiet. One solution doesn't fit all people, or all areas, and striving for one is authoritarian lunacy.

Posted by: Dean J | June 15, 2007 11:03 AM

I like windchimes and own some; I hate them when the wind blows at 3 a.m. So a rubberband around them at night takes care of it.

I can see restrictions of noises by time of day and by decibel level. I can also see restrictions by the nature of the neighborhood. If you live in a neighborhood of nightclubs and restaurants, then noise is expected. If your neighborhood is very quiet, and someone wants to open an outdoor jazz club next door, then noise is not reasonable.

It's hard to sell after the fact, so we're all responsible for looking before we buy/rent. We're also all responsible for being considerate, particularly in the late hours. And "late" in this respect also depends on the circumstances; 9 is not unreasonable in a community where a significant portion of school children reside.

Posted by: NoVA | June 15, 2007 11:23 AM

Why should the "line" be drawn based on time? What about the increasing number of people in this region who work off hours to stay out of rush hour traffic? What about their sleep time?

If noise could not be made just because people are sleeping, we would never get our grass cut, never leave our driveways, and never purchase a stereo or home theater. Sleepers should learn to sleep more soundly, or buy earplugs.

Posted by: Jackson | June 15, 2007 11:24 AM

I had a downstairs neighbor who claimed my CATS were too loud and kept her from sleeping. Just their movement kept this delicate flower from sleeping. When she told me to confine the cats at night I told her to take her "princess and the pea" crap and ... oh, wait, I don't want to be censored, so use your imagination. And yes, my floors had carpets with double thick padding.

Posted by: pirate1 | June 15, 2007 11:29 AM

I'm worried how the level of ambient noise in clubs and bars and on car stereos has affected my hearing. I'm 39 and spent some of my 20s and 30s in these places. I know that my hearing has deteriorated a bit but it seems like it's the louder the better these days. Now I wear ear plugs. We worry so much about smoke exposure in bars. We should think about noise exposure in these small contained rooms.

Posted by: Bob | June 15, 2007 11:37 AM

I don't think Jack has ever lived in many Bronx neighborhoods to understand how much noise is generated on Sunday mornings. Many Sundays sound like the Puerto Rico Day Parade is coming through.

Manhattan on Sunday, sure, but most "normal" New York neighborhoods are pretty roudy every weekend morning.

Posted by: Yankee | June 15, 2007 11:51 AM

I made the mistake when I first rented my apartment of not thinking about the consequences of facing the alley. Three different garbage trucks come every morning between 6-7:30am to empty the garbage from the adjacent buildings, and it is loud!

Well, that was 10 years ago, I'm still there, happily so, and now the 7:00am garbage truck is like my snooze alarm, if I hear it and I'm still in bed it's time to get up!!!

Posted by: kthhken | June 15, 2007 11:53 AM

These windchime complainers are funny...Those must by the world's biggest windchimes if people's sleep are being disrupted by them. Have our lives really gotten this nitpickey and sensitive?

Posted by: Nelson | June 15, 2007 11:54 AM

My sleep is often disturbed by the sound of high winds, thunder, and heavy rain. I guess I should file a noise complaint against mother nature. I'm also occasionally disturbed by the lights and sirens of amulances, fire trucks, and police cars. I suppose I should request that they be forbidden to traverse my street. Jeez, some of the people posting here are ridiculous!!!

Posted by: Heath | June 15, 2007 12:00 PM

Yet another result of our litigious society. Why can't we just block out or ignore the noise? I can see if it's outrageously loud or earth shattering, but most noises that people are describing here are not things that can be ignored or fixed through diplomacy. Everyone want to complain about the way other people live their lives. Stop worrying about other people, live your own life, and learn to deal with a little noise from time to time.

Posted by: Treeman | June 15, 2007 12:03 PM

Someone previously commented on the lack of consideration that people have for others. It's all about them. We all need to be tolerant of some noise from time to time, especially when you live within close proximity to others. However, I find it very interesting that people think nothing about how what they are doing effects their neighbors, particularly when you live in a townhouse community or other densely populated area. Every morning between 6:45 and 7:00 a woman drops her daughter off at her sitter's house that is 3 doors down from mine. As if the 5 minutes of "good byes" being yelled back and forth between mother and daughter aren't enough, the mother proceeds to toot her car horn as she leaves. How anyone who is remotely considerate of others could find this exchange either appropriate or acceptable at this time of the morning is inexplicable to me. I would love to have one of those cars with the subwoofers ride up and down their street as she tries to settle down with her child for the night. I bet she wouldn't see the cuteness is this behavior!

Posted by: townhouse resident | June 15, 2007 12:06 PM

Noise is noise. There's something out there that annoys everyone I'm sure. For me, it's the inconsiderate noise that bothers me, the stuff that can be controlled. Ambulances, wind chimes, thunder and squirrels are not really controllable. Next door neighbors playing music or TV so loud that it sounds like they're in your bedroom with you at 3am on a that's a problem. Like Jarrod, I spoke to my noisy neighbors. Unfortunately, the problem continues and has since been referred to my condo association.

Posted by: LV | June 15, 2007 12:12 PM

Heath: Etu Brute'?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2007 12:13 PM


Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2007 12:23 PM

Frederick County recently passed a new noise ordinance which makes both the railroad trains and the volunteer fire sirens in the City of Brunswick to be illegal. Certainly the volunteers could have adopted pagers years ago and foregone the siren, but I still think the new law is pretty funny.

Recently I debated madatory smoke detectors with a colleague. My position is that a reasonably alert person will detect the odor of smoke while sleeping, but a person who is bombarded day and night by all kind of alarms learns to ignore them all whether awake or asleep, and may ignore the smell of smoke as well if he thinks an alarm is guaranteed to go off. His position is that if any people, especially children, ever ignore any alarm, that they all need to be made to be louder.

I don't have any problem with noise, in fact I wake up if its too quiet outside.
But I do object to the more and more incessant messages from my culture to be afraid and protect myself against more and more supposed dangers ... it would be nice if we could all be a little friendlier and tolerant towards each other and have a few less warnings bombarding us all the time ...

Posted by: Menelyik | June 15, 2007 12:25 PM

I have three words for those of you who hate wind chimes: elevated subway tracks.

Obviously, I chose to live where I do with the full knowledge that those tracks are 50 yards from my pillow, and I'm not complaining about the noise. In fact, they're responsible for my favorite noise-polluter-gets-his-comeuppance story: schmuck pays to park his car in a locked, fenced lot (between my building and the tracks, BTW) and then sets his alarm so sensitive that it goes off whenever a train rumbles by. On my line, that's about every 15 minutes in the overnight hours, as frequently as every 3 minutes at rush hour. So his alarm was basically going off constantly. This killed both car horn and car battery in under a week.

What I want to know is, why is it illegal to use firearms against individuals who honk at stoplights when they can clearly see that the light is STILL RED?!?

Posted by: BxNY | June 15, 2007 12:44 PM

To me, it's the type of noise. Some are easier to block out or ignore than others. For example, I used to live across from a railroad grade crossing in North Carolina. The train whistles were darn annoying if you were on the phone, but you quickly got in the habit of saying, "Hang on, a train's coming through." Also, at night, there was no issue--within two days you adjusted and would sleep right through it.

My main noise gripe is at the office. I can't sugar-coat this to make it sound PC, so I'm just going to say it like it is. I work at a law firm. We have a number of black secretaries who jive-talk in the halls at inappropriate volumes. It's unprofessional if someone has a client in the office and the client hears a secretary yelling down the hall, "I axed him if he copy it and he say he do!!!" The volume alone is inappropriate--in a business office, you should either pick up the phone, or else walk down the hall to the other person's desk/office--but, coupled with the atrocious grammar, it's a real distraction and annoyance that's hard to block out. I close my door and turn on some music, but I've had colleagues say that they'll be on the phone when the whooping and hollering starts and it's caused some real problems.

Certainly there are people who just have naturally loud voices. This is more a situation of people who never learned the appropriate way to talk in a professional environment. Unbelievably annoying.

Posted by: DC | June 15, 2007 1:01 PM

The chasm between windchime owners and those who hate them is hilarious.

I'm amazed that no one has mentioned car horns. I'm lucky enough to live on a small, quiet street right in the District. I checked it out before I moved in. Sure, the trash trucks come down the alley twice a week; so my bedroom is at the front of the house. There's a fire station two blocks away. I'm glad to have them so close, should I ever need them. The lady with the 10 windchimes also has one of the prettiest yards on the street. But the thing I absolutely HATE is the car horns of the morning carpools. There are several houses full of manual/ itinerant laborers on my street, and they carpool to work with others from their jobsites. Starting at about 5am, they lean on their horns outside their friends' houses. They do the sustained "i'm not quitting til my buddy comes out" honk. They do the "it's been 30 seconds since the last honk-- better try again" honk. They do the "shave and a haircut" honk. Sometimes someone will lean out a window and yell at them to stop. But it doesn't help in the long run. I've called my council member. He doesn't care.

So that's my line. Ambient noise-- air conditioners, windchimes, etc-- is ok. Noise with a purpose-- sirens, lawnmowers (within reason)-- is ok. Sudden, startling noise-- barking dogs, overloud car stereos, fireworks when it's not July 4th-- not ok. Noise generated by lazy jerks who can't get out of their car and walk 10 feet to ring the doorbell-- NOT OK.

Posted by: WDC | June 15, 2007 1:05 PM

Jay T. - are you kidding me dude? These windchimes are big, loud, and obnoxious - not the small little ones that gently go "tinkle tinkle". I am not overly sensitive to noise and don't need to live on 50 acres assbag. While everyone needs to tolerate some noise in a densely populated area, people also need to learn to not be selfish and not make all the noise they want as if they do live on 50 acres and noone else can hear them.

Posted by: Arlington | June 15, 2007 1:15 PM

Here's my random question: has anyone here ever heard a car alarm go off, and thought, "A crime is in progress, I'd better call the police and run over to see if I can nab the evildoer myself" ?

Didn't think so. Not only are car alarms incredibly annoying, they are completely useless. They should be banned.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2007 1:15 PM

In response to the last question about car alarms, I don't live in the city, and I know what both of my cars' alarms sound like, so if I hear a car alarm that sounds like one of mine, I will often go outside to check on the car that gets parked outside if the noise doesn't stop quickly (the car is parked around the corner due to a yellow curb out front).

Posted by: Rich | June 15, 2007 1:19 PM

How about the cars with their monster steroes and dual subwoofers powered by 200 watt amps. Not only is the music so loud they can't hear the sirens of the emergency vehicle behind them, it is nearly impossible to have a conversation in my car, even when the windows are rolled up.

I can hear them coming from a block away when I am at home, and that is with the windows closed, the TV on, etc.
YESS!!! There ought to be a noise ordinance against them.

Posted by: Washingtonpostreader | June 15, 2007 1:22 PM

How about the cars with their monster steroes and dual subwoofers powered by 200 watt amps. Not only is the music so loud they can't hear the sirens of the emergency vehicle behind them, it is nearly impossible to have a conversation in my car, even when the windows are rolled up.

I can hear them coming from a block away when I am at home, and that is with the windows closed, the TV on, etc.
YESS!!! There ought to be a noise ordinance against them.

Posted by: Washingtonpostreader | June 15, 2007 1:22 PM

DB: I believe the Post Health article was about loud music played on those those iPod earbuds, not environmental noise.

Posted by: Mike Licht | June 15, 2007 1:29 PM

Man!! Reading some of these posts makes me glad I live where I do and not near a bunch of whiners. I do think Marc offers one bit of practical advice. When searching for a home, do investigate the noise level of the neighborhood before you buy. That would solve so many problems. I can remember my wife's old apartment before we got married that was in a neighborhood that will remain nameless. Loud music, police sirens, the occassional gun shot, or police chasing some kid at 2am, or the couple upstairs making babies, etc. She would come stay at my place sometimes just to avoid having to deal with it. When we bought our first home--far far away from her old place, I vividly remember not being able to sleep the first night because it was soooo quiet. Not a peep. On the flipside, since we do live in the suburbs, we do have the occasion when someone decides to cut their grass either too early or too late in the day. Doesn't happen often. If that's the extent of my worries, I'll take it.

Posted by: kwb20886 | June 15, 2007 1:41 PM

"or the couple upstairs making babies"

Easy way to deal with that is to say, "Wow, sure sounded like you and your wife were having a great time last night."

"we do have the occasion when someone decides to cut their grass either too early or too late in the day"

I'll admit to having run the snowblower at 6:30 AM during the winter at times in a townhouse neighborhood. However, recognizing that the noise may disturb other people, I make a point of going beyond just my driveway such that I clear the sidewalks up and down the street as well as the mailboxes; I figure that doing something for everyone else offsets the noise. Nobody's ever complained.

Posted by: Rich | June 15, 2007 2:17 PM

"I'll admit to having run the snowblower at 6:30 AM during the winter at times in a townhouse neighborhood."

Snowblowers at 6 am are a "necessary" noise. If you need to use one, it's likely you're doing so because you have to get out of your house. (Cleaning out the neighbors and/or common areas is a nice touch.) Firing up the ol' lawnmower or leafblower before a decent hour is never *that* necessary - when was the last time you couldn't get your car out because the grass was too high or the leaves too deep?

Posted by: BxNY | June 15, 2007 2:28 PM

Car alarms are very annoying, but if you're a stupid kid trying to hotwire a car for a joyride, and the alarm blares, it will probably scare you off. Not so much with a pro thief, and it won't get the police after you, but imagine if you're just some dumb kid succumbing to peer pressure. An alarm probably wouldn't make you want to finish the job. So I can see a purpose to them; they're not completely useless.

Posted by: Mona | June 15, 2007 2:44 PM

Wow, the Capital of Noise. I was thinking it would be NYC or Japan instead. Lou Reed's Metal Machine music makes a persuasive arguement for NYC, but then there is Merzbow and the Boredoms in Japan's favor.

In all seriousness though, if you live in the city, you have to get used to people who live above you and shuffle, sing in the shower, get it on, or have noisy babies. Likewise for the people who drive by your window playing reggaetron at late hours such that your couch vibrates. Same for the cops who go speeding through my neighborhood, or the university shuttle bus that revs its way through the light by my house.

You get used to it. I managed to sleep through a hit and run 3 car crash 30 feet from my window last week. I lived in the burbs for a few years after living in DC for a while and the silence actually kept me up at night at first. If you want quiet, then don't live in the city.

As a factual matter, the DC noise regs that allow non-commercial noise don't allow loud noises at all times, just during the day.

As to the shrinking violets, caveat emptor. Do your homework. If you live in a commercially zoned or popular area, expect some noise.

The only form of noise that I detest is from the jerks who lean ont he horn at a red light. If you have lived near a light with a long timer, you know what I mean. You want to keep bricks to toss at those people, but sadly, the law forbids it. I lived in another city and had this needles honkery happen each and every morning.

After being startled awake, I would daydream of owning a coop of trained pidgeons on my roof which would fly out at the sound of a horn and crap all over the offending honker. (Would that make me the honkee, or just the unintended third party recipient of honk?)

Posted by: capital of noise | June 15, 2007 3:04 PM

I live on the top floor of a Crystal City apartment building and get planes flying by at eye level. I have little patience for my neighbors who are bothered by this -- if airplane noise bothers you, why did you choose to live next to the airport? Likewise, I'm right next to a fire station. Same deal; I don't even notice the sirens much any more.

Care alarms, though. Like the earlier poster said, in the city at least, nobody ever doesn't just assume it's a false alarm, making them as useless as they are annoying. Therefore, I propose a new law that would solve both problems:

If you hear a car alarm go off, you are legally obligated to investigate. However, if you investigate and find no untoward activity, you are legally allowed to bash the car with a crowbar until it stops.

Posted by: GP | June 15, 2007 3:18 PM

BxNY, you're a dumbass. The people don't honk when the light is red-- they honk when it's green and your slow-a$$ reaction time is frustrating for everyone behind you.

Posted by: MeDC | June 15, 2007 3:25 PM

the noise I really can't stand are the revelers coming home at 2:30am after the bars close. I live in a quiet residential street and people are allowed to go out on weekends, but when I hear the sober guy trying to convince the drunk girl to go up with him to his house at 2:30am and she's all, "I left my scarf at the club, let's go back, ugh!" Just drive her home you idiot- if she's using the scarf excuse in June, she's just not that into you.

Posted by: DCer | June 15, 2007 3:26 PM

I can't believe there are people complaining about wind chimes--I mean, these must be some big, honkin'-ass wind chimes!

Anyone complaining about wind chimes needs to go camping one weekend and listen to how "quiet" the wilderness is. See if you still think wind chimes are noisy after spending a night with the birds and crickets.

Posted by: Chime and Punishment | June 15, 2007 3:47 PM

@&#^$*% leaf blowers at 0700 Saturday or Sunday. Haven't homeowners ever heard of something called a RAKE?????

Easily countered by a very loud screaming firework lit on the offending neighbor's lawn at 0015 Monday. heh-heh-heh

Posted by: Pyrotechnics | June 15, 2007 4:06 PM

Word! Somebody should issue those crickets a citation. Don't even get me started on Cicadas.

Posted by: pants | June 15, 2007 4:06 PM

Not to mention the mockingbirds that like to sing non-stop from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.

Call the cops!

Posted by: Birdbrain | June 15, 2007 4:13 PM

Everyone should STFU.

Posted by: Kingly | June 15, 2007 4:23 PM

Bug zappers! Down with bug zappers!

Posted by: jimbo | June 15, 2007 4:28 PM

Assbag is a new one...Thank you "Arlington."

I would love to see these gargantuan windchimes that you speak of...They sound like the Bells of Notre Dame.

Just re-read your posts and see how absurd you sound. Most posters are complaining about car horns, loud stereos, people yelling, subway trains, and then you with the annoyance of windchimes. In the grand scheme of things, windchimes are pretty petty and complaining about them makes you look like a complete moron.

If these WMDs (windchimes of mass destruction) really bother you so much, have you considered asking the owner to move them, perhaps to the other side of the house? My guess is that you haven't or just didn't get the response you liked from your neighbor.

But really, look how utterly stupid you would look if you called the police to complain about the noise generated by windchimes. It's neighbors like you that have caused the formation of big-brother homeowners associations (measuring grass height with calipers, digging in trashcans for unacceptable waste, checking paint colors to approved paint chips, etc...) with their "better than you" attitude, and have created a nanny society where people only talk to their neighbors during bickering sessions at the quarterly HOA or condo association meeting.

Learn to live with the pleasant differences of your neighbors or go live on a deserted island!

Posted by: Jay T. | June 15, 2007 4:38 PM

"@&#^$*% leaf blowers at 0700 Saturday or Sunday. Haven't homeowners ever heard of something called a RAKE?????"

Some of us prefer not to perform yard maintenance in the heat of the day, or just don't have time during the day to complete these tasks. 0700 on a weekend is completely reasonable to begin yardwork. Perhaps you should stop sleeping your life away, or maybe you just don't have a life since you seem to be able to perform yardwork during the heart of the day when kids have soccer games, religious services, picnics, weekend getaways, nights out on the town, concerts, sporting events, and an infinite number of other things to do.

You're probably the same @&#^$*% from the HOA writing me a letter because my grass in 1/16" too tall. Get your LAZY A$$ out of bed and just politely ask your neighbor if it's possible for him to mow a little later in the morning. Perhaps you'll learn something about them.

Posted by: Tibalt | June 15, 2007 4:52 PM

I live across the street from a small church. A small church with BIG speakers. And while I can deal with the annoyance at 10am on Sunday morning, its downright infuriating at 10pm at night!

I recently learned churches are exempt from noise ordinances in DC. So much for separation of church and state.

I can sit in my living room and actually hear what the preacher is saying(think Pentecostal/charismatic service lasting a few hours at time), as well as be serenaded by the hymns (not as lovely as you might think). Everyone has the right to worship the way they please, but apparently I don't have the right to sit in my living room and NOT hear their services.

Some community members have met with the church members (of whom few, if any, live in the community)to try to work out compromises. Keep your fingers crossed as the law is pretty much on their side. Here's hoping for Christian charity!

Posted by: Brian in NW | June 15, 2007 5:06 PM

Tibalt, if you find yourself so pressed for time to work on your yard, perhaps it was a mistake for you to get a house with a yard. But you'd never admit that.

I can see someone powering up a mower or blower at 0900 on a weekend. 0700? NFW.

Perhaps they might appreciate my standing in front of their house with a bullhorn at 0600, yelling, "It's Sunday! Time to go to church. The parisioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Flatulence are waiting for you!"

Perhaps if you didn't spend all your waking hours currying favor to every whim of your rug rats, then you'd have time for yard work. Why not put your kids to work helping you with yardwork? Putting kids to work...what a concept!!! I know...I know...concepts and your brain can be represented by a non-intercept Venn Diagram.

You see to mistake me for an HOAhole. Nope. Never had much use for HOAs.

Me a Lazy a$$? Me, the person who believes in hand raking my yard? The person who was the only one in the neighborhood to compost leaves instead of putting them on the curb? The person who mowed his own lawn plus the lawn of the next door neighbor rather than hiring a lawn service?

Lazy? I don't think so. People like you who own blowers are the lazy rectums. Either that or you bought the blower as a sexual fetish.

For people like you, I make it a point to peform mechanical work with air impact tools during the dinner hour.

Posted by: Pyrotechnics | June 15, 2007 5:14 PM

Brian in NW,if negotiations come to naught, it's time for the neighborhood to get together, buy a bullhorn, and stand outside the church during late night services as you announce your collective allegiance to Satan and all his works.

Posted by: Pyrotechnics | June 15, 2007 5:36 PM

I totally agree with Fisher re windchimes -- possibly the most annoying noise ever. They're such a passive-aggressive thing, too: "I think the noise is beautiful, so everyone else within hearing radius is going to, also."

And birds, don't get me started on birds. I'm reminded of an episode of Friends, where Phoebe has begun dating a very nice police officer. One morning they wake up in his bed, a bird singing at the top of its little lungs outside his window, and he pulls out his service revolver and shoots the bird. She's horrified and breaks up with him immediately. I, on the other hand, would have married the guy on the spot.

Posted by: Snarky Squirrel | June 15, 2007 6:17 PM

I have seen windchimes in garden centers that are up to three feet long and the barrels are about an inch to inch-and-a-half wide. They make a deep bass-like bong. I don't what normal person would buy them, unless they live five miles from anyone else.

Posted by: BONNNNGGGGG | June 15, 2007 8:22 PM

The idea that any gas powered tools are really necessary to clean or maintain an average sized city property is just stupid. Snow/leaf blowers? Gas mowers? Puh-lease. Y'all are either weak or afraid to sweat a little. And if they're not necessary, they're a self indulgence. And a 7 AM self indulgence at your neighbors' expense is...

Posted by: Mark | June 15, 2007 8:32 PM

I grew up in the country, and to me, the most beautiful noise is...the sound of no noise on a dark night, or a soft wind rushing trees, or a thunder storm, or a baby sleeping, or, yes, even a husband snoring or a party next door that doesn't get out of control or go on for too long, because all of that signals that I am in life and that life is well.

What doesn't work and what isn't well--like air one can't breathe, water one can't drink, and food one shouldn't eat--is noise that isn't healthy, either physically or mentally, and that is unnecessarily, unconditionally, or (at least seemingly) interminably invasive, selfish, or shrieking. And these and other things seem to point to ways we can work together to promote the physical and mental health of each of us as individuals and as a whole. The tip of that point is individual responsibility.

We should ALL be working to keep down the noise (and all other forms of pollution) that contribute to each others' stress and the overall toll on our physical environment. That means not setting out the dog to bark at the neighborhood all day, especially beginning at 6 a.m., and not mowing the lawn or running leaf blowers at 7 a.m. on the weekend (sorry, that's too early to disturb the weekend morning peace--Would you place a phone call to the home of someone you don't know before 9 a.m. on the weekend?--alternatively, on a small city lawn, one could use a pushmower, cut the carbon consumption and get started at 6 a.m.).

Consideration also means curbing the environmental and social toll of the noise emmanating from our other equipment, such as air conditioning and heating systems and cars (why not blast that radio away from the crowd while you are cruising on that face-forward day, but lower the volume or raise the windows when you get to the point where you are imposing your sound and taste on others?). And keep the mechanics of the car under control so they are not noise or otherwise polluting, and try to drive and exit it quietly when pulling it on to the street in front of your neighbors' homes at 3 a.m. Cars idling to keep the heat or air pumping for a few minutes of luxurious comfort blast buckets of selfishness and toxic waste into the air and faces of others walking by and trying as well as they can to contend naturally with uncomfortably cold or hot climate conditions.

Some things, like noise from moving furniture and equipment, and a party that doesn't go wild and result in the participants destroying your perennials, will be forgiven because they are part of life, especially if neighbors have been forewarned.

However, putting out regular, inconsiderate, and unnecessary noise--such as dumping recyclables each week at midnight, cranking the car stereo to the max driving off to work every day, not fixing an air conditioning unit that sounds like it should be cooling a nuclear plant--are uncivil acts that contribute negatively to the general noise pollution and crankiness of us all in our efforts to live well together.

There is not much we can do about the bird that goes off outside of our window every morning at 4:45 a.m., and then shuts up at 6 when we have to get up. There is a lot we can do about when and how we pump up the stereo, let out the barking dog, dump the trash and mow the lawn, run the car, and maintain the equipment we own. And folks, on that note, what purpose do leaf blowers and powered edge cutters serve either than to disturb the peace and make us fat by keeping us from getting real exercise? You still have to pick up the detritus anyway, or at least you should, to keep the stuff from backing up the public sewers and causing a whole other range of problems.

As for wind chimes, well...wind roars, why shouldn't it chime?

Posted by: Civics 101 | June 16, 2007 12:56 AM

Living in college towns (I'm a professor and I now live in Georgetown next to the GU campus) taught me one thing: you can't control other peoples' noise, but you can control your hearing of it. I'm a light sleeper, so I learned to buy the economy-sized box of soft foam earplugs, and I have never since had a problem with screaming, shouting, car alarms, late-night parties, barking dogs, or anything else. I sleep like a baby on airplanes, in strange cities, etc. A friend of mine spent $360 on noise-canceling headphones that you can't sleep in. But a simple pair of earplugs (that I wipe off with alcohol and use several times until the foam wears out) costs only a few pennies. Happiness!

Posted by: Melba | June 16, 2007 6:43 AM

Noise Pollution is taking America by storm these days as Corporate America promotes their products as "Loud Sells" attempting to reach the GEN Y demographic. They are stopping at nothing to grab their share of an annual $500 billion in retail sales from people under 25 years old. Our younger Americans have been brought up to think that loud music, aftermarket car exhaust systems, and various other loud technology toys are a way of life to be accepted by everyone. Along with the "Loud" phenomenon, Corporate America promotes such themes in their ads that encourage anti-social behavior and total disrespect of the rights of others. In reality, millions of Americans are suffering from the noise, and anti-social behavior, to the point that they are attempting to move away from their assaulted neighborhoods. But the grim reality is that you cannot find a quiet, and safe, place to live unless you escape to the far regions of Alaska or an uninhabited island in an ocean somewhere. Our younger generation has been so influenced by violent themes in loud hip-hop/rap music and video games that our streets are falling victim to nothing more than domestic terrorism day and night without discrimination. This is not just happening in the inner-cities but across the entire country and the world. The problem has become so paramount that 100s, if not 1000s, of local municipalities are enacting stronger Noise Ordinances that they cannot enforce due to the lack of federal legislation/guidance. Federal Agencies like the FBI and Defense Department recognizes the adverse affects of loud provocative music (heavy metal, hip-hop, and rap) as they use it as a torture technique and as a means to soften/provoke insurgents. Other Organizations like the ACLU and Amnesty International has condemned these practices but yet our streets and neighborhoods remain overwhelmed with the acoustic assault of High Intensity / Low Frequency (HI/LF) bass music, and aftermarket mufflers, with no end in sight.

Loud music is now documented to cause severe stress, heart and blood pressure problems, and a host of many other adverse health affects inflicted on innocent victims by boom cars and loud home stereos to mention the worst of the lot. Noise Pollution is more harmful to our health than secondhand cigarette smoke. The "Cool" "Loud" Phenomenon is ripping at the very fabric of society fore which we live within.

Please support the Quiet Communities Act and refund the EPA ONAC office before our society degrades to the point of lawlessness and despair.

I can offer Legislative Evidence in the form of video streams, news articles, Ads, and research papers upon request. Or you may visit our National Website, Noise Free America, at for a wealth of information.

Posted by: Michael Smith | June 16, 2007 9:29 AM

This column is the worst form of unwanted noise!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 16, 2007 11:49 AM

Civics 101, you need to stop smoking that reefer.

Posted by: Hey, man | June 16, 2007 5:40 PM

RE: suburbia weekend morning and evening noise. I've only lived here for 25 years but there seems to be an unwritten rule that about 0900 on Saturday and 1000 on Sunday is the earliest to crank power equipment. This works well for some, but the noise that generally wakes me is the darn bird chirping at sunrise. Consequently I wake at dawn (0542 today) and work quietly for hours. And don't get me started on the geese.
In summary unless it's important keep it quiet until someone else makes noise. I doubt any of my neighbors would complain when I run my LOUD generator during a power outage when I also run a line to them.

Posted by: hayfield | June 16, 2007 7:08 PM

I usually do not agree with Marc. But that is not my fault.

Posted by: Gary Masters | June 16, 2007 8:48 PM

I usually do not agree with Marc. But that is not my fault.

Posted by: Gary Masters | June 16, 2007 8:48 PM

Brian in NW, a Tupac cd blaring back at 'em might do the trick.

Posted by: All Eyez On Me | June 16, 2007 9:28 PM

Several years ago, I lived in a Baltimore rowhouse where the downstairs neighbor (who moved in several years after I did) would turn up his stereo to an extremely LOUD volume at 1:00 or 2:00 AM Monday through Friday mornings, and leave it on for 2 or 3 hours. After several attempts to speak to the neighbor about the noise, without success, I came up with a solution.

When I got up at 5:30 AM to go to work, I placed a couple of rather large speakers face down on the floor (coincidently right above his bedroom), put on "Phantom of the Opera" and turned up the volume LOUD for a few minutes while I was in the shower. It only took two consecutive mornings of "Phantom", then one more incident about a week later, for the message to get through. It's amazing how the tracks with the organ music can catch a person's attention rather quickly.

That neighbor moved out a few months later. When the landlord asked him why he was leaving, he complained that his sleep was disturbed by 'constant' early morning loud music from the upstairs neighbor. Since I had already talked to my landlord about the problem and how I had solved it, the landlord just chuckled, and told the (then former) tenant "Maybe payback can be a b***h?"

If you can't guess, my neighbor's selection of music wasn't exactly "Phantom of the Opera" type.

Posted by: Critter | June 17, 2007 5:02 AM

Critter, was the person BLACK??

Posted by: Just asking | June 17, 2007 4:44 PM

'Just asking' asked:
". . . was the person BLACK??"

As a matter of fact, no, the person was not black, as if the ethnicity of my neighbor even mattered. Excessively LOUD music is excessively LOUD music. Especially when it's LOUD in the middle of the night, night after night, and after the offending party has been informed several times that the volume of the music, at that hour of the day, is disturbing to others, it shows that person has a gross lack of consideration of others.

BTW - if it interests you, my landlord at the time WAS black.

Posted by: Critter | June 18, 2007 1:46 AM

I've just moved into an apartment and have not once heard my neighbors. Nothin. Not a peep, not a bit of music, not the tiniest fragment of a movie soundtrack. I try not to turn up my teevee or music too loud, but I worry sometimes that they're just sitting in their apartment in silence, seething. (Actually, since the apartment is right by the metro/marc/freight train tracks and I can barely hear them, we probably just have really good soundproofing, but a girl can still worry.)

Posted by: h3 | June 18, 2007 12:47 PM

With respect to the situation at H & 8th Streets NE (a group of "preachers" on the street corner on the weekends), the issue is that DC's noise ordinance varies from typical noise ordinances in a way that makes it essentially useless - a loophole that was created at the behest of labor unions (apparently they still exist?!?). The labor unions managed to get themselves a sentence added to DC's noise ordinance in 2004 that exempted "non-commercial" speech during "daytime" hours (so like, 6 am to 9 pm in June??!!) from any, yes I said ANY, restrictions under DC's Noise Control Act (which doesn't really control noise so much now, does it?). Previously, such speech could not exceed 80 decibels (at 50 feet). This level made sense: normal conversation is 60 db, busy city street traffic is about 70db, a vacuum cleaner (i.e. you can't have a conversation when it's on) is about 80 db, a walkman at max volume is 100db, front row at a rock concert 110db, the pain threshold 130db and at 160db...your eardrums will be instanly perforated. NO other jurisdiction has such a loophole. Readings taken during the summer of 2005 at 8th & H reached 91db. The noise generated at 8th & H is clearly audible INSIDE the homes of residents living in the residential areas surrounding H Street (i.e. not on the actual H Street commercial corridor but on the surrounding residential streets). And no, this is NOT merely the incidental noise of vibrant city life (car motors & horns, buses, garbage trucks, subways, people engaged in passionate discourse on the street corner over the latest developments in politics - or more likely, whether Paris Hilton should have been sent back to jail and whether she really *IS* "stable", music thump-thump-thumping from bars and drunk college dudes hump-hump-humping or at least trying to convince some bimbo to do so). Those are the things that make city life what it is. By contrast, the H Street noisemakers are a group that doesn't even live in DC, that comes here to scream into its amplifiers about something that nobody cares about (or can even actually understand what they're saying most of the time) and who opposes the 80db limit because they don't believe anyone will listen to their "message" on its own merits. They believe that their "message" will only be noticed if it is blasted at so high a volume that it interferes with citizens' lives and daily activities. The 8th & H situation is NOT about complaining residents being intolerant of the incidental sounds of city life. It is about noise being generated at a level that poses an environmental and personal health risk and prevents residents from being able to live their lives within a reasonable (for a city) level of environmental noise. It is also about an ordinance which fails to protect those residents because it was gutted, behind the scenes, by a special interest group which does not represent and in fact has no interest in, the welfare of the people who were meant to be protected by the ordinance. As an aside, most jurisdictions apply a "reasonable person" standard, which would not carve out *any* special protections for non-commercial speech. So, for those of you fearing for free speech in DC, rest assured, the proposed ordinance still provides more protection for non-commercial free speech than the vast majority of jurisdictions.

Posted by: Matt | June 18, 2007 5:29 PM


Why is it you who decides when it is time to mow my lawn? As far as I'm concerned, if the sun is up, there's work to be done. I'm sorry, but I don't have the luxury of being able to sleep in until 9, 10, or 11 on weekends while your lazy behind enjoys some extra shuteye.

I'm very proud that you handrake your lawn and compost your waste, but that doesn't change the fact that your unreasonable expectation to forbid yard maintenance before 0900 on weekends is ridiculous. You verbal taunts against my family just go to show your callous and insensitive attitude towards your neighbors.

Your warped expectations are laughable, and it's a shame you're not my neighbow, because I would make sure that may mower was running by your bedroom every weekend at sunrise. I'd might even mow your lawn for good measure.

Posted by: Tibalt | June 19, 2007 10:01 AM

I think the biggest problem with noise is that people don't let each other know how much noise is acceptable. From the noisemaker's standpoint, if they were completely considerate of their neighbors, they wouldn't make a sound. Therefore, it cannot be the responsibility of the noisemaker to determine the level of acceptable noise. It's up to the neighbor to let the noisemaker know how much noise is acceptable and the types of noise that are most irritating. Additionally, the neighbor must strike a compromise and be reasonable. Expecting complete silence from a neghibor is unreasonable, and not permitting a "legal" amount of sound from certain noisemakers (windchimes, pets, children, and footsteps) is also unreasonable.

Only through communication can neighbors sort out their differences, and complaining on a message board or complaining to police or other neighbors is not going to solve a noise problem. Be friends with your neighbors. You're stuck with them whether you like it or not, so you should make the best of the situation and not let a little noise ruin a potential friendship. A bad neighbor is not the person who starts trouble, but the person who choses not to diplomatically confront the troublemaker. Talk to your neighbors as friends and equals instead of your enemies and criminals.

Posted by: Alex | June 19, 2007 10:11 AM

I can sleep through any of the drunken mobs wandering the street in front on my house each weekend night, but waking up to the kids screaming as they arrive to the school across the street each morning makes me want to go chastise every parent. And I'm not sure why the bar music doesn't travel up the block but the church music blasts down each Sunday. I really wish that church would shut its windows; if the neighbors wanted to hear your hymns, we'd attend services.

Posted by: 18th & Kalorama Resident | June 19, 2007 4:32 PM

Too much noise is that I can still hear your music (and possibly you singing it) in my apartment over the noise of my TV and my fan. Too much noise is allowing your children to thump continuously up and down and up and down at 6 am even though you know you have downstairs neighbors and live in an apartment. Too much noise is things in my apartment shaking from the bass of your music. When I come to your apartment and ask you to please turn it down (and I am sure it is you as I can hear it prior to getting to your door), I am not asking you to turn it off, just down. And yes, I will call the police if you don't, but I will also warn you that that is what I am going to do if you don't be more considerate so you have a choice. Don't be a jerk.

Posted by: M.W. | June 20, 2007 12:24 PM

M.W., how is your upstairs neighbor supposed to know that you can hear their music before you tell them? Is the "noise" acceptable when you're not home? Don't assume your neighbor is a jerk just because they enjoy living their life. Remember, you chose to live in an apartment, and are subject to the pitter patter of feet, and some occasional noise from neighbors. If you want a higher quality of life with less noise, pay for it like the rest of us, and move out to the suburbs where you can deal with 6 AM lawnmowing, gigantic wind chimes, and bass-thumping cars flying down the street.

Posted by: Johnny Five | June 20, 2007 4:18 PM

I'm sorry I'm such a jerk, but I bought a home theater system with an amp that goes up to "11," so I'm gonna use it every chance I get. Feel free to blast your stereo back at me, I've slept through earthquakes before when I lived in Alaska, so it won't bother me a bit. Perhaps you should learn to be better sleepers, winey, complainy, foolish, weenies!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 4:25 PM

I have, very nicely, told my neighbors only to be told that no one else has any problem with their music so why should they stop. The reason why no one else has a problem with it is that they just turn up theirs to drown out the neighbors which leads to music wars. And yes, I live in an apartment, not because I choose to but because I can't afford anything else in this area. I grew up in apartments and never had this issue before living with a bunch of Salvadoreans who think that having music at 5 am loud enough to wake the dead is great.

Posted by: M.W. | June 21, 2007 4:18 PM

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