It starts with a small beep. A high-pitched chirp that demands my attention even though it’s coming from somewhere outside the apartment. It sounds like a smoke detector with a low battery, but our smoke detectors are wired. Every 15 seconds, “Chirp!” It’s like an alarm clock with a leak.
During the day, I manage to distract myself most of the time. I cannot hear it over my headset when I’m on the phone. For the first time, I find myself looking forward to conference calls.
But at night, I lay in bed waiting for the next chirp to come. Finally, I pull out the iPad, put in some ear buds and watch a show from my cable company’s app until I nod off. Still, the next morning I wake up feeling like I’ve been fighting with that chirp all night long. My jaw has practically seized into a clench, my TMJ flares when I bite into an apple, and I am cranky. Cranky, cranky, cranky.
I wander around trying to hear where the stupid chirp is coming from. It could be on the roof. It could be next door. It could be below us. After I’m dressed, I walk out into the hall and listen. Eventually, I determine the beep is coming from next door. It go back inside and check the time. It’s only 6:30AM. I decide that a) it’s improbable our neighbor is there, listening to the chirp and doing nothing about it, and b) it’s too early to knock on her door to find out because I will wake up many other neighbors in the process.
For the next hour and a half, all I hear is “chirp!” I try taking my coffee outside. For once, there is very little traffic. I can hear the chirp even from the balcony when there are no cars driving by. I go back inside. Pat gets up. I ask him, “Do you hear that?” He looks at me like I’m insane. I am beginning to have memories of “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
At 8:00AM, I go next door and knock. No one comes to the door. I knock again, standing there, listening to the chirp echoing inside. One of the disadvantages of a loft-style apartment, by the way, particularly one with finished concrete floors, is that sound bounces all over the place. I wait for the next “chirp!” and then knock one last time. Another neighbor comes in with his dog. I smile, but don’t ask if he hears the chirping or not.
I go inside and tell Pat I’m going to send an email to the manager to see if maintenance can come without the tenant calling them. He is upset by this notion and tells me not to. When I ask him why not, his justification is because we watch TV loudly (to hear over traffic noise) and no one complains. I give him a look. I cannot understand his logic on this–it’s like he thinks I’m telling on the girl next door for having a chirp. After much debate, I finally decide to give it a day.
I make it through the day, but the chirping doesn’t abate. I tell Pat I’m sending an email and, once again, this leads to a debate. Now, I am irritated with him. I cannot understand how he can think it’s a bad thing to tell maintenance that there is something wrong in the apartment that needs to be addressed when the resident is clearly not home to take care of it herself. Finally, the core of the argument seems to hinge around Pat’s assumption that our neighbor must have something in the apartment that belongs to her that’s beeping whereas I tend to assume it’s something that goes with the apartment. I allow Pat’s anxiety about upsetting our neighbor infect my thinking and forego the email again.
But now, my ire has turned from the chirp to Pat. The chirp is now his fault. Every time he is in he room, I wait for a chirp and then say, “Did you hear that?” What I discover is that he can’t hear it most of the time. Only if there is absolutely no background noise and he’s listening for it is he able to hear it at all, and even then, it’s so quiet to him that he’s not annoyed. Now I am doubly angry. He doesn’t want me to solve the problem because it’s not bothering him!
For reasons I do not understand, instead of just ignoring Pat and sending the email to the manager, I’m now pissy about absolutely everything. The apartment is a mess; there’s too much clutter that we still need to find places for. That is Pat’s fault. I stand up without realizing my foot is asleep and sprain my left foot. That is Pat’s fault too. I am tired and sore and it’s raining and I need to get away from that incessant chirp! All of it is Pat’s fault.
His tenacity is remarkable. Four days later, the chirp is still going and so am I. I’m amazed that he hasn’t begged me to write a letter to the manager by now. Instead, he just seems puzzled as to why I’m so irritable. Even when I explain that I’m not sleeping well because of that damn chirp, he doesn’t believe that the chirp (which by now he seems to think is just a figment of my imagination) could possibly disturb my sleep.
Finally, on Saturday, Pat walks out to get something out of the car and runs into movers coming out of the apartment. He asks them if they heard a chirp and they say no. Now I’m really pissed. Pat feels like he’s taken action to resolve the problem, but all he’s done is prove that I have better hearing that a total of 3 men. However, at least it eliminates Pat’s argument that I will upset the neighbor if I report the chirp. I sit down and send a note to the manager.
Of course, the manager won’t get the note until Monday. This is Pat’s fault, too.
A funny thing happens to me when I’m overly tired. I start dropping things a lot. Usually little things. This time, it starts with the hair clip I use when I wash my face. I drop it, pick it up, and drop it again. I pick it up a second time and it falls from my grasp before I can even stand up again. Next, it’s my glasses. Same thing. Three drops in a row. Then, it’s a bottle of beer, which I drop only once because it shatters on the concrete floor. Each time I drop something, my temper ignites. By the third drop, I can literally feel the anger shooting through my body in a trail that runs from my toes to the top of my head. If I were a rocket ship, I would be airborne. Thankfully, the weekend distractions keep me from completely losing it. When we are out of the apartment, I feel much, much better.
We both live through the weekend. Monday, I get a note from the manager that maintenance will be over the next day and they will fix it then. I decide to concentrate on ignoring the chirp. It’s like the old trick where someone tells you not to think about elephants and that’s all you can think about. Fortunately, it’s a work day and I spend most of the day with my headphones on. The weather has also warmed up again and I discover that sleeping with the ceiling fan on helps drown out the chirp.
The next day, I hear men in the apartment next door, but the chirp is still going strong. I walk over and knock on the door. When the door opens, the chirp echoes even more loudly with the apartment empty and the door open. I look at the men inside and ask if the can hear it. They look at me like I’m playing a joke and they are waiting for the punchline. After a moment, one responds that they have to get batteries for whatever it is (maybe it is a smoke detector after all). I explain that I just wanted to make sure they could hear it because my husband can’t and he thinks I’m insane. The men laugh at this and assure me it’s loud and clear to them. I am relieved to know I am not crazy (well, at least not in this particular way).
I return to work and am on the phone for several hours straight. When at last I take off my headset, I am still thinking about work as I get up to grab a bite to eat. Suddenly, I realize I feel a little happier and less annoyed than I’ve felt in days. I freeze and listen. The chirping has stopped! I sigh with relief. But when Pat comes home that evening, I am annoyed again. I don’t know why I’m annoyed with him because I let him talk me out of solving my problem a week ago, but I am.
I suffered through that incessant chirp for a week because I listened to him. I suppose I must first stop being annoyed with myself for listening. Then, I must stop being annoyed with Pat for thinking it’s more important to avoid irritating the neighbor than to stop the neighbor from irritating his wife. I wonder how long that will take?