Monday, November 28, 2016

The Year Of Living Deafeningly

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published Nov. 30, 2016] ©2016

The day after my next door neighbor’s seeming-endless remodel was finally finished recently, I took my newspaper out to the patio on a beautiful Saturday morning to celebrate, only to be greeted by chainsaws. The neighbor on the other side of him was doing an all-day tree job.

It’s just a reality at this point. La Jolla, by virtue of both climate and affluence, is simply never going to be a quiet place. We have a year-round yard maintenance season. But more to the point, our town has truly become The Land of Perpetual Construction, both home and road. In my neighborhood, there is hardly a block that does not have at least one major remodel going on; some have two or three.

Given how expensive land is in La Jolla, I can’t blame anyone for wanting to maximize the square footage of the house on their lot. What IS annoying, however, is to live through several remodels of the same house. Some years ago, a house on one side of us was bought by flippers who spent four noisy months “upgrading” it with a cheap roof and crappy finishes.  The people who bought it then spent six months removing them (including yet another roof).

The guy on the other side of us has not only been a good friend for 16 years but is the best neighbor ever. Which is good since our homes’ closest walls are15 feet apart. He’s wanted to remodel from the time he bought the house and has now expanded its space from the original 1,300 square feet to 2,500.  Being a total remodel virgin, he accepted the bid of the contractor who promised the shortest construction time – six months. That was sixteen months ago.

He said it was the worst experience of his life. One unforeseen crisis after another.

My office is on the same side as his home, not that there’s really any place in our small house that we are sheltered from the jack hammers, skill saws, nail guns, and assorted power tools. 

There was one saw that had the same pitch as a dentist drill. I could hear myself silently screaming, Stop! Stop!  I’ll talk! Or brush! Whatever you want!

For weeks, there was the constant beep of construction vehicles going in reverse. What I can’t figure out: Shouldn’t they have to be going forward at least half the time?

At various times we not only had construction noise going on at the neighbor’s, but jack hammers by a city crew in the street, never mind leaf blowers.  No, wait, those leaf blowers were in our front yard. 

Trying to sit out on our patio on beautiful summer mornings, we’d be making sign language gestures at each other to pass the coffee or the front section of the newspaper.  We couldn’t even hear our own garden fountain three feet away. 

But the worst part, at least for me, was the music. I’m trying to be politically correct here but I think I’m suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from 16 months of the Tijuana radio station.

You’d get tired of any kind of music, even Bach, if you listened to it at 120 decibels six days a week. Plus, any music with words – even opera or 50’s rock - was going to be a problem for me since I’m trying to write. 

But it wasn’t just the music itself. It was when they’d sing along. At the top of their lungs. Totally off key. I could swear there is something in the Eighth Amendment about “cruel and unusual punishment.”

I texted my neighbor at work about the music pretty much every day for the first few weeks. He’d call the contractor and the music would stop. But the next day it would be back. I really hated to annoy the neighbor about it. As I said, best neighbor ever. He was already tearing his hair out. And besides, it was only going to be “temporary.”

Music torture has been popular with the CIA for decades. If they’ll contact me, I have a play list that I think will elicit confessions in record time.

As for the construction noise itself, I kept reminding myself that I should thank my lucky stars that I don’t have to operate a jack hammer. If there is one thing this remodel convinced me of, there are a lot of really miserable jobs in the construction industry.

But now, other than the landscaping, it’s done. Our lovely neighbor is finally able to enjoy his beautiful new home.

For us, there’s no more construction vehicles semi-blocking our driveway. No 6:30 a.m. deliveries right outside our bedroom window. We could potentially take a nap again.

But now a house right across the street has been sold as a remodel/teardown.  The driveway dumpsters should be arriving anytime.  And so it goes.

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