Dear Rick, I’m your new neighbor… and I live here now also.

It was 10:45PM and we were on the leather sofa with the forest scented candles lit. The glass table and wooden coasters held our glasses of wine like a picture perfect stock photo for West Elm. We were watching Black Hawk Down on the 70" 4K television, with a decent but not over the top 3 piece computer speaker set-up attached.

The doorbell rang in the midst of the helicopters coming in for rescue and in a confusion my girlfriend and I stared at each other dumbfounded. Who could this be at this late an hour besides our neighbor from below? I’ve been watching the movie all night with the remote in my hand to control the sound of any turbulent scenes. Hi Rick.

I’ve mentioned before that Rick isn’t a bad guy. I’m learning who he is and about his lifestyle every occasion I get while holding conferences at my front door. Rick is a 45 year oldish white guy, average height and about 160 lbs. soak and wet. He wears sandals with his pants. Plays the cello. His wife is possibly a bit older. Asian. And sings opera. The races don’t matter — but I’d like to Michelangelo this shit for you with my paint brush.

You see, my girlfriend and I have newly entered a beautiful co-op building in a metro-like area. We’ve met Rick before as he’s come upstairs to educate us to our carpet percentage (most co-ops require 70–80% to absorb sounds and creaks) and how thin the floors are. On our previous meeting we talked about the bass rumbling through the floor. I also covered my notes on how self aware and conscious I am that other neighbors exist so I: play music at moderate levels, don’t blare the TV at late hours and only watch it in the living room while getting ready to sleep as to not affect his bedroom below, walk on my toes at night, don’t run my dishwasher past 10 as often as possible, and even the fact that I padded my sub woofer on the main TV to absorb any extra rumbling.

I think these things are pretty damn above and beyond, but I don’t live my life to have a slighted point of view.

A really, really, really rough floor layout.

Rick lives right below me and his floor plan is exactly the same. The person who lived here before me didn’t stay in the apartment too much as he worked 48 hour shifts with 24 hours off. This sounds like the previous owner here was an ideal person to have living above you. The floors creak because this is a prewar building (built before WWII) and they aren’t very thick. This is also part of what you’ve signed up for in a co-op, and we’re used to it.

I invited Rick inside and asked my girlfriend to put the TV back on at the level we were watching it at. I wanted Rick to see how ridiculous he sounded saying that the “Video Game” I was playing was too loud and how the bass was literally vibrating his chandelier in the hallway. I’d like to see his chandelier because it must have several thousand chimes on it.

Rick plays his cello during the day mostly to keep his skills polished. Go for it dude. Rick has 4 direct neighbors that can hear him play, possibly 5–8 depending on how far his vibrations make it diagonally. I don’t mind his playing, because I support the arts, but even more — his neighbors don’t mind either. In our meeting I decided to bring up the fact that he plays his cello all week and that no one minds. He reconfirmed with me that everyone knows he plays and they are ok with it.

illustration by Saurabh Singh.

What I didn’t bring up with Rick is the reason why everyone is ok with it. When you sign up to live in a co-op, you sign up for thin walls. You sign up to have neighbors also live in the same building above, below, in front, and in back of you. You hear their cabinets close. You hear their cutting board chopping celery and carrots for the frying pan. I’m accepting of our living situation as the gentleman above me is accepting that he has someone walking around above his head as well — and he’s ok with it. We didn’t sign up for Rick to be a cello player and practice all week long, but we accept it — we don’t beg for it.

On the way out Rick also let me know that he knows I have a cat and he does his best to ignore it. Yes. The cat occasionally will run from front to back of the apartment through the hallway. Yes. I am searching for a long enough carpet for the hall. Yes. It will be found soon. Yes. It is as annoying for you as it is for me, but my cat runs back and forth for hours less per week than you practice playing the cello.

Rick retreated from our meeting afterwards. I think Rick understands I’m not trying to be combative, not trying to be a dick, and that I understand what he’s going through. But we need to train Rick into the other end of co-op living, having neighbors that actually occupy the apartment.

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