Carolyn Hax: How to help a neighbor watch her step

Carolyn Hax
Columnist December 12, 2012

Hi, Carolyn:

My boyfriend and I recently began renting a condo. Our neighbor upstairs, “Kathy,” has very squeaky floors. She’s not always barefoot nor is she a light stepper.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

While I understand no one can be quiet all the time, I have been up, listening to her walk through her room since 5:45 a.m. I began counting — 118 times she crossed the room. In an hour.

How do I tell her to please be more considerate? Given our one previous interaction, I get the feeling Kathy could be very dismissive of my opinion.

Sleepless in Annapolis


As she should be, albeit with the utmost civility and sympathy for your plight.

Why? Because you’re not asking her to restrict her hopscotching hippo rehearsals to daylight hours; you’re presuming to dictate how, when and how frequently she walks through her apartment.

How would you respond to a neighbor who asked you to walk less? “No problem, I’ll just remain perched upon these here pillows”?

It’s not rare, what you’re going through — the discovery that not all apartments were built recently or well. It’s also a raw deal, does ruin sleep, and does always seem to come right after you’ve invested hard work, emotion and cash in establishing a new home.

But none of these needs to be Kathy’s problem, nor should much of it become her problem in her new role as easiest entity to blame.

What you can do is take your own noise-reduction measures, starting with the obvious earplugs and working your way up. If nothing works, then you can approach Kathy — not to blame her, but instead to invite her sympathy and cooperation. “I realize it’s an old/squeaky building, and a person needs to be able to walk around without worrying about her downstairs neighbor” — a concept you really, really must embrace to pull this off — “but my ceiling and your floor have a noise problem, so I’m wondering if there’s anything you’d be willing to try . . . slippers? Rug (which I contribute toward)?” Invite her to come listen while your boyfriend walks upstairs.

However you choose to handle it, make sure it’s a way you’d respond to sympathetically if you were in Kathy’s place. If you come at this only from your perspective, then you all but force her to defend hers.

Dear Carolyn:

My ex and I broke up a few months ago. I was finally starting to feel better, then I found out from Facebook he is dating someone else. I’m shocked and hurt. He was telling me the week before he still missed me. I don’t understand how he could be dating someone so fast.

Everyone has told me it’s just a rebound and it doesn’t mean anything, but it makes me feel worthless and that our relationship meant nothing.

Is dating a new person immediately after breaking up an awful thing to do, and what does it say about the old relationship?

D.

It says nothing about the old relationship except that it’s over, and that’s information you already had.

It might be a rebound; it might be for good. He can miss you and still date. There’s no relief available to you in these details; you’ll find it only by tending to your recovery and letting him tend to his. I’m sorry.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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