It's possible to get 27 minutes of sleep in my apartment. For 27 minutes a night there is quiet. The bars have closed, my neighbors have gone to bed, and the construction crew for the condominium going up next door has yet to start the day.
I live half a block up from M Street in Georgetown. I like Georgetown; it's convenient to the offerings of the city. It's so convenient that when The Coasters were in town last winter I didn't have to wait in line in the cold to get into the club to see them. I could hear them, two shows a night, from my bedroom.
The early morning hours, which I used to spend sleeping and spend thinking and listening, have given me a whole range of sociological data, which I offer free of charge to a prospective Ph.D. specializing in the psychology of nocturnal behavior.
Did you know that people leaving bars and rock clubs at 1:30 a.m. communicate exclusively by shriek? Boisterous laughter and strings of expletives are used only before midnight, presumably when the higher cerebral centers are still functioning. Of course, there may be a sort of early morning mating call that I don't know about. The masculine YaaHAAaaaa is frequently answered by a chorus of feminine IIIiiiieeeeeees. And for those moments when larynxes fail, these revelers find recourse in prolonged blasts of the car horn.
I've also discovered an interesting sociological phenomenon: "Devil With a Blue Dress" has replace "Goodnight Irene" as the song signaling the end of an evening's entertainment.
Thanks to my attentiveness there is now scientific confirmation of two givens of human behavior: Students type their papers late at night while listening to the stereo; and people who work nights watch television and go to the bathroom frequently before going to sleep.
The latter I discovered from my downstairs neighbor, who gets home from his job as a chef just about the time things have quieted down after the mass exodus from the bars.
He's an agreeable fellow, though. If I bang on the floor with an unabridged dictionary 20 or 30 times, he turns the television down to subsonic levels.
His bathroom habits were revealed indirectly. At frequent intervals my apartment would be briefly shaken with the force of King Kong assailing the Empire State Building. During one particularly long and heavy siege, I telephoned downstairs to ask if he was using heavy machinery. It turns out the problem is a faulty fan that goes on with the bathroom light. It's driving him crazy, too.
The students next door are a tougher case. As a former hard-core practitioner of the all-night term paper session, I was not about to ask them to stop typing. I even like the Beach Boys. But when they started playing John Denver (an inspiration for a metaphysics course, perhaps?), I was forced to ask for relief. Unfortunately, the same dictionary, this time applied to the wall, doesn't work with them -- they just think it's a strong bass line.
I've tried to convince myself that when I make my late-night forays next door dressed in sneakers, nightgown and raincoat I look like I'm headed for some decadent Georgetwon party. Punk, maybe?
Eventually, of course, all the activity stops and the neighborhood is at peace . . . for 27 minutes. Did you know it's possible to incorporate the sound of a jackhammer into one's dream? (But not very often.)
After I signed the lease, my landlord told me that the parking lot behind the building was scheduled to be replaced by condominiums. I was assured, however, that he had an agreement with the construction company. I found out later that he had agreement that the parking lot could be replaced by condominiums.
It's not as if I haven't tried quietly to improve my situation. I've invested in several sets of earplugs and keep a pile of the little blobs stuck to my nightstand. I get a lot of incredulous looks from guests who come upon them stuck there, but no one's yet dared to ask what they are.
Wearing earplugs, I've discovered, enables you to hear your own pulse. And since I began living a half a block off M Street mine has been elevated considerably.