The noise-sensitive writer and the Basketball of Doom

The perfect neighbor next door is a huge problem.

He has a lovely family.

They visit ALL the time, have family celebrations for every possible event.

The grandchildren visit—almost every day after school—and get to know each other and their grandparents.

In fact, is it exactly the big happy extended family I grew up in: lots of kids, adults playing with them, cheering them on, always in watchful attendance lest the kids get on anyone else’s lawn.

Love/hate relationship

I envy them.

And I hate them.

These two statements are NOT related: I don’t hate them because I envy them, though OUR offspring 1) haven’t produced even a wedding between them (and I honestly don’t care if they ever do—it is entirely their own business. I tell them so repeatedly, and I mean it), and 2) won’t be near enough (sob!) for us to see them regularly if and when they do, as they are unlikely to live within geographically convenient distance of each other or of us.

I hate the wonderful neighbors because they are NOISY. (And no, not because the many extra people park in front of our house on the very tiny bit of street we have. Really.)

Noise – suburban necessary noise?

Not only because of the industrial-strength gas-powered leaf blower (which is brought out before each and every family gathering so remove each and every gumball from the lawn, and remove each single leaf). And EVERY evening, even when dark and covered with snow (the leaves from the oaks and the gumballs from the sweetgums sit on top of the snow – the trees cheerfully release them all winter long) after the neighbor gets home from work.

Not only because of the interminable lawn-mowing – let that poor grass get more than a quarter of an inch tall and it might fight the weeds off better!

Not only because of the endless tree-trimming – several days a year, at even higher levels of cutting noise and chipping machines.

But because of the Basketball of Doom.

The offspring

They have many grandsons. Three or four dozen, from the noise level. I think I’ve seen at least one granddaughter – poor kid.

But one of the little tykes is absolutely relentless with that ball. Bump. Bump. Bump. For hours. Right outside my window (when they aren’t seeking it in my flower beds – relatively rare, thank God!). In the street – which is why their extra cars are parked in front of MY house: the basketball area must remain free. Bump. Bump. Bump.

He is good, I’ll grant you that. VERY good. That basketball shoots up at least three times higher than he is, and into the basket a goodly percentage of the time. Maybe a third, maybe more. His little cousins – bless their little hearts – and his big cousins and the grownups, are not as good. So there are spaces between their bumps. Which doesn’t make it any better.

But the tyke is good. Bump. Bump. Bump. Throw – hit rim or basket with loud bump. Bump. Bump. Bump. Throw – hit rim or basket with loud bump. Amazingly, he is perfectly generous, and shares. So the pattern alternates with the slower one. Unless he’s alone. It takes PRACTICE to get that good. RELENTLESS practice. When does the kid have time to read, I ask you?


I know part of it is my fault. For living. For having CFS and brain fog that won’t let me automatically block out noise. For not living in a bunker somewhere. Underground.

I won’t mention the laughing. That is ‘happy noise.’

And when it isn’t basketball, it is the skateboard. For which grandpappy has put up a ramp…  The swishing sound of wheels on macadam. The swishing sounds of wheels on a short wooden ramp. Large Bump! as it comes off. The swishing sound of wheels on macadam… You get the picture.

I love those happy little kids. My mother never minded happy noise.

And now they are playing baseball. Crack of bat! Yelling. Bump bump bump of the little ball in the street. Repeat. Again.

I reach for my industrial-strength noise protection gear WITH earplugs. I listen instead to the quiet regular sound of my own heartbeat in my ears. It gets down to a slow regular rhythm reasonably quickly.

I thank God that my hearing is still excellent. I can write again.

Yours sincerely,

Person turning into old curmudgeon.

P.S. Honestly, if it weren’t practically every day…

P. P. S. They have finished eating. Bump. Bump. Bump. He must be about 7. It is many long years before he goes to college…

P. P. P. S. They also chase the hummingbirds away – the cute little things don’t like the noise or the closeness of the little tykes, either.

Happy comments?


18 thoughts on “The noise-sensitive writer and the Basketball of Doom

  1. Marlene Cullen

    Hi Alicia, I can relate. At the last place we lived, the neighbors had teenage boys. Their basketball pole/hoop was attached to our side fence, which was attached to our house. So glad to no longer be living there.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I can only imagine your pain! And yet I hate to suggest active children stop moving. Even though I was the nose-in-a-book type, my mother made sure to kick us outside on our bikes and roller skates.


  2. Brian B. King (BKnovelist)

    OMG! Alicia, you are so funny. I feel your happy-pain, if there is such a thing. It took me a while to figure out why my neighborhood was so quiet when I first moved there in 2004. All of the present teenagers were little kids. It will be quiet again in another 10-15 years, but I don’t want to be in my present neighborhood in another 10-15 years. Hopefully I will have a nice piece of property with some space and a sound proof house. 😳 😜


  3. Widdershins

    We have seasonal noise tsunamis … half the houses in our little cul-de-sac here on WIdder Island are summer cottages so it’s blissfully peaceful, (just us curmudgeonly hermits) but come the summer there are hordes of ’em traipsing down to the lake loaded with bizarre looking flotation devices, towels, deck chairs and cooler bins. Kayaks and speed boats are next, and then there’s the summer music, late night parties (how dare they keep enjoying themselves loudly until 11pm – the official ‘shut the f**k up’ time)
    Oh and then there’s the lawnmowing tsunami. Have you ever noticed that once one male gets out there with his mower, every other male within hearing must immediately leap into action similarly? Must be one of those strange ‘size matters’ rituals!


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      That’s funny. On our cul-de-sac, they take turns. Never two at once – it extends the noise so much better if they take turns, giving you a few minutes in between for you to hope for normality.

      I think there’s a secret men’s group that plans it.

      PS I used to do my share of the mowing back when I could walk well – I tried to do it simultaneously.

      Or better still, during the week.


  4. serendipitydoit

    You certainly painted the picture, bump, bump, bump. Happy noises are great, if you’re in a good mood. Our neighbours across the very narrow cul-de-sac street have a huge camper van which makes it difficult manoeuvring our car out of the carport. They are always coming and going, loading and unloading. Our direct neighbour has a mini-truck load of logs delivered to his driveway and chops and chops continuously. We have a dog who barks at every passerby, but he is sixteen now and is going deaf, and I’m sure my boys were pretty rambunctious when they were growing up. I suppose it all balances out in the end. Some people are more sensitive to noise. The other night I had a friend over and she walked around saying, ‘what’s that buzzing noise?’ I hadn’t even noticed the fridge was purring along, doing its thing. But if I pay attention now I can hear it…and the birdsong, although the windows are closed. Oh yes, and the dog grunting.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Isn’t it funny how you can be blissfully ignorant of some noises – until someone mentions them? And then you are stuck. Forever?

      I found out by accident that if I go out and weed very close to the noisy neighbor, he doesn’t bring out the gas-powered leaf-blower – if I’m sitting there with my headgear on.

      We have never spoken about it – they are otherwise perfectly good neighbors – and we have lived here in peace and harmony since 1981.


  5. juliabarrett

    You’re so very lucky you don’t live next door to us. We play German shepherd basketball at least three times a day. Bump. Bump. Bump. Yeah, kids are noisy. I’ve always been able to tune that out. What I cannot tune out is loud shrill drunken shrieking. That’s what we must endure from the people living behind us. They are why I miss living in the country.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Is the country really quieter? Or is it just the absence of close HUMAN noise?

      If I lived next door to you – which I would find fascinating – I would keep the Headgear at the ready.

      I really don’t mind the happy noise – once I block it out, I go back to my curmudgeonly writing, or my required nap-taking – and survive just fine.

      The hummingbirds will come back later for their sips.

      Children, especially happy children, are a blessing (and happy German shepherds who play basketball). Noise happens. I’m inordinately sensitive.


      1. juliabarrett

        The country is way quieter – wind noise, weather noise, animal noise. No drunken shrieking. I would prefer that…
        Yes, you need noise canceling headphones!


      2. Sandra Manning

        I’m here in Vermont, in the middle of the country, and most of the time, yes, it is much quieter. Periodically someone in the neighborhood will be cutting trees or building a shed, but nothing’s so close that it is loud. We can see nothing from our house but fields and trees. My neighbor who plows my drive has a farm – but he also has 100 acres and the area closest to me is just woods. The birds can be annoying at 6 a.m., but they’re annoying everywhere.


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Silly little birds – they want their breakfast. Your house in Vermont always sounds so lovely.

          I keep my headgear at hand because the ‘happy noise’ here can be almost every day, and of course they play basketball before and after the meal. OTOH, it’s a reminder I still have all my hearing!


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