Dear Prudence: I live in an apartment in a large city. My elderly neighbor has started playing the tuba and never stops. He isn't talented and blasts out the same few notes over and over for hours at a time. He never leaves the house, so tuba playing ends up being a constant possibility.
I work from home seven days a week on my Ph.D. I don't have an office on campus, and I can't carry all my dissertation books to the library to get peace. I understand that I have no control or say in what other people do in their home, but is it appropriate to talk with him? If so, what should I say?
Prudence says: Here's one for you:
Q: "What's the difference between a chain saw and a tuba?"
A: "Some people enjoy listening to a chainsaw."
I got this from an entire page of tuba jokes that I'm sure you'll now find even less funny than you would have before your neighbor took up his musical passion.
Talk about a cry for help. I'm wondering if this poor guy is trapped somewhere and what you're thinking is a tuba concert is his desperate attempt to signal for an ambulance.
You need to go over and talk to your neighbor. Sure he could blow you off, but a civil conversation might bring relief. Arrive with a box of chocolates or some such, explain you're a poor graduate student who needs quiet to do work, and ask if he could limit the hours of his practice.
If that doesn't help, it could be that the constant honking is violating a local sound ordinance, so call the police. If there are other neighbors who are home during these Grateful Dead-length marathons who would feel grateful to be dead rather than have to listen to any more, maybe you could all get together and buy this guy a piccolo.
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