I have a long history of lying in bed and plotting revenge.
I remember university nights spent listening to housemates thump, bump and generally do fun things without me. All I really wanted to do was sleep. Instead, I seethed. If seething were a major, I’d have been on the Dean’s List.
I couldn’t just knock on their door and say, “Would you mind?” University is a dog-eat-dog world, and complaining would have made me a target, and next thing you know my room would have been filled with shaving cream, garbage and half-eaten dog.
Later, Deb and I had noisy apartment neighbours in Montreal. I remember lying there one night listening to the human laugh-track in the apartment above.
“I should go up there and tell them to knock it off,” I grumbled to Deb.
A little while later: “I thought you said you were going up.”
“I said I should go up…”
In recent years, my own children have made the racket, joined by cousins, neighbours and their dear friend Alcohol.
Yelling at them (as I have done) doesn’t go over well domestically. Instead I invested in earplugs. They help tune out the noise of the partying below and allow me to fall asleep, only to startle awake later wondering, “What the hell’s in my ears!”
To be fair, there have been times when I have been at the jerk end of the noise-making spectrum. I’ve even been a noisy camper. (Alcohol, you never took a vacation.) But I forget these times; while one lies seething, hypocrisy sleeps.
Last weekend, we camped at Brighton State Park in Vermont. Our neighbours were two young couples from Quebec. Their fire pit was very close to ours, so we chatted separately into the evening, us in English, them in French, both of us pretending the others weren’t there. The difference was that they had drinks. We had s’mores. They played music. We played cards.
Their loud talk and music continued after Quiet Hours began at 10. When our gang went to bed at around 10:30, I thought maybe they’d notice our doused lights and they would douse the music and bursts of laughter. They did not. And I could not sleep.
I seethed. I put the pillow over my head and muffle-seethed. I stuck my fingers in my ear and tried to go to sleep, but only my hand did. I’ll give them until midnight, I told myself, seethingly.
I must have dozed off because next thing I knew I was being awakened by laughter. It was 12:07. The loud talk and music were still going. I threw off my covers and unzipped the tent.
“Excusez-moi,” I called out. “C’est maintenant après minuit. Les heures tranquilles ont commencé à dix heures.”
There was silence. Probably they were trying to figure out what the hell was “les heures tranquilles.” A heavily accented voice said, “Sorry about dat,” and then it grew quiet.
I returned to the tent, amazed at myself, mostly for speaking passable angry French after midnight. I crawled back into bed, expecting to be hailed a hero.
“Didn’t you bring earplugs?” Deb asked.
The next day, I expected one of the neighbours to say, “Hey, sorry again about the noise. We had an unexpected visit from our dear friend Alcohol.” Instead, they had their breakfast, avoided eye contact and left for the day.
The story should end there, right where I like it, with me being the superior human. But the couples returned that evening, still not acknowledging us, and once again ending their evening around the campfire. Only this time they were subdued, while our gang was loud, sometimes too loud. (Abby’s friend: “How exactly did you tell them to be quiet?” Me: “Shhhhh!”)
At 9:30, even before Quiet Hours, they started readying for bed. (Lightweights…) It was our turn to be quiet. And it was freaking me out.
“Not so loud,” I told the girls.
“We’re just talking.”
“I know but… just… talk quietly.”
The worst thing – the very worst thing – would be to give the neighbours, still reeling from my smackdown, a reason to come out of their tent and say in English, “Excuse me, it is now past 10 o’clock. The hours of quiet are begin.”
Seething and sleepless are bad enough. Hypocritical and humiliated I can’t do.
At 10:15, I stretched and said, “Who’s ready to brush their teeth?” Amazingly, they were. I shooed and shooshed our party to the bathroom and back, then got everyone into their sleeping bags and off to sleep without any complaints from either site.
I slept the sleep of the smug.
Oh, boy, Ross. I would have been you serving the reprimand, for sure, only in English or maybe in halting Spanish.
I slept the sleep of the smug. Thank you. You are my hero now, I’m more ways than one. We won! See!
God, I hate complaining though. It’s so… uncool.
Smug as a bug. That’s what I’ve been missing all my life.
My comment should have appeared at the bottom, not here.
Works for me.
That’s nice, right? Smug as a bug. Let’s get matching tattoos!
I know, you’re bumming my high, old guy. How you say that in French?
“Tu me déprimes.” (Don’t get too impressed; I had to ask.)
Smug as a bug. Good slogan for an all-hemp eco-camping company.
You’d know your neighbors were Canadian, with “Sorry about that,” Americans would probably say something obscene and crank up the Waylon Jennings on their truck speakers. One of the old folks liked to quote the Wisdom of Solomon, especially the sections about camping, and I liked the part with the singing of birds & the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. I hear that’s a mistranslation, but it seems to me, everything in the woods likes to make noise at night. Doves, owls, coyotes, propane tanks left next to the campfire, creaking trees & freaking creek, etc. and for all I know, the turtles do sing. I actually like “Happy Together” a lot.
I would never speak up in the U.S. I’d be worried they’d be packing. In Canada, “open carry” means walking around with a Molson.
Good one. Although I find Molson to be pretty lethal, at least the aftertaste.
But you were in the U.S. or did Vermont secede again? They already split from New York, I knew Bernie was working on something
Good ol’ Vermont.
perhaps if you had looked into a bit of canadian history, you would have remembered the ‘poutine accord’ of ’87? it made all the difference when relations with the czech republic were a bit prickly. next time, bring out the poutine and share it ’round the fire. you are sure to have quick results.
Campfire poutine, the new s’mores, and just as good in theory as it is often disappointing in fact.
Good title for a book: “While One Lies Seething, Hypocrisy Sleeps.”
Sounds like a translation of a Japanese novel.
I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of that stick. Now we tend to limit our camping trips to Spring and Fall to avoid the loud crowds. We joke about how much we love camping with all those sedate “old” people, as if…
Old is the new not-so-old.
And just in time!
People who play loud music don’t give a damn about Quiet Hours. Even in the middle of nowhere you’ll find these types. Unavoidable.
Did you like living in Montreal? We were away for a week. On the way back, the highway sign said I could turn left and go to Montreal or right and go to New Jersey. Tough call.
I love Montreal. It’s got a great warmth and lots of character. It’s permanently under construction, though, and getting in and out is miserable. Who builds a city on an island!