My New Neighbor

Monday, I was settling in to do some editing, when I heard a noise that sounded a lot like a jackhammer off in the distance. I figured it would stop, but it didn’t. It felt like every time I started to type, the noise started again. Twenty-minutes later, I was starting to lose it. I walked to the other side of the house, and it got louder. It sounded closer than I’d originally thought, and less like a jackhammer. More like someone drilling metal.

I walked around the house (followed by my canine entourage) muttering “What the hell is Mrs. Gnome doing?” and cursing our house, our neighborhood, and lawn ornaments in general. I presumed that this was another bout of insane Gnome gardening. Maybe she was making some kind of bizarre hubcap altar for Water Jug Jesus? Sometimes, I’ve seen her head into the garden with a pick axe, and then I hear the sound of metal clanking on rock for the next two hours. Maybe she’d upgraded to a power tool?

My blood was boiling. I know the world isn’t going to be quiet for me just because I’m editing my book, but my neighborhood is full of retirees who devote inordinate amounts of time to making crazy noises outside (and covering every surface of the outdoors with carcinogen laden lawn chemicals, but that’s another story for another day) and it just gets old. It’s a raw nerve that is repeatedly poked. Some days, I want to stand in the front yard and yell “Your lawn doesn’t matter! Volunteer at the children’s hospital. Knit hats for the homeless. Deliver for Meals on Wheels. Start a book club. Develop a gambling habit. Do something productive (and quiet) with your time!” Some days, I think J worries I will.

Last week, my work was interrupted by my across the street neighbor gleefully sending the remains of a hedge through a wood chipper. FOR FOUR HOURS. After spending way too much time trying (unsuccessfully) to get visions of Steve Buscemi out of my head, I decided to go to the library to work, only to be interrupted there by a girl TALKING ON HER CELL PHONE IN THE LIBRARY and two boys looking at boobs in old issues of National Geographic.

I had been hoping for a few quiet days before everyone starts mowing their lawns ad infinitum, but there was Mrs. Gnome ruining the last few mower-free days by drilling metal. I stormed around the house working up the nerve to go outside and ask her if she could please drill metal some other time, except, after checking out her yard from the window, it didn’t look like she was outside.

The noise seemed to be happening at regular intervals. I could anticipate the next round of the drilling noise correctly most of the time. And as I walked around the house some more, I realized it sounded like the drilling noise was coming from the basement.

In the basement bathroom, I located the source of the sound (or at least, I thought I had). It was an air duct. I hit it hard with my fist and the sound stopped. I felt like an ass. Even though Mrs. Gnome didn’t know I’d been walking around my house blaming her for everything that had ever gone wrong in my life, I felt guilty.

All week, the noise would start and stop mysteriously. I did endless Google searches on “drilling noise in air duct,” and “jackhammer ductwork,” and any other combo that might describe the sound and the source. I joked on Facebook and Twitter that it sounded like there was a woodpecker in the ductwork. I decided the sound was caused by the recent drastic temperature changes and the wooden beams expanding, and that it happened when the heat kicked on, or was about to kick on, or had been on recently. I decided this was a reasonable explanation, and I put it in my head that J and I would look into ways to muffle the vibrations of the duct sometime over the weekend.

But then, yesterday, when the noise started up, J said it really sounded like it was coming from outside. We counted between the drillings the way you count out thunder and lightening and determined that it wasn’t happening at even intervals. Sometimes it took ten beats, sometimes nine, sometimes twelve. J slapped the bathroom window. The noise stopped. Something fluttered outside.

I ran outside, but I didn’t see anything. Then, I heard an awful cackle coming from the roof. I looked up to see our new neighbor, Mr. Woodpecker, staring down at me with his creepy black bird eyes. After doing some research, I discovered that woodpeckers like to peck on metal when looking for a mate because it makes a louder noise than wood does. This guy, it appears, has been hitting the air vents on the roof and side of the house (which is why the noise sounded like it was coming from different places all the time). When he pecks at one of the vents, it vibrates through the ducts and sounds like it’s coming from the basement, when he pecks at a different vent, it sounds like it’s coming from Mrs. Gnome’s yard.

This morning, I woke up to what sounded like someone drilling from inside our walls. I ran outside in my pj’s, barefoot to yell at the woodpecker. He stared at me from the roof, and I swear he laughed at me. I fear Mr. Woodpecker will never find a mate and go away. He’s obviously a bastard. Who would want him? I can only hope there’s a female woodpecker with low self-esteem trolling our neighborhood.