When the lovely neighbors put their house up for sale, I fretted about who might move in. Good neighbors are worth their weight in gold. Every time prospective buyers pulled up, I surreptitiously watched from my window. I even managed to casually meet some by happening to be outside. The woman who told me about her German Shepherd attack dog with a barking problem: I prayed she didn’t get the house. Then I amended my prayer: may the right person get the house (and may the right person not be that lady—amen).
The previous neighbors were a dream: pleasant, happy to chat, happy not to chat, and they liked our dog. All made more important by the proximity of the houses: intimate. With the windows open, I could hear the neighbors doing their dishes. And when they entered or exited their house, their door closed with a thundering wham. It shook our whole house. The reverberation even caused our bed to give a slight shudder.
I didn’t believe our neighbors were intentional door slammers. The door, of solid steel construction, hangs on an exacting frame. Hefty and solid, I assumed the door itself did the super-fast shut, creating the loud boom. I accepted this noise as unfortunate reality.
Noise pollution is a rising public health issue. We’ve known for years about hearing damage—my mother always cautioned us about listening to earphones too loudly and how, “You know, just one concert can cause significant hearing damage.” But more concerning, and less in our control, is the non-hearing related results of by noise pollution. Thus far noted in studies: emotional impact (from annoyance to anger); sleep disturbances and the subsequent fatigue; increases in high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease; and impaired cognitive function (specifically in school children). (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3988259/)
Despite the distress at our lovely neighbors moving out there has been a pleasure I did not anticipate. Our new neighbors moved in three weeks ago and they do not slam the door. Not a single door slam. Not one. Neither my husband nor I quite knew how disruptive that house-shaking noise was until its absence. It is so peaceful. My nervous system delights at the lack of startling vibration rumbling through it multiple times a day.
Now that I’m aware of this shift, I notice every single time I slam one of my own doors. It’s so easy to do. The garage door requires extra oomph to properly shut; the back-storm door bangs loudly into place; the front door hangs just a bit crooked on its frame and must be tugged exactly right. All of these, I realized, I’d been inadvertently slamming. Constantly.
I have a new practice of closing doors mindfully. Like I’m consciously uncoupling from the needless racket. I’m contributing to the healthy soundscape of my neighborhood. Having grown up rural, I’ve previously thought of being considerate of neighbors, frankly, a hassle. I bemoan having to mow my lawn on a particular schedule or having to wait until reasonable hours to do ruckus-causing household projects. But rather than feeling resentful or restrained in curbing my door habits, I actually feel closer to my community. I’m relieved to be reducing my contribution to our noise pollution. By participating in this small but meaningful way, I’m acknowledging my piece in the whole.