There’s nothing like being lulled to sleep by the dull, incessant vibration of a giant speaker below your bed. (Sounds sexy. Isn’t.) As the unidentifiably generic and unnecessarily loud electronic music pulsates its way into your genetic makeup with a persistence so relentless and repetitive you’re convinced it’s tattooing itself onto your DNA, you decide to give up on sleep and head to the corner store across the street for some cocoa. I’ll read until the bar closes, you tell yourself, and then you’ll have three glorious hours of silent sleep before you have to get up for work. You pull on sweatpants and a parka, and make your way downstairs, only to see that there is NO ONE in the bar except the TWO BARTENDERS, pouring each other drinks and laughing hysterically over the pounding bass. Sadists.
Anyone who’s ever lived above a bar knows what I’m talking about.
For two years, I lived in the perfect apartment on College St. Perfect, except for the fact that every night around 9 pm, the worst kind of “party-sexy-lounge” music would creep through the floorboards. Actually, creep is the wrong word. The sound was much more aggressive. And then they hired a DJ. And things got louder. And then there was the Oasis cover band on Thursdays. And the back patio where I once overheard a girl invite a guy home by bragging about her extensive collection of Halloween masks. By the time we moved out, they would frequently have the music turned up so loud that they wouldn’t hear the phone when we called to ask them to turn it down. Seriously, they weren’t ignoring us, they just couldn’t hear it.
The worst part of living above a bar (other than the lack of sleep) is that you feel like such a square. (Who even says square any more?) You’re constantly torn between your desire for rest (OH MY GOD I’M JUST SO TIRED) and your desire not to be that neighbour, the echoes of that guy in residence who would politely poke his head into the common room at 10:30 every night and ask, with a neck-out head-bob, if “You could keep it down, guys! After all,some of us plan on going to 8 am class!” (Apologies to that guy, wherever he is.) (Probably making more money than me.) The problem is, you can see it from the bar’s perspective. You understand why they want to keep the music loud, because working a long shift sucks, especially when it’s slow, and you’ve got to keep yourself awake somehow. And it’s a small business. And everyone loves small business! And shouldn’t this be just like How I Met Your Mother? So who cares, really, if they’re not technically zoned to have music on after 11 pm, and you fell asleep on the streetcar yesterday? Just turn your fan up as loud as it wil go, clamp some headphones on and TRY TO IGNORE THE FACT THAT YOUR BED FEELS LIKE AN OVERSIZED NOKIA CELL PHONE ON VIBRATE.
The thing about not sleeping, as anyone will tell you, is it makes you crazy. In a 2000 City of Toronto study on the health effects of noise, researchers found that “Noise is more than just a nuisance since it constitutes a real and present danger to people’s health.” Noise has many strange effects on the body. “Some of these health effects include increased risk for cardiovascular disease, negative effects on sleep, communication, performance and behaviour, reading and memory acquisition, and mental health.” So while I’m willing to admit that throwing a rotting potato onto the back patio of the bar downstairs may not have been an entirely rational reaction on the part of myself and my roommates, (that was a good day) at least our constant exposure to noise was medically sanctioned as MORE THAN JUST A NUISANCE! And as much as you try to tell yourself that the cheap rent, great location, and free shots when you go downstairs to read the gas meter are worth it, as soon as the bar decides to serve a shitty version of brunch and the staff are waking you up at 7:30 am, that all goes out the window, and you’re scrambling furiously for your cell phone to text the owner.
After we left that apartment, a series of friends moved in, one after the other. When the last of them were finally fleeing last summer, a group of past residents gathered in the kitchen at their going away party, and to the extreme confusion of the other party guests, jumped up and down as hard as we could, spilling drinks and yelling at the top of our lungs. We may have looked crazy, but oh, we felt good.
(By the way, here’s all the info on filing noise complaints in the City of Toronto.)