I’m reading a wonderfully insightful book, called Story Proof: the science behind the startling power of story by Kendall Haven. I recommend it to anyone that deals with children. One of the things Haven mentions in his book is how narrative writing is all about character. At times when I share stories with my son I ask him which character from the past would he like to learn about, someone from my past or someone from his? Lately it’s made me think more and more about a number of characters that I recall from my life. Today’s theme is “Noise” and here are some of those unforgettable characters:
When I was in Elementary school, our bus stop was just outside the basement of our apartment building. Early every weekday morning there were about 3 or 4 of us that waited for the school bus. Our parents let us wait by ourselves. We were an active bunch of kids so while we waited for the bus we tended to goof around and be very loud. Most people that lived in our apartment complex didn’t mind our noise at all, at least they never complained. There is always an exception to every rule and ours was Mr. Klein. Mr. Klein lived on the 4th floor of our apartment building with a window that just overlooked the area that we kids waited. He also worked nights, so come around 6:00 in the morning he was just getting to bed. By 8:00 a.m. he would have been sound asleep had it not been for the fact that there was a rowdy group of kids four stories below his window making what for him must have sounded like Armageddon. He was not a happy camper. Countless times he would stick his head out of his window to hail us with threats of police action if we didn’t desist. We usually adhered to his requests. At one time he even threw eggs at us from his window. We never were hit by one, but it certainly made us more aware of his needs. Being aware of his needs and actually complying with his desires, never really sunk in on a permanent basis for we had to be reminded of his work schedule at least once a week.
Throwing eggs and yelling did have a way of communicating with us about the noise we made. I had another set of neighbors that lived in the apartment underneath ours who devised a different strategy. I never had any trouble bouncing around my apartment when I wanted to have fun. Whether it be running back and forth or just playing action games, I played little attention to my surroundings. There were times that friends and even family would play in my room a game called Sockey. This game involved a rolled up pair of socks (sometimes taped over completely, sometimes just the rolled pair) and either feet or hockey sticks. Basically the rolled up socks or Sockey puck was a replacement for a soccer ball or a hockey puck. We would set up two goals and the game would begin. We followed the rules of the game we were mimicking. Needless to say it usually involved a bit of stamping around. Unbeknownst to us, the people who lived on the floor beneath us could hear every stomp through the ceiling in their apartment. They too tended not to be happy campers. They could have called my parents up on the telephone; they could have even just walked up one flight of stairs to our house and complain directly. Instead they used the equivalent of Morse code on their ceiling using a broomstick handle. We heard the pounding on the floor from the tenants below followed by the yells from my parents and the message was delivered, “Quiet down”.
I find the perspective of looking back on each of these people and incidents as an adult interesting. At the time I had no perception of what it must have been like for them. Now as an adult I can see it from a totally different point of view. I’m pretty sure I would not have acted the same as they did, but you never know. Either way it makes a great story to share.