I’m going crazy listening to the rambunctious toddler who lives upstairs from me. Working from home is nearly impossible. How do I stop this living nightmare?
Etiquette tips on how to interact in today’s world. Have a question for Mister Manners? Send your queries to email@example.com and look for replies in the coming weeks.
CAUSING A COMMOTION
Q: My upstairs neighbors have an energetic two-year-old who spends his day knocking things over. With both of his parents working from home and daycare closed, I know they have their hands full. But I’m working from home, too, and frankly, I can’t concentrate with all of the upturned toy boxes, bookshelves and tricycles pounding on my ceiling like a hailstorm of heavy objects. Is there a way of addressing this matter that won’t offend his parents?
A: As so many of us continue to work from home, and with innumerable companies suggesting it will be quite some time before employees are invited back to their offices, it’s essential that you and your neighbors work out a solution. With noise issues, in particular, I often find that apartment dwellers don’t ever bring their concerns to the offending party. Instead, they resort to measures such as abusing the ceiling with broomsticks. Others prefer a subtler approach, cranking up a song like Mastadon’s Curl of the Burl.
I don’t recommend either tactic. Though if you’re a metal fan stuck in a multifamily dwelling, feel free to blast whatever playlist gets you through your day — providing you’re listening on a good pair of headphones, of course.
With the understanding that conversations with neighbors carry their own potential for awkwardness at this time, I would put on a mask, knock on their door and, from six feet away, as nicely as you can, mention that there seems to be a bit of noise coming from their apartment. Since you’re WFH as they are, advise them that anything they can do to diminish the decibels would be greatly appreciated. If they plead powerlessness when it comes to reining in their high-energy tyke, a sound-dampening rug may help. For good measure, offer that if noise from your apartment ever bothers them, you hope they’ll let you know immediately so you can address the din.
By your taking the high road they will not be on the defensive, and chances will be greater they’ll work to reduce the pandemonium. If all else fails, remember: the terrible twos are not forever. And though it may feel this way, neither is the quarantine.
WHAT’S UP WITH THAT, DOC?
Q: Last week, I accompanied a friend to an orthopedist appointment and was stunned by what we encountered. Although the other patients in the waiting room were appropriately covered — as were we — the receptionist wore neither a mask nor gloves. Even more alarming, when it was our time to see the doctor, he entered the treatment room maskless and gloveless, and even tried to shake our hands. Just as I thought things couldn’t get worse, he initiated a conversation about how Sweden’s casual approach to the pandemic has kept their economy intact. Maddening! When it’s time for her next appointment, how should my friend broach the topic of safety precautions (not to mention politics) with this doctor and his staff?
A: In all seriousness…next appointment? If his concern for the respiratory health of his patients is this cavalier, I shudder to ponder his standards for ensuring their bone health. Even if he is a leader in his field, what good is it to arrive at his office with a fractured clavicle only to leave as a carrier of COVID-19?
If for whatever reason this particular specialist is your friend’s only option (e.g., he is the leading medical practitioner for a rare condition or the only one within 100 miles of her home who accepts her insurance), I suggest she put these concerns to the doctor in an email, referring him to American Medical Association guidelines on this issue. If he balks or simply ignores her requests, I would report him to the AMA and without question find another doctor.
Make no bones about it: It should be easy enough to find a new practitioner who actually believes in the Hippocratic Oath.
Mister Manners, Thomas P. Farley, is a nationally regarded expert who appears regularly in the media to discuss modern-day etiquette dilemmas — from how to split a check fairly to how to get a word in edgewise. Follow Thomas on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @MisterManners. And for more insights, listen to his brand-new podcast, “What Manners Most,” which will be focused exclusively on Coronavirus-related etiquette for the foreseeable future.