Dear Carolyn • My boyfriend and I recently began renting a condo. Our neighbor upstairs, "Kathy," has very squeaky floors. She's not always barefoot nor is she a light stepper. While I understand no one can be quiet all the time, I have been up, listening to her walk through her room since 5:45 a.m. I began counting 118 times she crossed the room. In an hour. How do I tell her to please be more considerate? Given our one previous interaction, I get the feeling Kathy could be very dismissive of my opinion.
Sleepless in Annapolis
Dear Sleepless • As she should be, albeit with the utmost civility and sympathy for your plight. Why? Because you're not asking her to restrict her hopscotching hippo rehearsals to daylight hours; you're presuming to dictate how, when and how frequently she walks through her apartment. How would you respond to a neighbor who asked you to walk less? It's not rare, what you're going through the discovery that not all apartments were built recently or well. It's also a raw deal, does ruin sleep, and does always seem to come right after you've invested hard work, emotion and cash in establishing a new home. But none of these needs to be Kathy's problem, nor should much of it become her problem in her new role as easiest entity to blame. What you can do is take your own noise-reduction measures, starting with the obvious earplugs and working your way up. If nothing works, then you can approach Kathy not to blame her, but instead to invite her sympathy and cooperation. "I realize it's an old/squeaky building, and a person needs to be able to walk around without worrying about her downstairs neighbor" a concept you really, really must embrace to pull this off "but my ceiling and your floor have a noise problem, so I'm wondering if there's anything you'd be willing to try ... slippers? Rug (which I contribute toward)?" Invite her to come listen while your boyfriend walks upstairs. However you choose to handle it, make sure it's a way you'd respond to sympathetically if you were in Kathy's place. If you come at this only from your perspective, then you all but force her to defend hers.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.