Basketball and silence and ….. two updates/followups

Basketball vs. silence

Over the past few weeks in my little city, there has been a public display/debate of the very issue this blog is about – who gets to make noise, and who gets to define it as such, and who has rights, and whose rights are infringed upon by noise.

In a well-to- do neighbourhood in Peterborough, there is a young man who likes to practise basketball in his family’s driveway.  As you may know, the sound of dribbling a basketball, and the sound of the ball bouncing off the backboard is loud. Probably even more so in a tight space between two houses.

Next door to the young man lives a woman, who has now filed a complaint with the province about the noise (and about the board the young man has put up over part of one of her windows to protect it from the bouncing ball and from the noise. She claims that now there is much less light in her apartment, and the noise is still annoying. )

Some neighbours have leapt to the young man’s defence, claiming that it is good that young people are exercising, are outside, are part of the neighbourhood, are not out vandalizing buildings, etc.  Last week a number of them even signed a petition in support of the young man, in defence of his right to toss his ball.

Last week, in the local newspaper, two people came to the defence of the woman. They argued that she too has rights. They noted that there is a public basketball court only a few blocks away from the young man’s house where he could go to dribble and dunk.

You can link here to read some of the letters about this issue. More enlightening, read the comments sections for a range of views. Here is another link to another letter.  These letters give you a good sense of how people are reacting to this situation.

And here is a longer article in the National Post about the ‘case’.

And here is a link to a more recent news article about it.

Here is a link to a news item about the situation. Check out the various comments posted.

This letter to the editor, from a few days ago, suggests that it might be a good idea to have the parties talk about the issue.  Which would be a good idea, except we are dealing with two very different sets of needs/desires, which seem to exclude both sets of needs being met.

This letter, from Nov. 8, introduces the issue of hyperacusis – sensitivity to sounds, and suggests that we need to acknowledge that our noisy world IS noisy, and hard on many people. (Indeed!) But even if the complainant suffers from hyperacusis, then what? Should the young man be ‘penalized’ for his actions? Should his actions be limited for her sake?

Yes. No. And yet, and yet.

What to do? How do we solve such problems?  Do we need a rule?  Do we need a law? We have noise by-laws, but they are ill-defined, hard to enforce and have not been helpful in this current case. Barking dogs, lawnmowers in the morning and late partying we can address fairly easily. But it is these other ‘noises’ that are such a challenge. (What to do about churchbells, leafblowers, loud airconditioning units?) By-laws can’t address an individual’s personal, specific response to a particular noise/sound. They can only paint broad categories of generally agreed-upon ‘problem noises’. And there lies the crux of the matter. Who gets to have silence, or at least less exposure to noise?  Who gets to make noise?

In this particular case, the by-laws do not apply. And in this case, as in many cases, when only one person is bothered by the noise generated by another, one of the first arguments raised is that the noise maker has the ‘right’ to do so. Which is true, mostly.  For sure in his/her own home. But outside? Then we are back to arguing about the ‘right’ to make noise on one’s own property, inside or outside.  What of the ‘right’ of the other person to not be exposed to the noise? Usually, as seen in the letters to the Editor and the accompanying comments, the ‘complainant’ is seen as a crank, a whiner, someone who should just ‘grin and bear it’, since we all have to deal with noise, right?  And so the circular logic goes round and round, with no resolution, but with a buildup of annoyance, stress, anger and resentment, which then leads to less and less willingness to find a resolution.

Here’s hoping these neighbours find a way through this. I will keep an eye on the situation and report back. Perhaps someone will arrive at a Solomonic solution.


Update/Followup #1:

Last week I wrote about loud hand driers. Then this week at work, the newly renovated women’s washroom down the hall from my office started blasting loud hand drier noise! Outside the washroom I measured the volume at 80 dBs. Inside, about a foot away from the machine, it measured 98 dBs! It is a “Blast” drier, which as you will see from the link, has a smaller ‘footprint’ than other driers and, of course, of paper towels. (You can see/hear one here.) So I (and others) wrote to the manager of Plant and Property and lo and behold, she agreed with us, and the machine was disconnected!  Yay! One for the NC and his colleagues! (I later asked her to also disconnect the Xlerator in the men’s washroom in the basement, but she said, “It doesn’t disrupt any classes down there.”)

Update/Followup #2:

A few weeks ago I wrote about the noise levels at sports events, in particular at football games. With the Grey Cup coming up next weekend, see this excerpt about how the Toronto Argonauts are preparing for today’s Eastern final game with Montreal, in Montreal:

“The Toronto Argonauts know they’ll be playing in front of a hostile crowd Sunday in Montreal  and are doing everything they can to prepare for it. The Argos practiced in Toronto this week with blaring noise pumping through the Rogers Centre speakers. “It’s something we have certainly applied before,” special teams coordinator Mike O’Shea told reporters. “I don’t think (the noise) will cause any problems. Jeff Johnson [RB, special teams staple] does a great job, we have a bunch of guys who communicate well. They all practice good habits in that regard all season long.” (  (You can see more about this here. )

So watch the game today and see how they do! And see how much noise the Montreal crowd can make!  In my next post, I will let you know if there is any news about it.

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