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Sunday, February 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Paul Turner: What tales apartment walls may tell

Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Paul Turner (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

It has been suggested to me a time or two over the years that this newspaper seldom acknowledges the existence of apartment dwellers.

I’m not sure that’s a fair charge. Seems like we do plenty of stories on drug raids and fires at local complexes.

But perhaps that’s not what my correspondents meant.

So on the chance there is something to the thought that The S-R tends to assume everyone resides in a house, perhaps I can help bridge the understanding gap.

I propose to do that by starting a dialog between Spokane area homeowners/renters and apartment dwellers. I would begin this way.

A significant number of those who currently reside in houses once lived in apartments. Most, I would guess, remember the experience as a mixture of pros and cons.

But virtually all might suggest one thing comes immediately to mind when the subject of their living-in-apartments years comes up: Hearing noise from adjacent units.

Some remember the sounds bleeding through the walls as a maddening nuisance. Others might recall it was nonexistent or no big deal.

But maybe a lot has changed since I lived in a few Spokane apartments back in the 20th century. So let me ask any apartment residents reading this to answer a few questions.

When the people in the unit beside you have their TV on, do you find that you can always tell exactly what they are watching because you can hear every line spoken by the characters in the show?

Do you sometimes think thundering thuds coming from the apartment above are being made by large people jumping onto the floor from trampolines?

Have you ever unavoidably eavesdropped on a fight next door that was so intense you wondered if you might eventually have to call the police or personally intervene?

How often do you hear your adjacent neighbors engaged in intimate social congress?

Do you ever carry on conversations with a neighbor, through the wall?

When you complained to the people next door about the noise did it lead to a lively give-and-take and a productive airing of views?

Ever live next to children practicing their band instruments?

Do you and the people next door have similar tastes when it came to recorded music?

Was there ever a sound coming through the wall that simply mystified you?

When you sought out the apartment manager to mediate disputes over noise, did he or she prove to be a fair, skillful negotiator or an incompetent, ineffectual boob?

Was it not so much the outrageously loud noises that got to you but the low, persistent burble coming from next door that tested your sanity?

Once you realized you could hear them, did it make you self-conscious about the idea they could hear you?

Has soundproofing improved?

Did you become lasting friends with your neighbor in the next apartment?


Sandpoint’s Forrest Schuck said they don’t refer to a cat stretched out to spill heat on a hot day as lying in state.

“We refer to that seasonal pose as ‘cat butter.’ Our otherwise apparently normal 10-pound feline looks like he’s 3 feet long and 2 inches thick.”

Sue Swanson said locally crafted beer and wine aren’t the only things Seattle residents admire about Spokane. “A 30-something couple we know just fled to Spokane from Seattle. Everyone they told about their impending move said something like ‘Good! Get out of here!’ Some even said, ‘We want to go too!’ The traffic, crime, congestion, prices, and feelings of danger in Seattle are all making our fair city look more livable.”

Dennis DeMattia, a computer programmer for 50 years, said the nonfiction book about his field that most impressed him was Tracy’s Kidder’s “The Soul of a New Machine.”

That 1981 volume won the Pulitzer Prize. The technology it described is dated now, but Kidder’s insights still seem fresh.

Ritzville’s Rena Brown saw the column mulling what we gave up in exchange for convenience when opting for voting by mail. She had an additional thought.

“I have problems with the idea to automatically register people to vote when they graduate from high school, get a driver’s license, et cetera. If a citizen doesn’t care enough to register and get to a polling place, I don’t know that I want him or her having too much say in the decisions that are made for us all.”

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