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crazy making

My studio is in an old building in a historic downtown area. I mostly love this. We're near glorious Lake Superior. 

The neighborhood has character, unlike the cinder block prison cell I worked in when I lived in Washington, DC.

I love this neighboring building.

The building that houses the studio is hooked up to a municipal steam line, which generates heat for much of Duluth's downtown. Steam heat is different than hot water heat that you might have in your house. Instead of circulating hot water through radiators or baseboards, it pushes superheated steam at high pressure through huge pipes. The result is a heating system that is much more efficient -- one small radiator can more than heat 1500 square feet.

The steam lines connect many of the buildings downtown with speakeasy tunnels, in which we've found several wine bottles circa 1930 with wine syrup still in the bottom.

Which brings mean to part one of the crazy making.

This radiator, the one our sheepy is standing on top of, is not far from my desk.

There is something very, very wrong with this radiator.

Someone from Candid Camera has planted Will Ferrell and Steve Carell in the basement, and given them strict instructions.

"Take these hammers and hit the radiator from the inside ALL DAY EVERY DAY. Alternate between loud and soft. Never clang or bang in a rhythm, just make sure it's very noticeable and distracting, and that everyone in the vicinity will be driven crazy by it."

People, the radiator makes SO MUCH NOISE ALL THE TIME. When I talk on the phone, people ask what that noise is in the background. A plumber came today to fix it. He left without doing anything except scratching his head and saying, "Huh." Who knows when he'll come back.

I'm sure this is all part of Candid Camera's plan.

Which brings me to part two of the crazy making.

When we moved in, the space next door to us was empty. Possibly because it was painted with neon, glow-in-the-dark, anatomically-correct alien butterflies.

About a year later (I've been in this studio for two years now, can you believe it?), a new business moved in next door.

The owner of the business is a nice person. His worth as a human being is not in question.

But I do not like this business. I do not like this business at all.

This business -- which again, is owned by a nice person -- is a kettlebell gym. Do you know what kettlebells are?

They are weighted balls with handles. You swing them. They are apparently for "working out."

In addition to using kettlebells, this gym uses free weights, medicine balls, monster truck tires, and weighted ropes attached to a wall.

When a class starts, which is about six times a day, people who are there to "work out" turn their stereo to a level a normal person would seek hearing protection for.  The stereo, I've discovered, only plays heavy metal music, like Lamb of God, Megadeth, and someone else Boy Aaron told me and I can't remember and don't care to.

The participants -- who pay money to do this "working out" thing -- pick up the huge free weights, hoist them above their heads, and then dead drop them on the floor.  These free weights weigh about 200 pounds, and the resulting boom is very similar to a small explosion. It shakes the walls and the floors to the farthest reaches of the studio.

They pick up a monster truck tire and hurl it to the floor. They throw weighted balls at the wall behind my desk. They roar and take off most of their clothes, including their shoes. They walk around our shared back hallway wearing nothing but bike shorts, stinky and dripping puddles onto the tile. After their workouts, they stretch outdoors on the brick sidewalks, laying on the ground with no shirts or shoes on, stretching their gluteus muscles.

I'm no "work out" expert, but stretching on frigid brick hardly seems like a wise thing after a workout in which you have built up adrenaline and testosterone to the extent that you willingly pick up 200 pound objects and throw them, full-force, at inanimate objects. But hey, I'm no "work out" expert.

So, this is what my office sounds like all day:

The radiator goes, clang................clangCLANGCLANGCLANG.........taptap..........hisssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssclang




And then, throw in regular EXPLOSIONS  and EARTHQUAKES and

TENNIS GRUNTIIIIIIIING and you basically have what I listen to, all at the same time, for hours every day.

It's really unpleasant.

And crazy making.

I have asked this nice business owner to keep it down, and he will lower the volume of the Angry NonMusic slightly. But he says he can't muffle the sound of a truck tire being hurled.

I have asked the owner of the building to intervene on my behalf. I was here first. I am a nice, reliable tenant with a long term lease. He says he'll look into it.

I can't move to a new studio.

I suppose I could get some noise canceling headphones, but I do need to be able to hear the phone ring, and talk to people. And I worry about them getting wet or ruined by steam.

I do have a clause in my lease that says that I have the right to the "peaceable and quiet enjoyment of the premises." I've asked this nice business owner to put up some padding on the walls and floor to dampen the sound. He said he will look into it.

Tell me, am I being unreasonable here? I understand that a neighboring business will make some noise. We have music playing (at a normal volume), and we talk and come and go, etc.  I don't expect them to be silent. But I also don't expect that my neighbors will do the equivalent of set off pipe bombs to a Rage Against the Machine soundtrack, either.

Is it too much to ask that my radiator not be possessed? Should I have the right to expect that we will not have stinky people wearing almost no clothing parading around, trying to use the bathroom that we clean and stock? (The gym has its own bathroom, but it has only one stall, the door doesn't lock, and they don't clean or replenish supplies like we do. And there is no changing room or showers for members, either.)

This is a fellow small business owner trying to make a living, and I don't want to deprive him of that. But... but... it's really just not good. At all.

So what's a Yarnista to do?


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Reader Comments (23)

Dropping/throwing heavy things on the walls and floor repeatedly could also damage the structure of the building and speakeasy tunnels. You could bring that up to the manager might be in his best interest to pursue creative solutions.

Or you could hang pretty skeins all over the office walls as makeshift noise-absorbers. :)

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather S

That's a tough one. I'd be getting rather frustrated, but then I'm not being a very patient person. I WOULD start pushing for a deadline for when things are going to get better.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Crowley

if the noise and "crazy-making" are making it hard to function in your business, then you definitely have legal legs to stand on. You need actual solutions and deadlines (as said above) from the landlord. Esp. if you can't move your studio.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteraubree

I think you should send your mother to deal with things.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYarnista's Mama

Oh! I also forgot to mention that any day now, the new landlord is going to start construction on a nightclub upstairs from me! A nightclub! He says they will not be open during hours that will affect me, but we shall see. And the construction noise and disruption... that will be super fun.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYarnista

Who knew there was such drama up there in Duluth.
You NEED to make a stink about this and I don't mean in the bike shorts area:)
I would ask the landlord to come and hang out during one of the "work outs".
That is awful.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAimee

Being a momma of a soft creative soul myself, I like the "send your mother" suggestion...a LOT. Momma's just have a way to get things DONE. I am sorry you have all of this going on without any real solutions in sight.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKori's momma

I agree that you need to pin down you landlord on what exactly he's going to do to ameliorate the problems. Are there Landlord/Tenant laws in Minnesota? Are there any Landlord/Tenant Resolution Boards in Duluth? Otherwise.... I hate to say it... LAWYER might be your last resort.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLizzyA

Get a decibel meter and keep a record for one week. Submit it to your landlord with a request for a timeline in fixing the radiator and neighbor. Research the noise pollution laws in your town as well.

Also, the point about ruining the speakeasy tunnels is valid. Get the historical society involved!

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarahBess

I go to one these crazy, noise-making, tire-flipping, kettlebell-swinging gyms 5 mornings a week. As much as I love every second of these intense workouts, you have my utter and sincere sympathy. I cannot imagine working in close quarters to a bunch of people who are as noisy as we are. Also, I used to practice law. You certainly seem to have a leg to stand on with the language in your lease. Good luck! Keep us posted.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith

It is truly horrible - the kettle bells thing. I was only there for what, an hour? And it would drive me apesh*t if I was there all day! I hope your landlord does something for you soon!! I totally get the crazy-making. TOTALLY.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarrster

Listen to your Mother!

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Dude. There is a training studio in the basement under my spa, which is in one of those charming, pre-war DC apartment buildings. The building's age is important because it means that, while the walls themselves are very soundproof, noise travels through the building in ways that defy science. Even though the training studio isn't under my space, whenever they get the kettlebells out, we get to hear the AWESOME AND FANTASTIC clanking and banging and thudding. I am so thankful that most of the work they do doesn't involve the kettlebells, because that noise? Is not serene and relaxing.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Update #2: The plumber came back today with an assistant. They -- and I am not making this up -- stood and looked at the radiator for a few minutes and then asked, "Is that the noise it makes?" They then asked me for a flashlight so they could go into the basement (which is perfectly well lit), and came back up and said, "Yeah, we're going to have to order a part, we'll be back around the end of the week." and left.

(I'm not paying for this plumber, or I would have had a lot more to say to him.) Although I cringed when I saw who the new building owner called to do the plumbing work. He's worked in the studio before: See here

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYarnista

Arrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhhh! I could not cope with all that! I hope you can come to some peaceful solution. Omg, the 'butterflies' made me go 'wtf!' and try and zoom in a bit more lol.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

Oh My! You have my sincere sympathy!!! I can't imagine! There is nothing worse than not being able to control your noise exposure. Really! They have done studies!! I think what you should do is follow up with your neighbor regarding the noise reduction padding/insulation stuff. If he has no info on it you should google it and see what YOU come up with. Then give it to him yourself and find out when the project will be completed.

Put a lock on your bathroom door. PRONTO!

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy A

Wow!! Certainly you are not being unreasonable, that is pure insanity!! I'm amazed the landlord allows people to throw kettleballs and truck tyres around, surely that is damaging the space???

Good luck getting a peaceful resolution!!

March 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I really like letting your mom talk to them. Great idea. Moms kick butt and "have words" with people. Also, you must put a lock on the bathroom. I hope your landlord makes good on his contract with you and finds a way to muffle the noises next door. And question. You and your employees don't work at the studio until 10pm, right? Never? Because people start partying at 10pm and it starts to get rowdy by midnight. (Please don't ask me how I know. I have children now and don't want to have to admit in public to ever having been to places like that. Although I guess I sort of just did. Never mind, move along.) So it would not be good to still be there at night. Safety issues. However, it would be clear by 5-6am, so it should be safe even if you're an insanely-early to work sort of person. And okay, you're tall and imposing, but you don't want to have to use it to scare little drunk children do you?

March 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShelley

I would keep records - every day - of all the incidents.
I would call the landlord - every day.
I would unleash your mother.
AND I would hire an attorney... not the sort of mad-dog type some people think of when you say "lawyer," but a conscientious advocate who is well-versed in all the applicable laws, and can speak up for you and your situation. (And no, that's not me! )
This is no kind of environment either for you or your staff or for Baby Shamrock, who is also has to listen to this stuff!
You poor lamb.

March 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGenia Potter

I agree with Genia to keep records and the decibel meter idea is great! I also agree with a putting lock on bathroom door. I can't help but think that all that pounding has to be damaging the building structurally. As far as the bar going upstairs, you may not be there for the noise at night, but most assuredly you'll have the refuse/smells on the sidewalk in the morning. Get a lawyer and check out your options. Keep us posted!

March 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

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