Sunday, 10 October 2010

The grumpy girl's guide to shouting out of windows

I sometimes feel as I’ve just got to grips with how mind blowingly irritating life can be when something new comes along to irk me. The latest such annoyance is the growing, and totally unacceptable, phenomenon of shouting out of windows - especially at me. To ensure we’re all on the same page I’m going to start by laying down the rules on this matter.

The only thing ever acceptable to shout, yell or scream from an upstairs window is ‘fire’ or ‘help’. As far as I’m concerned there is no other word or phrase which justifies leaning out of a bedroom window and squawking into the street.
Downstairs windows are a slightly different matter and while leaning out of them there is a greater variety of phrases which can be safely used. What will determine whether or not it is appropriate is volume and content. For example, I have no problem with someone on the ground floor speaking at a conversational volume with another person, say in the front garden. An enquiry like: “Have you seen my glasses?”  and subsequent discussion about the whereabouts of said eyewear is perfectly fine provided it’s at speaking volume.
 I am also happy with same person poking their head out of same window and shouting, “telephone, it's for you!” or something equally short. Loudness isn’t a problem provided you’re not having a full blown chat. Basically, exercise some common sense. It wouldn’t be practical to have a drawn-out discussion about dialectic forms of government in Plato’s Republic through an open window; nor would it be polite.
You may feel that so much thought on a relatively small topic may be a tad over the top but for me it’s been an on-going issue for years. My dislike started as a child with my own mother. On the way to school most mornings she’d hang out of the bedroom window and shout “Goodbye! Have a good day!”  as I was half way down the driveway. Of course it’s a nice thing to say; yet it irritated me. Wasn’t this a conversation that could have been had inside the house? Why must it be shared with the neighbours? I never said this to her as I knew her intentions were good, but sorry mum, it’s just not very ladylike behaviour. This from same woman who’d routinely tell me off for screaming like a fishwife, especially when I was outdoors being overly noisy. Shouldn’t she obey her own rule?   
Even so I grew up with the notion that yelling in or onto the street was ostensibly forbidden. And I assumed that was a universal lesson. Clearly not in the case of the small, maddening children next door. Not content with hours of popping their oversized heads over the fence to pester my dog, they continue the barrage when inside. It was about six as some guests and I were enjoying a civilised drink in the garden basking in the still mild weather when a head leant out a bedroom window and garbled an incomprehensible sentence.
Children don’t always have the clearest speech but this utterance sounded like it had been heavily subjected to the Doppler effect. Us grown-ups, startled from pleasant chatter, didn’t know how to respond. What was worse was that this stream of babble was clearly a question as the little savage kept his head there waiting for an answer. Well how are you supposed to react to that? Ignore it? Acknowledge it? Say “awfully sorry old man, couldn’t say that again, could you?” Or go for broke and scream “get back inside you irritating little brute!”
Sadly it’s not only the minors who’re at it. A few days later while out on my morning dog walk, I was assaulted again.  The dog’s an inquisitive creature that strays a foot or two into front gardens sniffing shrubbery and grass. I try to stop him but most of the time he’s not doing any harm. Imagine my shock when as his little paws wandered about eight inches onto a paved driveway, some horrible creature popped her head out of the front bedroom window as if on a spring and screeched at ridiculously loud volume: “Get that dog of my driveway. Now!”
 In legal terms, she had every right; we were trespassing on what I presume is her property. Did she really need to scream that at me like some sort of banshee? I calculated that it would take an able bodied person a maximum of seven seconds to walk downstairs, open the front door before making the exact same statement. If she’d done that, calmly, I would have accepted her demand as totally reasonable, and would not be currently complaining about it.
 I don’t care if I sound like a snob but that behaviour is crass, and well, common. There I said it. It boils down to a question of class. Not in the old fashioned sense of higher and lower orders, but in terms of personal conduct. There’s no danger whatsoever that when people discuss her they’ll say, “Now that’s a classy lady.” Read more by Rosie.