• author
    • Debra DeAngelo

    • August 26, 2012 in Columnists

    Boo hiss on bounce houses in neighborhood back yards

    by Debra DeAngelo

    Bounce houses.

    Boo hiss.

    Yeah, I’m a mean old Mrs. Grinch. Whatever. You would be too if you had to put up with them in your own back yard, against your will. Over and over and over.

    Sure, those big, bright inflatable things with children bouncing and flailing around inside are fine at carnivals and festivals. But 10 feet from your back door on your much–deserved weekend is another story.

    I don’t mean an average little birthday party on a Saturday afternoon for a couple hours. Anyone can tolerate that. Even me. But the party monsters living behind us don’t just hold fun little birthday parties. They host celebratory marathons that start on Friday night or Saturday morning and continue until Sunday evening, and Monday too, if it’s a three-day weekend. That’s about 48-72 hours non-stop, with only a break during the wee hours to give the kids a chance to recharge and start bouncing again at sunrise.

    What’s the big deal, you say. And if you do say, you’ve clearly never endured a back yard bounce house all weekend long. In a word, noise. Lots of it.

    It’s not just the howling generator that fills up the bounce house and runs the whole time to keep it inflated. It’s the air whooshing about in the mattresses, and scores of little feet pounding against them, while scores of little voices shriek, squeal, holler and shout. Until two or more of them konk heads and start screeching like cats caught in a table saw.

    Above all this ruckus, the adults are all screaming to be heard while they chat and party, and from the sound of it, every child has one or more parent in tow. Or maybe it’s actually the parents having a get-together and sending the kids out to the big bouncy babysitter while they party. And what party would be complete without music, and music’s no good if you can’t hear it, and in order to hear it over all that racket, the volume has to be cranked up until the speakers crackle and groan, and the bass beats rattle every window in the house. And the one behind it.

    And, the scenario wouldn’t be complete without barking dogs, fearlessly protecting their territories from those big, noisy, scary monsters bobbling over their fences from the adjacent yard. All day, and all night.

    The cumulative effect of all this cacophony is something I’ve labeled “noise exhaustion.” Your brain gets saturated with auditory stimulation, and you start to feel desperate to make it stop. You literally start aching for quiet. It’s hugely distressing, and yet, the noise just continues. There’s a reason they blast death metal music 24-7 at Gitmo detainees to make them crack: It works.

    It’s a miracle I haven’t been arrested for assault. And don’t think I haven’t weighed out the consequences in my mind more than once.
    My husbie and I enjoy beginning our weekend with long, lazy conversations over morning coffee on the back patio, watching the blue jays bob about and the butterflies fluttering over the bushes. Our yard is so quiet, you can actually hear the bees buzzing around in the fluffy pink albizias overhead. And then that generator rumbles up, and that yellow, red and blue behemoth slowly rises and takes shape just beyond our back fence. That lovely evening we’d just discussed, maybe steaks on the grill and a bottle of fine Tempranillo while the Delta breeze caresses the summer heat from the air? Forget about it. The weekend’s just been hijacked.

    We know from experience that if the bounce house starts up behind us, the entire weekend is ruined, unless we’re willing to spend it locked indoors with all the windows shut and the television blaring loud enough to drown out the racket. Worse yet, because it happens without warning, there’s no chance to plan ahead to avoid it. Sure, we can head downtown for a bit, but even after dinner and drinks, or a show at The Palms, we’ll still return to several hours of bounce house hell.

    And sleep? Forget about that too. The whole hootenanny is happening 10 feet from our bedroom window. There will be no sleeping. Or anything else we might do to occupy our time in bed, because, frankly, we’re both just too annoyed by that point, and neither of us looks sexy with a pillow wrapped around our heads.

    So you see, it’s not just me merely being cranky again. I think any reasonable person (except those who rent bounce houses) would agree that no one should have to put up with this. And I think the folks down at City Hall should do something about it. And, it’s an easy fix.

    We already have an ordinance requiring a permit for amplified sound that includes notifying neighbors in advance of the date and time of the event. That ordinance needs to be extended to bounce houses, so neighbors can plan to be out of town. Or stock up on Scotch.

    There also needs to be a time limit. A three-hour limit per day is plenty of time for a birthday party, and the maximum amount of time a neighbor should be subjected to one of that amplitude. And under no circumstances should they be allowed after 10 p.m.

    And yes, I expect our police department to enforce the ordinance, and don’t tell me they’re too busy. If they have time to give people tickets for not dimming their headlights, they have time to issue citations for disturbing the peace.

    All in all, the fix is fair and simple. And if City Hall can’t make it happen without strangling it in red tape, here’s my alternate suggestion: Legalize the use of harpoons within city limits and I’ll handle the problem myself.

      • Kelvin

      • August 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm
      • Reply

      This column is hilarious! I laughed so hard, I CRIED! Maybe that’s not what you were going for because I do know the exhaustion caused by noisy neighbors. It’s HELL. You start having crazy thoughts. ‘Maybe their house could burn down. Would I be a suspect?’ That kind of thing. But the image of that generator starting and the bouncy house appearing over the fence totally cracked me up. I hope something can be done. That’s not something I’ve had to endure and I don’t want to. Great column though.

      • Steph Cheng

      • August 26, 2012 at 4:12 pm
      • Reply

      I can totally relate. Our former next door neighbors subjected us to this level of Hell at least once a month. I’m not a drinker, but I wanted to become one. And a sniper.

    • How often do they do this? You might just go over and explain your feelings so they will let you know when they are planning a bouncy house. Hopefully, with summer ending and kids back at school it won’t come up until next summer and by then you can plan to sabotage the generator. Or better yet, at least get invited to the party for free food and drinks.

      • Judy N

      • August 26, 2012 at 8:07 pm
      • Reply

      I hear you, sister! The people behind us have 13 grandchildren!! They don’t need a bouncy house to make noise. And when did children get the right to scream for an afternoon outside neighbors’ windows? And why don’t their parents and grandparents go crazy?

      • Stacey

      • August 26, 2012 at 8:17 pm
      • Reply

      I would suggest that you just chill out. If you want total quiet in your around your home, you need to buy a lot with land around it. Anyone in a typical neighborhood should expect a good deal of childhood noise, and you don’t have control of how much and how often you will be subjected to that. It’s a good, healthy outlet for the kids, so please don’t be a grumpy, nasty neighbor. Just move if you don’t like it.

    • Stacey – I should pack up and move? Let’s be realistic here. And.. you haven’t walked a mile in my shoes… and had multiple weekends ruined from a 48-72 hour hootenanny that lasts after midnight.

      And Kelvin – I fantasize all the time about how I might deal with the damn bounce house bonanzas.

      And Madge – I can’t go talk to them because they don’t speak English and my Spanish is sketchy. Errmmm…. “Esto cosa – MALO! MUY MALO!” That’s about the best I can do.

    • I can relate, we had neighbors behind us with a trapoline. UC Davis student neighbors. Drunken trampoline behavior most weekends. Once we heard the first ka-boing, we moved inside and shut the windows. Fortunately even college students on a trampoline don’t have the staying power of a 5 year old in a bouncy house. And college renters eventually move out.

      • Lis

      • August 27, 2012 at 9:55 am
      • Reply

      Wow, I think our former next-door neighbors must have moved there! We had the same situation for a couple of years: almost every weekend, from Friday afternoon to early Monday morning there was a non-stop party in their yard…crowds of screaming children, amplified music, and always always a bounce house. It was absolutely NOTHING like the sound of all our neighborhood kids playing outside, or a typical barbecue party. And it was extraordinarily stressful. And interfered with our ordinary lives, almost every weekend. Our kid couldn’t concentrate on his homework, we couldn’t relax, we couldn’t sleep; if anyone in our house wanted on their weekends to watch TV or a movie, or listen to music, the volume had to be uncomfortably loud. We and other neighbors spoke to them about it several times (their children translated, so language didn’t seem to be a barrier), and the cops were often called. But the only thing that ever seemed to stop them was rain. Those parties continued right up to the week they moved out.

      • marlene stobbart

      • August 27, 2012 at 10:57 am
      • Reply

      An amazing disastrous experience and visited weekly or nightly – pure bedlam is not one anyone would welcome.I didn’t laugh and didn’t cry – Because this was totally outside my experience of life. Didn’t know at first what a bouncy house was – but then recalled a movie where the bouncy house was a blown up type of a balloon where the kids played inside – shrieking and laughing, etc. Having read all this my only recommendation is, unfortunately, to move. Maybe this neighbor has friends who would like to buy your home? Even, if you planted trees alongside – it would take five years of growth to stop some of the noise. Maybe, an alternative is to record all this – and, then blast the neighbor with their own sounds?
      I had to argue for our Canadian flags put up in this area – that is the reverse of your experience but that made me very hostile to those who didn’t want this to happen. Can you not gather up all your neighbors who must also be experiencing this same noise and behavior? AND with someone who speaks their language meet with them to explain how they are upsetting the neighborhood ?

    • Marlene, yes, my neighbors are just as irritated. We may converge on City Hall.

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