It’s my birthday on Saturday and I’m throwing a party. This is just to let you know that things might get a big loud late at night and I apologise right now for any inconvenience.
The above message was scrawled on a scrap of paper and sellotaped onto the inside of my apartment building’s front door. It happens quite often. Some notices are professional – they are run off on a computer with fancy fonts and printed nice and large so you can’t miss the message. Others, like Jacqueline’s, are scribbled by hand with whatever writing instrument comes to hand. In Jackie’s case, a dried up felt tip pen. She obviously doesn’t do much in the way of writing at home.
It would be nice if Jacqueline’s party was of the kind where you have tea and cake, play musical chairs and thank the hostess as you leave late afternoon. But no, this was the other kind of party, the kind your mother wouldn’t want you to go to.
The sticking point here is not the fact that Jacqueline has given me advance warning that I’m not going to get any sleep on Saturday night, but the fact that, it’s somehow acceptable to be unsociable, just so long as you tell everyone about it beforehand. It’s sort of like saying: ‘Look, I’m about to have a tantrum, and I’m really sorry about it, but you can’t accuse me, because I told you what was coming. So tough luck.’ Jacqueline knows that she can exploit her neighbours’ implicit approval. She can behave badly with impunity.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no killjoy. Have a party if you want, get drunk, burst your ear drums, and race down the staircase clinking your empty beer bottles. Just don’t insult my intelligence by saying you want to celebrate your impending senility and you’re really cut up about my sleepless night.