The house across the street from ours is for sale. In recent weeks many prospective buyers have met the real estate agent and toured the house. From our kitchen window we can look out and see everything. (Now, I don’t want you to think we’re nosy. When we glance up, we can’t help but see what’s going on over there. It’s not like we hide in the bushes and peek through their bedroom windows — at least not yet.)
Anyway, whenever we see cars pull in to the driveway across the street, and then after a brief chat outside we see the real estate agent escort people into the house, my wife and I start speculating. “I wonder what kind of neighbors they’ll be?” “I wonder if they have any kids?”
Then we start saying things like, “I hope they don’t have wild parties on the weekend.” “I hope they don’t have teenagers who work on their motorcycles at midnight.” “I hope they don’t set up a meth lab in the basement.” Then we pause, stare at each other solemnly for a few moments, and say in unison, “I REALLY hope they don’t play the bagpipes!”
My wife and I are probably the only couple this side of Edinburgh who have had two different neighbors over the years play the bagpipes. We regularly fall to our knees in deep gratitude that they did not live on our street at the same time.
Because of a bagpipes’ unique tone and volume, it is a musical instrument (a phrase I use very loosely) that cannot be played indoors. Apparently, if that happens, windows will shatter, house pets will stop breathing, and any ISIS sympathizers who might be in the building will tearfully confess every detail of their secret plot.
Therefore, bagpipes must be played outdoors. Which means the entire neighborhood gets to enjoy every delightfully melodic note (another phrase I use very loosely). For many years we were serenaded in the evening by the young man who lived across the street. He actually was a very skillful piper and was hired often to play at funerals. But regardless of his ability, we’re still talking bagpipes here, so it was a lot like listening to fingernails dragging down a chalkboard, only infinitely louder.
After he moved away, we had a respite for a few years, but then a family moved in directly behind us, and the wife played the bagpipes. The first time she set up on her back porch and started playing, my wife and I turned toward each other and screamed, “Not again!!!” (Well, at least I think that’s what we screamed. We really couldn’t hear ourselves over the overwhelming decibel level of the pipes.) Our neighbor serenaded us many evenings, although she was not a very skillful piper. But regardless of her ability, we’re still talking bagpipes here, so, it was a lot like listening to a thousand cats being shoved into a wood chipper, only infinitely louder.
In the 17th century, bagpipes became popular with military regiments. Most people assume they were used for communication, since many times the Scottish and Irish armies were marching in areas with poor cell phone service. Actually, bagpipes were developed as a military WEAPON, because the intense sonic waves were far more deadly than the average 17th century cannon.
No one has purchased the house across the street yet. The other day I said to my wife, “When someone finally buys that house, which do we prefer: meth lab or bagpipes?” Without hesitation, we shouted in unison, “Meth lab!!!” Because there were no chalkboards, cats, woodchippers, or delightfully melodic sonic waves at that moment, we heard each other loud and clear.