Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Domestic Spying

Or, Why I Love this Family of Mine

Just like the President of the United States, lately I've been eavesdropping on my neighbors without a warrant.

However, unlike our Dear Leader, I haven't been doing it on purpose. For the past couple of weeks, our baby monitor has been on the fritz. I'm not sure what happened; we've had it for over a year and a half, and it's never seriously malfunctioned until recently. But about a month and a half ago, one of the recievers started randomly picking up all sorts of feedback and static, and more recently it's begun almost exclusively picking up actual audio signals from other baby monitors in our apartment building (instead of the signal from the transmitter in Isaac's room TWENTY FEET AWAY, which it apparently has lost the ability to hear) .

More than half the residents in our complex seem to be families with small children, so there are LOTS of baby monitor signals flying around. Ever since we moved in here a year ago, I've always kind of assumed that some of our neighbors were probably picking up signal from our monitor now and again and listening to us. Frankly, I've never thought much of it, because despite the fancy tennis courts and clubhouse and the high rent, this complex is cheaply built, and my next-door and upstairs neighbors could probably hear half of what goes on in my home each day through the paper-thin walls of our building with their own ears if they gave half a try.

So, it doesn't much bother me that someone might be eavesdropping on me. But hearing other people's conversations over the transmitter freaks me out. I feel like a sleazy voyeur, despite the accidental nature of these encounters.

The truth is, despite having spoken with most of my neighbors in person, I can't actually usually tell who I'm hearing on the monitor. The sound is always distorted, kind of like it is with those voice disguisers they use on TV news shows when they're interviewing corporate whistleblowers and people in the witness protection program, and though I can usually guess the gender of the speaker, and make out a few of the words, I can't recognize the owner of the voice, which is a relief. But it still creeps me out on some fundamental moral level to be secretly eavesdropping on someone else's home life, even if I don't have a clue who I'm listening to. And besides, I'm trying to hear what's going on in MY baby's room, not someone else's apartment.

So, whenever I start picking up sound from someone else's place, I immediately try moving the reciever, or turning off the radio or the tv, or changing the wireless channel.

But sometimes it seems no matter what I do, the voices just keep coming through, and I wind up hearing a whole five minutes of snatches of someone else's conversation before I get totally exasperated and turn the monitor off.

We've tried moving our other electronic equipment. We've tried messing with the settings on the monitor. There doesn't seem to be any way to fix this situation short of getting ourselves a new baby monitor and HOPING that that one will pick up its own signal without picking up everyone else's. So, I'm researching them online right now, and I hope to have a new one sometime in the next few days, and my spying days will be over.

However, I have learned something important from this secret surveilance adventure. It's something I probably shouldn't know, since I shouldn't really be spying on my neighbors, even if I've been doing it accidentally. But despite my guilt over how I've come by this knowledge, I can't help but be glad and a little proud now that I have it.


How have I come to this conclusion, you may ask? Because I now know that all of my neighbors with small children argue, angrily and loudly with each other, ALL OF THE TIME. I'm not exactly sure who's starting these arguments, or what they are arguing about, since as I said the voices I hear aren't that clear and anyway I try not to listen too hard, and I'm glad I don't know, because that would be awkward. But sheesh. Here I thought I had it bad because I cry to John one or two nights a week about how I can't get the boy to eat or sleep like a normal person and I don't have any friends anymore now that I'm a SAHM and he just doesn't understand what I'm going through* and meanwhile, all my neighbors are having all-out shouting matches with each other EVERY DAY.

I guess things are abnormally calm and content around here, after all.

Score one for domestic surveilance.

You still shouldn't be doing it, though, George.

(because he gets to shower and shave and put gel in his hair and leave the house every day, and then he talks to his friends and plays cards on his lunch hour and gets praise from his bosses all day at work, while I scrub floors and wash dishes and try to finish writing projects in ratty jeans and a t-shirt while someone still-mostly-non-verbal tries to draw on the furniture and throws applesauce at me )


Gina said...

" I don't have any friends anymore now that I'm a SAHM "

don't I feel special :p

Our monitor would pick up our neighbors wireless phone, We'd only get one end of the conversation, but it came in crystal clear! We finally just picked up another monitor and we've not had any problems, but we're in a house and I can see how living in an apartment can really be more of an issue

Jaelithe said...

Internet, please take note: When I said "I don't have any friends anymore now that I'm a SAHM," it was in fact hyperbole, employed as a typical example of the sort of silly things I'm liable to say during a tearful rant to my husband, because when I'm really upset sometimes I feel like saying stupid things like "I don't have any friends" when what is actually true is that I do, in fact, have friends, but just don't get to see them very often, which makes me sad.

As you can see, though, Internet, Gina here attests she is in fact my friend. Therefore as you can see, despite what I said before, I do actually have friends. Nice friends.

Supercool playgroup-running Renegade Mom friends, in fact!

So you can stop making fun of me now, Internet. Because I'm not a TOTALLY socially inept geek, all right?

I just look like one.


Lisa said...

I know what you mean. My hubby complains that he doesn't get to go out anymore. I say, "You get to drink beer and take clients out. That's going out." He says, "Well, you get to do stuff with a playgroup."

Playgroups are great but 1.) we don't get to drink alcohol 2.) usually the gathering lasts 90 minutes 3.)You don't get to actually chat with other moms because you're busy trying to keep your child from spazzing out or telling child he must share the toys. So NOT THE SAME as going out.

And wow. I never really thought about how much other couples argue. But my hubby and I rarely fight. Ok. Now you've made me feel pretty good too. So thanks!

Jaelithe said...

There was actually alcohol at our last parenting/playgroup meeting at Gina's house.

See, I told you she was cool :)

(Of course, since half the people there were either driving home or nursing, I don't think many of us got to partake . . . But still, at least we were in the same room with the drinks. Baby steps, SAHMommies, baby steps).

All us STL bloggingmamas ought to band together and make a pact to leave the kiddies with their Daddies or a sitter some balmy Saturday night, put on nice clothes, meet each other in person (*gasp*), and go out to some swank downtown club together where we WILL NOT discuss our children, is what we ought to do. Call it the official MommyBloggers' Night Out.

Of course, then we would probably all come home tipsy at 1 a.m. to find our kids still awake (and screaming "Moommmmeeee!"), our living rooms trashed, and our husbands/sitters with half of their hair pulled out.

But maybe it would be worth it, just one time . . .

Andrea said...

We pick up quite a few conversations on the monitor, even though we live in a house instead of apartments. I think it's mainly because a lot of our neighbors have small kids too, but we've picked up more in the way of cell phone and cordless phone conversations. Yeah, I know far more than I want to about our neighbors across the street. And they would be horrified if they knew we knew what we know, so for the sake of the neighborhood, we pretend we don't know. But we also know that we are not-so-common in the fighting arena as well. I guess some parents just stress differently. Either that or our monitor somehow "knows" when to listen in and we're just picking up the arguments. We haven't used the monitor much since converting Gabe's bed from crib to toddler bed. Now that he can get out of it himself, he flips out if we leave his door closed. If he needs us, he just comes into our room, which I'm proud to say doesn't happen as often anymore, which I've posted about also. Yay! At least I know my street isn't quite like Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives, either. That would just make me wanna move. :)

Gina said...

now, now, that wasn't an attempt to "out" you. just to say

"hey, I'm here!"


Jaelithe said...

I know. I just like to make fun of myself. You're a sweetie, Gina :)