Boo hiss on bounce houses in neighborhood back yards

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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 nonstop, 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.

— Email Debra DeAngelo, winner of the 2012 Best Serious Column award in the National Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper Contest, at; read more of her work at and

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