Neighbor Dispute: Gepetto's Workshop

Jocelyn contacted me to schedule a mediation. She was a single mother having problems with her neighbor, Gepetto. Though he lived in the basement apartment below her, the noise from his condo was intolerable. He had a woodworking hobby and sometimes the saws and sanders could be heard well into the night. I spoke with Gepetto briefly to confirm that he wanted mediation. An older man, he admitted that he worked late hours, but he said that Jocelyn was incredibly rude and basically stalked him. He emphatically agreed that they needed help.  

During the session, Jocelyn made some troubling comments about Geppetto's background. He was an Italian immigrant with a thick accent. “ I don’t know how you do things in your country, but here in America…” She also claimed she could never understand what he was saying.

Gepetto was outraged by her comments and hurt because he believed he had reached out to Jocelyn to get her to see him as an individual, not just another immigrant. He had given her a tour of his workshop, shown her his line of hand-carved puppets, and even gave her a simple wooden car for her son. He felt that no matter what little noise he made, she would stomp on his ceiling or aggressively bang on his door. He also overheard Jocelyn bad-mouthing him to a neighbor and was convinced she was waging a campaign against him in the building.

In the second session, we explored Jocelyn’s attitudes about Gepetto’s background and Gepetto’s concerns about Jocelyn’s aggressive response to noise. We made little progress there, so I looped back to their commonalities; they both loved their work and wanted a home that was comfortable and felt safe. We brainstormed a range of solutions. Ultimately, the parties decided that Jocelyn would put rugs in her apartment and refrain from knocking on his door. Gepetto would spend a reasonable amount of money to add sound insulation to his ceiling and would not use power-tools between 10pm and 7am. If there were any problems, they would text each other. They weren’t friends when they left, but the exploding frustration had dulled to grudging acceptance.