When you live in a city, you share your living space with that of thousands of other people. And those people make noise. A LOT of noise, at times. If it's quiet you want or need, don't live in a city.
Sometimes the noises can be funny or interesting. With the World Cup going on, for example, a lot of the neighborhood noises in my quartier are from the corner bars or from the neighbors I call the "Party Boys" (because they always seem to be having a loud, raucous party in their upper-level apartment in the building next door to us); every time there's a goal, or a missed goal, or an OMG-someone-might-possibly-score moment in a match, you hear the cheers or groans from one end of the street to the other. I get a big kick out of the noises of the collective sport consciousness.
And then there was the time I thought we had a bobcat living in the building when we lived near Sacre Coeur, because of the bizarre noises we heard... plus, our gay neighbors were having sex on the other side of our WC wall. Paper-thin walls are a noise problem when you're an apartment-dweller, apparently even in old stone buildings.
Sometimes the noises are delightful... as when some unknown pianist across the way is working on Debussy's "Clair de Lune" which is one of my favorites. I'm always disappointed when he/she stops playing.
Right now, however, as I sit in my previously peaceful bedroom, what I hear from across the open courtyard (five different buildings back onto it) is some woman laughing like a cross between a deranged hyena, a cackling chipmunk, and that Sophie Giraffe squeaky baby toy. I suspect the annoying laugher is one of the girls who share the small studio apartment on the ground floor of our building; even though it's a rainy day, they usually leave the door to their apartment open to the courtyard to get more fresh air (I don't blame them for that, considering the size of their living space) and we can often hear them chattering away to each other in their language (not French and not even English). They don't seem to realize (or care) that sounds in an enclosed courtyard are amplified; I also hear the clatter and running water of someone, somewhere, doing their dishes, probably following Sunday afternoon lunch. They probably hear us doing the same through our open kitchen window.
Although I grew up in the country, I have now been living in Paris for so long that most of the time, I don't notice the noises. Sirens and car horns, people conversing as they walk past our open street-side windows... it also sort of blends together, and I can tune it out in the same way I do if I'm writing in a noisy café.
But this girl's laugh is grating on my nerves like fingernails on a chalk-board. I have the window closed already; I can still hear her through the glass, and I want to slap that laugh right out of her. Which, in terms of, "love thy neighbor" is not at all the thing to do.
So - I guess it's time to break out my ear phones and listen to some music while I'm trying to write this afternoon...
... and dream of my book going best-seller so we can buy that country house, and get some peace and quiet once in a while.