Stalker or just socially inept?
July 22, 2012 12:11 PM   Subscribe

About 4 months ago, a new guy moved in below me (I've lived here ten years). About 2 months ago the landlord gave me his (guy's) phone number (he plays music loud and I suppose landlord wanted to be out of the middle of it--especially when I call landlord at 2:30 a.m.) I've used the number maybe 3 or 4 times since then.

Yesterday it sounded like jet engines were taking off below me. I called and he said, "Oh is that too loud? I'm just watching the previews for Batman, we're going tonight." We talked for a second (I told him to wear a Kelvar jacket and he told me his brother, who he is going with, is a Marine. You should be OK, I told him.)

Last night the phone rang at 2:53 a.m. I did not reach it in time but saw it was him and called back. "Did someone here call for me?" "Who is this?" "This is your neighbor." "Oh, I am so sorry, that was a mistake." He is always polite and cordial when I call him. "No worries. Goodnight."

This morning I had three texts on my phone, all from him--

1. 2:21 Doon?

2. 2:57 Do you wanna snuggle?

3. 2:57 Sry for such a random question. I just fancy ya.

Becker deGavin's "The Gift of Fear" says no and cease and desist responses only let the stalker know how many "nos" get them what they want. (I'm paraphrasing).

I was thinking of a firm text back to him (But clearly he already has boundary issues repeatedly playing this loud music at 3:30!). Next I would tell the landlord about the weird messages in the middle of the night and that he (the landlord) needs to be the one calling him, not me. Even if I am waking the landlord up in the middle of the night.

Let me know if I can clarify. I am in the midst of a project and will check this at break. Thanks for all your input.
posted by Prairie to Human Relations (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think that it is possible that he is confusing your phone number with someone else.

But otherwise I would not respond to his texts (but save them or take photos of them or something), start calling the police when the music is too loud and stop texting him directly. I'd also mention to the landlord that new guy sent you some weird texts, you're ignoring it, but you wanted landlord to know just in case.
posted by k8t at 12:18 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Stalker or just socially inept?

My guess is option C: Drunk.

From what you've written it doesn't sound like a stalking situation. I think it would be perfectly fine and good to write back with the firm text you were thinking of. I also think your idea of telling the landlord about the weird messages and insisting that the landlord deal with this is a good idea.
posted by cairdeas at 12:20 PM on July 22, 2012 [26 favorites]

It doesn't sound like it's stalker territory. The phone calls have likely broken down some barriers in the guy's mind, and maybe he was drunk.

The best thing to do is to respond by text saying he's totally out of line, you don't appreciate being hit on, you don't want him to hit on you, and you want him to stop playing loud music after 10PM.

You also need to involve your landlord, and determine if this negligence on the landlord's part can help you break the lease.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:22 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is your name Doon? Because if it is not, there is zero evidence this guy is stalking you or in any way engaging in behaviour that calls upon a Gift of Fear response. There is copious evidence he's a crappy neighbour, yes, but those are worlds apart. Loud music is not a boundary issue.

And frankly, even if your name is Doon, I would absolutely not go running for a restraining order after what may well be a single incident of drunken communication. Stalking is a long standing pattern of repeated behaviour. This is not what you are describing.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:22 PM on July 22, 2012 [26 favorites]

Becker deGavin's "The Gift of Fear" says no and cease and desist responses only let the stalker know how many "nos" get them what they want.

It actually doesn't. It is pretty clear that you have to set the boundary once - and once only! - but if this is not a case of drunken mis-texting, you can and should say "I am not interested in you." After that, log and do not respond.

That initial boundary-setting is the distinction between normal contact and stalking. It's not stalking to approach someone once. It becomes stalking to approach someone repeatedly, when it's clear that the approach is unwanted. You're not there yet with this guy, and may never be.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:25 PM on July 22, 2012 [12 favorites]

Reply with a simple, I think you have the wrong number this is your neighbor upstairs. If it's an innocent mistake no harm no foul, if he's trying to drunkenly hit on you he has a face saving you still have to live in the same building together out. If he doesn't take the hint and keeps contacting you then you make things clear with a definite stop contacting me, to my mind you move into weird stalker territory if that doesn't work.

Currently though I see it as either texting the last number that called him and sending it to you instead of whoever he meant or a socially inept guy had person he found attractive show the vaguest bit of interest in his well being and took it as a sign of interest. As restless_nomad says it's only if he doesn't follow social niceties and back off when you say not intersted that it enters scary behaviour territory.
posted by wwax at 12:32 PM on July 22, 2012 [15 favorites]

I've received text messages clearly intended for someone else, so I'd give the benefit of the doubt on the wee hours booty call thing. Drunk texting is not stalking.

It's not great news on the noise front, though- in my experience, regular drunkenness + noise is a nearly impossible nut to crack without someone moving.
posted by ambrosia at 12:32 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure exactly what your question is, but I would cease contacting the guy entirely: even if the sound level is at "jets landing & taking off from the living room" loud, just call the cops, make a noise complaint, and let them handle it from there.

(And your landlord giving you the guy's personal phone number? That's really sketchy, to me; first because by making you call your neighbor the landlord is making you do his job, and secondly because when the landlord is handing out tenants' phone numbers, who's to say who he's given your number to?!?)
posted by easily confused at 12:38 PM on July 22, 2012 [17 favorites]

Frankly, in my opinion the boundaries got blurred way earlier, namely when you called him and especially when you called him back at 2:53 am!
If you want to keep someone at a distance, like in this situation where there are disputes about noise, you don't call them in the middle of the night and chat with them about their outfit, in my experience.
I think it's possible that he thinks you two are friends now and wants your relationship to intensify; or like mentioned uptheread he got the numbers wrong and the calls/texts were not intended for you.
Whichever it is, I would back off and basically treat him as any other neighbor. Don't call him, don't text him.
If there is noise, complain to the landlord, call the police. This guy had his chance to change (you called him 3-4 times, told the landlord before), that was more than a fair warning. I would also suggest to submit a written complaint to your landlord, that helps sometimes more than a phone call.
posted by travelwithcats at 12:51 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Absolutely do the face-saving 'I think these msgs were meant for someone else'. It is the perfect out.

Please don't think he is stalking you, unless this is repeated behavior after you have indicated your lack of interest.
posted by bquarters at 12:57 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think he texted the wrong number. You COULD respond by saying, "NO, I'm just not interested in you that way!" Which would result in endless awkwardness (and possibly a reduction in courtesy when you call him at 2:30 about his music).

Alternately, you could just reply "Dude, I think you texted me by mistake." and see what happens.

Much less likelihood of increased awkwardness in future relations, particularly since you know you are probably going to be calling him in the future about his music.
posted by arnicae at 12:59 PM on July 22, 2012

wwax has it.
posted by dobbs at 1:04 PM on July 22, 2012

Thank you for your thoughts. It is clear my own prior baggage as well as my friend's daughter that got murdered by her boyfriend are clouding me. You all give me much to think about...I do try and go by my gut, but oftentimes there is just not enough information to do that. Thank you for your varied viewpoints, I appreciate them.
posted by Prairie at 1:18 PM on July 22, 2012

The suggestion to submit a written complaint to your landlord (about whatever it is you decide to complain about) is a great one - either on email or an actual piece of paper, but something that you can point to further down the road in case things go south with your neighbour or the landlord.

Good luck.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 1:41 PM on July 22, 2012

Yeah, I would start by texting back "I think you texted the wrong person. Also, no. I'm not into you."

We're not in stalker territory here. I would say that he was probably drunk and it seemed like a good idea at the time (which doesn't excuse it, but that sort of thing happens). Also it's not clear that you are Doon. Are you Doon?

Basically I would just let him know that you think he had a wrong number and/or that you're not interested in him (no need to be polite, he wasn't) and see what his response is. I wouldn't complain to the landlord as long as he is apologetic and doesn't repeat the behavior.
posted by Scientist at 1:48 PM on July 22, 2012

Doon = whacha doon = what are you doing, would be my guess.
posted by Iteki at 2:10 PM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

This sounds like dumb stupid flirting, not stalking.
posted by Kololo at 2:12 PM on July 22, 2012

I'll nth that he either mis-texted (I get these fairly frequently) or he's clumsily/drunkenly attempting to flirt. For me, the first step is to tell him you think he sent his texts to the wrong person. The second is the not interested in you response. Then escalate from there as needed.
posted by asciident at 2:18 PM on July 22, 2012

Yeah, I wouldn't worry about it, and text back a rejection. But try to keep it light or funny so it's not super awkward and he doesn't hate you next time you call him to turn down the noise. I'm nthing the drunk texting.
posted by Grandysaur at 2:58 PM on July 22, 2012

Nthing: this is not stalking at all. Unless there's something else that you didn't mention, this is either a wrong number type situation (most likely) or a clumsy advance. Text him back like it's a wrong number and forget about it. Spontaneous communication that turns out to have been unwanted is not stalking.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 3:10 PM on July 22, 2012

I called and he said, "Oh is that too loud? I'm just watching the previews for Batman, we're going tonight." We talked for a second (I told him to wear a Kelvar jacket and he told me his brother, who he is going with, is a Marine. You should be OK, I told him.)

When you're confronting someone, it's best to keep the conversation focused on the issue at hand, and not to mix things up with small talk or jokes. It sends a mixed message to the person you're confronting and they're not as likely to take you seriously. A subject change like the one here is a diversionary tactic and a test, and not taking the bait will come across as extremely hardassed to him, which is what you want. If it's a choice between being rid of the noise problem and having this guy think you're a nice person, you're way better off ending the noise problem.

I think your better bet is to first have a conversation with the police to make sure that they will, in fact, enforce a noise complaint, and tell them that you'd like a chance to handle it on your own. Then, tell the guy FACE TO FACE that he needs to stop, and that from here on out, you'll be calling the police every. single. time. and following up with your landlord. Your position is that you are doing him a favor by coming to him before calling the police, and that you'd like him not to get a noise complaint. (This tactic worked on my upstairs neighbors, even though I wound up having to follow through with the cops and the landlord.)

If that doesn't get him to stop, a cop will wind up at his door knowing that the guy was already warned about the consequences, and still chose to continue playing the music.

Also, after getting some consequences, the guy will start taking you a lot more seriously if you approach him asking him to do something.
posted by alphanerd at 5:03 PM on July 22, 2012

Then, tell the guy FACE TO FACE that he needs to stop, and that from here on out, you'll be calling the police every. single. time. and following up with your landlord.

Going to a man's door I don't know and that is in all likelihood drunk? Probably not. I did feel a bit weird calling him BUT landlord assured me he would be cordial "or call me if he isn't." I am definately calling the non-emergency number tomorrow, though. I have spoken to my landlord about the weird texts.
posted by Prairie at 5:57 PM on July 22, 2012

You don't have to tell him now. I assume he is not always drunk- tell him during the day sometime, not the next time he makes noise. I think you could probably do this over the phone though, the idea is mostly to give him a heads up that you are changing the rules on him. (not to speak for the original suggester).
posted by jacalata at 6:20 PM on July 22, 2012

Becker deGavin

Gavin de Becker. I agree this only constitutes one incident and is thus not really under the definition of stalking, unless you've told him not to contact you in this way.

I would also write off the landlord as useless in this situation and let him, and the neighbor, know that future noise complaints will be made with the police. This may in fact get the landlord to be more proactive, but I wouldn't put money on it.
posted by dhartung at 6:43 PM on July 22, 2012

I read the texts, in combination with the earlier wrong-number call, as meant for someone else. Your number might be similar or he might just be drunk and thick-thumbed, but I don't think these were meant for you at all.
posted by Miko at 7:49 PM on July 22, 2012

Knock on his door in the middle of the day. It's highly unlikely that he's always drunk. If you're nervous, bring someone with you, who can stand beside/behind you. You do the talking. Your neighbour hasn't had repurcussions because he's either scared your or charmed you into backing off whenever you try and talk to him. Stop responding to his friendly charm. Talk to him when you're not nervous (because he's not drunk, and you're not alone), and don't let him distract you with chitchat.
posted by Kololo at 8:42 PM on July 22, 2012

It sounds like the calling hasn't worked, and your landlord is tits on a boar hog (to employ some idiom).

Now we move to letters, and then we move. Chances are your landlord would prefer to keep you as a tenant, rather than your new chum.

Keep a record of disturbances (if you have dates from previous times, note them as well). Let your landlord know every time that it occurs, by email, immediately the following morning.

Calling the police is a hassle because the doofus may keep the music going until they get there, and you're losing sleep, but it's effective. Call the following morning for copies of the incident reports.

What this guy is doing is fooling around with your "quiet enjoyment of your rental" and he can't do that.

Have your landlord send a certified letter, with a blind copy to you, putting the new tenant on notice that he's not to be loud after 11:00 PM.

If the noise doesn't stop after this, ask your landlord to let you out of the lease so that you can seek lodgings somewhere where the disco isn't open all night.

As for the texts, those aren't threatening, they're stupid.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:46 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

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