Elvis be gone!
January 31, 2008 2:49 PM   Subscribe

There is a very loud, very bad Elvis impersonator within spitting distance from my office window. I work very hard in a high stress position at a non profit, and he is really ruining my job satisfaction. The cops won't do anything, I've tried. I don't get paid much, so I can't afford to bribe him. I have tried listening to music through headphones to drown him out but that's almost as distracting.

I really don't want to have to talk to him - the reason I got into my line of work was to avoid talking to people. How can I get this jerkface to go away?
posted by plague to Human Relations (30 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
NPR just had a segment on drowning out construction noise. The interviewee's suggestions were "lush music" (i.e., choir/orchestral) or "pink noise." There might have been other suggestions; I didn't listen to the whole thing.
posted by desjardins at 3:00 PM on January 31, 2008

If any kind of counter-noise proves successful (other music, pink or white noise, etc.), I'd recommend getting in-ear type headphones—not just ear buds, the serious, squeeze&insert kind. They block out a significant amount of outside noise by nature, making it possible to listen to your noise/music at a much lower volume than you would otherwise have to. I've had great luck with Shure.
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:04 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding "lush music", you might also want to look at things more on the ambient spectrum then orchestral. Also, if you are on the second floor or higher, throw shit at him. As a last resort, borrow a paintball gun. Cheap option: Pay a homeless guy a few bucks to either sit in Elvis' usual spot or just heckle him.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:05 PM on January 31, 2008

You may not like talking to people, but it's a great skill to develop if you're just open, direct and honest.

"Hello, Mr. Elvis Impersonator. You are within spitting distance from my office window. I work very hard in a high stress position at a non profit, and you are really ruining my job satisfaction. Can you please move to another location? May I help you move to another location?"

He may not even know he's bothering anyone.

Alternately, he may not care. If that, then say, "I'm sorry that we can't reach an agreement. I've called the police in the past, so I guess I'll just keep bugging them until they talk to you." Then move on to other suggestions in this thread.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:09 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding pink noise as an excellent sound drowner-outer - you can get some (to play on repeat) here.
posted by flashboy at 3:09 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Can you get someone else to talk to him? A more confrontational friend might be willing to politely ask him to move it down the block.

If he's there because he's busking, see if your town has a busker's permit requirement - if they do and he doesn’t have a permit - report him - maybe that will get him to move along.

As a last resort, ask a musical friend to take up residence in his spot and break Elvis of the habit of "appearing" there.
posted by allieger at 3:17 PM on January 31, 2008

So Is Elvis on a street corner or something or is he physically in a building outside your window?
posted by bkeene12 at 3:36 PM on January 31, 2008

Super Soaker.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:44 PM on January 31, 2008

I have a great pair of earplugs that are molded to the shape of my ear. cost me about $100 and are totally worth it. I don't recall the company that made them... but they look something like this. Different dB levels of reduction are possible. Really really worth it. One of my better investments; now I can feel the guitar amps crushing my chest cavity, but my ears don't ring the next day. Get some that do serious dB reduction, then put a pair of gun mufflers overtop.

As a bonus, this will also cut off coworker noise.
posted by dubold at 3:48 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I like the Super Soaker idea, but that might be assault or something silly. If you really can't talk to him (and I think that's the best solution!), then hanging a sign out your window might not be a bad idea.
posted by misha at 3:48 PM on January 31, 2008

I am nth.ing the white/pink noise cancellation/sound masking -- via device or noise-cancelling headphones.

To be honest something about this question reeks to me of being a joke/hoax. If not, I apologize.

I work very hard in a high stress position at a non profit.

Perchance GiveWell?

If this is not helpful, delete away, jessamyn.
posted by ericb at 3:48 PM on January 31, 2008

Are you in Portland, Or by the way? I know there is a very nice, mentally challenged man who hangs out downtown who does his version of Elvis. I would be horrified if someone supersoaked him! I also know from experience that talking to him, while interesting, is not likely to accomplish anything concrete. So if this is your Elvis, or you have a similar Elvis, I'd really go with some sort of noise reduction technique that you can control ie earphones, noise machine and so on. And if you give him a buck, he'll play requests.
posted by yodelingisfun at 3:57 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do you need a permit to be a street musician in your town? If you do, read the fine print and then sue his ass off.

Here in Stockholm/Sweden where people normally never sue for anything a street musician was sued for violating his permit due to not having a varied enough repertoire. The musician lost his permit to play music and had to pay reparations to the people that had to suffer his "music".
posted by uandt at 3:58 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, in Portland, no, this isn't mentally challenged Elvis. I love that guy. This is a full-on, amplified, karaoke-ing Elvis in a wig with shades, white satin bellbottoms, and a red cape. Right across the street from Powell's.
posted by plague at 4:06 PM on January 31, 2008

Most noise-canceling earphones cancel low-frequency noise like the hum of an engine, so they won't help much here. Noise-blocking earphones or earplugs would be better.
posted by grouse at 4:11 PM on January 31, 2008

As seen here.
posted by plague at 4:14 PM on January 31, 2008

I once suffered through a week of The Bagpiper from Hell, so you have my sympathy. In the pipers case, the police ended up charging him on drug offenses and he hasn't been seen since. In hindsight, I'm amazed that people don't call in more to those anonymous dob-in-a-terrorist hotlines. Bad elvis makes waterboarding seem like an option, alas.

Get thee to a hardware store and buy the best in-ear ear-plugs you can get. Then buy the best ear-muff type ones as well. Be sure to wear both AND play background music. In the silence inside your head, your brain WILL try and make some sort of tune out of whatever noise makes it through so give it something other than Elvis to feed on.

Good luck.
posted by ninazer0 at 4:21 PM on January 31, 2008

Well, my first thought was "You live in Portland. What the hell do you expect." Then I saw the video and my sympathy level for you rose to eleven. This Elvis nemesis of yours is powerful. Too powerful for one man to deal with on his own. You need serious help.

The Cacophony Society of Portland may be the only organization that has the means to defeat your Elvis. Contact them. They may help you.

(or they may send over another 50 Elvis impersonators to join him and torment you straight to hell)

Either way, it's worth a shot.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 4:32 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hire a couple of friends to dress up in dark suits and sunglasses and stand near him, daily. Have them watch intently, with their hands folded behind their backs. Every once in a while, one of them pretends to say something into his sleeve, Secret-Service-style. Then he puts his hand up to a pretend transmitter in his ear and nods. Then they watch some more.

After a few days of this, he'll get paranoid and go somewhere else.

Alternatively, go to his spot late one Sunday night, draw a chalk outline of a body on the ground, and then cordon off the sidewalk with crime scene tape. On Monday, he'll likely look for a new location.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:32 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

[Some comments removed. Yes, Elvis is hilarious; no, jokes still aren't answers.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:36 PM on January 31, 2008

Instead of talking with him, you could send him an email. The video you linked gives his name, and a quick google of his name and "Elvis" shows that he's posted his email address on multiple Elvis-fan websites, asking for people to email him.
posted by Houstonian at 4:42 PM on January 31, 2008

I once had to deal with a noisy work environment and am totally with you.

Nthing maximizing your sound isolation. In my experience, you need two stages of isolation to make enough difference, such as tight-fitting in-the-ear phones + noise-protector earmuffs. If that option is too expensive, consider earplug noise protectors + over-the-ear headphones. Either way, you're cutting down on Elvis and replacing it with something you like.

Also, have you considered discussing Elvis with the head of your nonprofit? Maybe she can think of something she can do.

Or ... telecommuting?
posted by exphysicist345 at 4:52 PM on January 31, 2008

Wow -- who knew there were so many Elvis's (Elvi?) in Portland. I work in a nearby office building and occasionally hear that guy -- I've got these Sony in-ear ear buds which are pretty great -- they're like $40. A friend of mine to drown out noise would wear earplugs under her big old headphones with a little music. Seems a little extreme but would probably work.
posted by amanda at 6:00 PM on January 31, 2008

Send him that email as Houston suggested but instead tell him you are very interested in his music and invite him to start singing somewhere else. You can entice him by stating that it may prove quite lucrative- or something to that effect.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:31 PM on January 31, 2008

I recommend doing some research on your city's ordinances, if you call the cops citing a specific violation they tend to be more willing to take action. I researched the noise ordinance for the city I used to live in because I had a rock band practicing in my garage, and the tolerable noise level was defined as a certain decibel level at a specific distance. Surprisingly, if I was playing music louder than a whisper at 50ft I was in violation, while if I was using power tools the threshold was more like conversation level at 200ft. If Seattle's lawmakers are as unfriendly to musicians as those in my old town you should be able to get him ticketed, encouraging him to either move along or ditch the amp.

If you manage to dig up a law that you're sure he's breaking and the cops are still unwilling to do anything about it, call in a complaint every day until they get sick of hearing from you. And make sure you do it anonymously.
posted by waxboy at 8:03 PM on January 31, 2008

I listen to an online white-noise generator via over-the-ear headphones in my noisy workplace. I find that I don't need to completely drown out my coworkers; if I set the noise level just high enough so that I can't make out their conversation, I can concentrate.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:16 AM on February 1, 2008


Portland, Oregon

14.24.150 UnnecessaryNoise.
(Added by Ord. No. 139931; passed May 22, effective June 23, 1975.) It is unlawful to make any excessive or unusually loud sound which disturbs the peace and quiet of any neighborhood or which does injure or endanger the comfort, repose, health, peace, or safety of any person

14.24.160 Unlawful Operation of Sound Producing or Reproducing Equipment
or to operate any such device on public property or on a public right-of-way so as to be plainly audible 50 feet or more from such device provided that a person operating any such device in a City park pursuant to a permit granted by the Commissioner In Charge of the Park Bureau shall be in violation only if the device is plainly audible at any point along the park boundary. Violation of this Section shall be punishable by a fine of up to $500.
posted by dragonsi55 at 8:43 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

most particularly:

18.06.010 Noise Control Officer.
(Amended by Ord. No. 159276 effective Jan. 24, 1987.) The Noise Control Officer shall be designated by the Commissioner In Charge. The Commissioner may also designate persons to be deputy noise control officers, and the Noise Control Officer and the deputies shall be special police officers of the City and shall have authority to issue citations for the violations of this Title and to this extent shall exercise full police power and authority.
posted by dragonsi55 at 8:45 AM on February 1, 2008

oh, got on a roll...

Paul van Orden
BDS Noise Control Officer

Noise Hotline 503-823-7350
posted by dragonsi55 at 8:48 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

dragonsi55 wins.
posted by baphomet at 7:48 AM on February 2, 2008

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