We have a pest problem and I’m not sure that an exterminator can help us. The creatures are nocturnal. They hide by day and only come out at night. They only come out, in fact, just as we’ve finished spending thirty minutes or so getting the baby to sleep.
The baby–now seven plus months old–sleeps well at night. Recently, getting her to sleep has been the trick. The older kids are in bed by 8:30 or so, and we are usually so worn out from our days that we are ready to follow on their heels. But the baby seems to get a second wind just as her big brother and sister head off to dreamland. She sings. She sits up. She turns herself over and over. She does everything but lay down and go to sleep.
I’ve gamified the situation. As I did with our other kids, I often sing the baby to sleep. I spurn the traditional lullabies for Bing Crosby tunes. My game is to see how many songs it takes before the baby falls asleep. Anything under four is a good night. I have a set list in my head. I usually start with “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral,” which the baby seems to like, and which she recognizes as a “sleeping” song. She sometimes gets grumpy when I start singing this, knowing it means she’s in a battle to stay awake. I follow that with “Far Away Places,” and then move onto “Now Is the Hour.”
A few nights ago, I could tell the baby was tired and fighting in, so I pulled her into my arms, and sang these three songs. By the time I got to the final refrain in “Now Is the Hour” she was asleep.
Enter our R.O.U.S.
Not a minute after she was asleep, and I carefully wiggled my blood-starved arm from underneath her, out pest emerged. It made its WHACK-WHACK-WHACK-WHACK-WHACK sound, starting from a distance. As it drew closer, the windows began to rattle, and as it passed overhead, it seemed the walls themselves began to shake.
It turns out we live under the flight path of military helicopters on their way to the Pentagon. At some point between 8:30 and 9:00 pm each evening, one of those waspish beasts is heading home for the night, and wants everyone to know it.
As it passed overhead, the baby, who had been gently snoring, lifted her head and looked blearily around, wondering what all the ruckus was about. It took me another nine or ten songs to get her back to sleep. I lost count, but I know I was getting into the weeds when I was belting out songs like “It Might As Well Be Spring.”
Who does one complain to about a noisy helicopter passing over every night? The FAA takes noise complaints, but I am not sure what they do with them. Back when I was a pilot, flying in L.A. there was some pretty strict noise-abatement procedures in place for airports like Van Nuys and Santa Monica. But those are public airports. Our R.O.U.S. is a military helicopter on a–presumably– military flight path.
The problem is that this particular chopper seems to know when the baby goes to sleep. If she dozes off twenty minutes earlier than usual, the chopper flies by twenty minutes earlier. If she can’t get to sleep and keeps us up for an hour or more, the chopper waits until all three of us are on the verge of sleep before doing its noisy flyby.
In the end, complaining is probably more trouble than it is worth. The baby seems to mind less than her mom and dad. I’ve always disliked helicopters, though, and this certainly isn’t helping their image.