News & Politics

We Asked for Your Quarantine Gripes. You DELIVERED.

Jerky animals. Mysterious yardwork. And what is UP with that person playing recorder?

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Last Thursday, Washingtonian asked what kinds of things were irritating you during lockdown. We stipulated that this wasn’t a place to talk about runners who don’t use masks or incompetent political leadership: We requested your pettiest complaints, the things you might not admit to anyone else even if they kept you up at night. And boy, did you deliver. So we’re going to keep this going: At the bottom of this article, you can find our Online Complaint Box, which we hope you will continue to fill with your gripes and grievances.

For now, though: To the complaints box! Here’s a small selection of what we received. (Complaints may have been lightly edited for spelling and style.)


My cat follows me around the house most of the day. And he often stares at me while I’m working. He is just always there.

This is EXACTLY the kind of thing we were looking for.


My neighbor owns not one, not two, but eight Yorkie dogs. She lets them out like clockwork to bark every morning just after the sun rises, four or five times during the day and usually once at 10 PM as well. Bark might be the wrong word: Truly I am awoken each day by the mangled howls, squawks, and screams that come out of these over-bred genetic disaster organisms. But the apartment I’m at has rent control and how could I give that up?

We love a lot about this complaint, but especially that it’s from…Petworth.


Two of my neighbors have garbage out for multiple weeks that isn’t getting picked up because large item collection is suspended. They obviously didn’t call ahead, and neither seems to be backing down.

This one comes to us from Sterling, and we see the same  thing all the time in Alexandria, where large-item collection is also on ice. FWIW, most jurisdictions have a place you can drop off your bulky stuff. What, like you’ve got something better to do?


Someone in my building has acquired a recorder and plays it nearly every single day like at around 4 p.m. Its screechy tones while I’m stressed and rushing to meet my 5 p.m. deadline makes me want to scream. My building is mainly young people in their early to mid 20s so I don’t think it’s a child but a full-grown adult mimicking a fifth grade class every single day and I have no clue why. Are they a teacher? Is this a hobby? Are they specifically trying to make me lose my mind?????????????? The worst part is I swear to god the noise comes from a different place in the building every single day and so I have NO CLUE which room it’s coming from. Is it a ghost? Is it in my head? Help.

This one comes to us from Chelsea in Columbia Heights, and while we agree the choice of instrument is puzzling here, we’ve been strumming a ukulele in the back garden of our townhouse every once in a while and are now reconsidering whether that activity can be fairly classified as essential.


For some reason, my apartment building has decided all sort of construction projects are now “essential.” Not a day goes by that I don’t hear the grinding sound of a saw or drill reverberating through the walls. Today, they’re fixing a fence outside my window, and the saw is competing with the workers themselves on who can be louder!

Tremendous. Though, given a choice between this situation and recorder music, we’d probably take this.


My husband always leaves our espresso machine on (and has for years) and claims that it has an auto-off feature that turns it off after 20 minutes or so. Dear reader, that auto-off feature is I. I only learned that he thought it had this auto-off feature during quarantine because I asked him why he always left it on. He still leaves it on. I still turn it off.

This long-simmering dispute comes to us from Shepherd Park. Reached for clarification, its author says her husband, though reliably informed otherwise, steadfastly believes the machine goes into “sleep mode” after 20 minutes and shuts off after four hours.


Neighbor stands/paces in front of my house on his cell phone and talks LOUDLY on his conference calls.

We weren’t sure whether this one, from someone who signed it “Cranky in California” and declined to be contacted for a follow-up, was actually a local complaint. But we’ve heard plenty of neighbors’ calls now that the weather has warmed up and, while it hasn’t been an issue for us, we’d counsel keeping this gripe on the DL–chances are you’ll need to be outside on a call at some point.


My neighbor has been doing yardwork 5-6 days a week for the past month. But the thing is, he’s not doing anything major. He’s not uprooting bushes or laying down sod or whatever. Five to six days a week, he’s out there with the lawnmower, or with the edger, or weeding the garden. Why is he doing it so often? His yard isn’t that big! There can’t be that much yard work to do! Is he trying to escape his wife and toddler? Even if he is, does that mean we all have to hear the weedwhacker going for the 4th time this week? What is he doing??

Washingtonian decided this one merited a followup phone call. Stephen, who lives in Northeast DC, says his neighborhood is mostly row houses where the biggest yards are perhaps 100 square feet, and that this neighbor is out for an hour or two most days, either mowing or whacking weeds. Stephen knows this neighbor and hasn’t yet asked him what on earth he’s doing out there—a project for the future, perhaps! So, uh, how does this man’s yard look? “It looks fantastic,” Stephen says.


I’m annoyed that I can’t take advantage of this. I’ve got an under-1 kid, so life is not that different day-to-day. If I lived alone or didn’t have a kiddo (whom I do love), I would be GETTING SO MUCH MORE DONE.

We contacted the complainer, who lives in Northwest DC, works for a university, and has a nine-and-a-half-month-old to find out what she’d like to cross off her to-do list during lockdown. The Complaints Department has two older children and was instantly transported to that earlier time of our lives, when we worked between naps and baths and collapsed at 8 PM. This person and her husband just moved into a new condo, so there’s house stuff they’d like to get done, and, she says, “I would definitely be a quarantine baker. I would be doing the sourdough starter.”


The actor Richard E. Grant has been posting clips of him reenacting lines from Withnail and I, the cult classic movie that made his career. Withnail is a famously erudite and cynical character – all the film’s humor stems from his deadpan, dark character – but Richard breaks character (usually by laughing) in each clip he posts! The entire effect is lost, Richard. I feel like Withnail right now, and it doesn’t help that you’re giggling like a schoolboy.

This superb small-bore peeve comes to us from Alan Zilberman, an economist who moonlights as Brightest Young Things’ film editor. Reached by phone, Zilberman tells the Complaints Department he has been a Withnail fan since he was a teen. He offers an example of Grant breaking character (bad) and maintaining the fourth wall (YES!). His biggest gripe with the beloved actor’s recent videos? “The misanthropy is lost.” A paranoid waster who takes every slight personally? During lockdown, “I think that everybody thinks like that a little bit,” Zilberman says.


My boyfriend’s roommate does all the dishes — actually takes them out of the dishwasher instead of EVER running the dishwasher — which, yes, means much less work for my boyfriend and me, but drives me absolutely nuts. Is it a control thing? Are we not clean enough? It feels truly inexplicable (dishwashers are SO. EASY.) and I can’t stand it.

This is completely weird behavior, bordering on performance art, and we are here for it.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.