When Your Neighbors Party Through the Pandemic

Our advice columnist gets you through a quarantine dilemma — as well as how to get that expensive coffee experience at home

Melvin Backman
Published in
6 min readApr 16, 2020
Illustration: Michael Kennedy

Update 6/7/22: Level has a new home. You can read this article and other new articles by visiting LEVELMAN.com.

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My partner and I live in a small apartment building, and everyone’s been good about observing the shelter-in-place order in our state — everyone except our upstairs neighbors. They’ve got people coming in and out of the place all the time, and it feels like they’re not taking this shit seriously at all. This isn’t the first example of them being not-great neighbors — don’t get me started on the Great Parking-Spot Debacle of 2018 — but given the health consequences, it feels more urgent. Am I overreacting here? And if I’m not, what’s the right move?

No, you’re not overreacting. People are stuck inside not only because coronavirus is so contagious, but also because we can’t do widespread testing for it. (If we could, our respective comings-and-goings wouldn’t be so fraught.) And even if we don’t have symptoms, we could still have it and spread it to a bunch of vulnerable populations who might be more easily infected or would suffer more if they caught it. Staying inside keeps all of us safe. And by your use of the royal “everybody,” it sounds like you and the other neighbors have something like a sense of community, all in it together to do your part to maintain good public health.

That said, you should probably just mind your business.

From your letter, it’s hard to tell whether you’re saying “everyone’s been good” about social distancing because you’ve all been in open communication, making a concerted effort at keeping each other healthy, or if this is just you keeping track of what everyone is doing and judging their behavior. Implying that there’s a “right move” here suggests that there’s a move to be made, that an escalation needs to happen. But does it? And if it does, what are you going to do…



Melvin Backman
Writer for

Writer based in Brooklyn.