Not everybody in the neighborhood was tolerant with our constant yelling and playing all day long. As a grownup I can very much understand that now, but as a child making noise was as natural as the sun going down in the evening.
There were designated quiet hours between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm every day that had to be respected rigorously, otherwise some people would find sometimes quite unorthodox methods to show us kids that quiet hours meant quiet hours.
Ironically the most ardent child-yelling-fighter was the deaf Borbála. As a child I could never understand how we could possibly disturb her as she was literally deaf. She had a very funny way of speaking because she was not able to hear her own voice, so we made fun of her when she began arguing with us, which happened almost on a daily basis.
It is hard for me to tell her age because as a child everybody above 30 was considered old for us. I can only guess that she had to be between 50 and 60 at the time I was a child.
She lived on the third floor, almost above our family’s apartment. She lived alone in a two-room apartment, which was quite the luxury as many families with two-three children could only afford a two-room apartment.
Borbála never had children, we guessed that either because of her deafness she was not able to find a partner or because she simply hated kids. Especially us kids in the neighborhood. That was sure. In retrospect I think she was rather annoyed by the noise we produced than by our simple existence, however I cannot tell for sure as nobody cared to ask her. And by the time I grew up into a brain-using young girl she was no longer amongst us.
It did not cross our minds that she may had have had a hearing device, which she obviously did, so we (or rather she? – it is hard to tell where it began) declared war against each other.
On the first few occasions she surprised us with her homemade weapon she used against us. We were (not quietly) playing directly under her balcony when a fight between the notorious boy of the neighborhood, Attila and one of the Kovács boys started. They fought over a toy (what else?) and we built two camps to support the boys and the noise level rose way above the normal level. It was there and then that it happened: suddenly a bucketful of cold water landed on our heads followed by the distorted words of Borbála “this should teach you what quiet hours mean!”
It did shut us up for a few minutes as we were completely taken by surprise. We needed an instant to fully understand what had just happened. It worked: we were quiet for a moment looking at our soaked hairs and clothes. But then the situation escalated. We collectively began crying what obviously alarmed our parents.
Borbála succeeded to create the exact opposite situation that she intended: not only did the children make more noise and cry loud but also the parents’ voices got involved, some of them scolding us and telling us that what happened had been justice, others began their own war with Borbála.
Finally, we all went in our apartments to get changed and to finally respect the quiet hours, however this lesson did not last for very long.
Do not get me wrong, our parents did make sure that we respect the quiet hours every day, but from time to time we simply managed to prolong the time to go inside so that the quiet hours began at 1:30 pm rather that at 1:00 pm.
The next two times cold water flew on us still took us by surprise as they happened on two irregular times. Borbála did know how to keep us in suspense.
However, we soon got used to the possibility of cold water landing on us so it did not bother us anymore. On the contrary, we started guessing when the next time would come and started provoking Borbála. She finally admitted that she had lost the battle against us, but she was not ready to give up the war just yet.