For a month now a drummer has wandered our neighborhood at about 3 a.m. each morning. He beats his drum in a jaunty rhythm and people wake up to eat before the Ramadan fast begins for that day. A couple of times each month, he comes by all of the apartments for whom he drums and he asks for a tip. Does he knock on the door? Politely ring the doorbell? Nope. He comes into the building and walks up and down the stairs, beating his drum and hollering. This echoes nicely in our concrete-and-marble stairwell.

I am now convinced that Bean is a super-prodigy who will do everything early. Why do I say that? She’s teething. It’s a month and a half earlier than the books say most babies teethe, but today I got proof. She was fussy all afternoon. I burped her — so it wasn’t gas. I changed her (several times) — so it wasn’t a wet diaper. I checked her outfit — so she wasn’t hot or cold. I fed her — so she wasn’t hungry. I gave her new toys — so she wasn’t bored. I moved her to a new position — so she wasn’t uncomfortable. After trying dozens of new things while trying not to do too much and overstimulate her, Bean continued to cry. Then, I pulled out the Baby Oragel. One swipe, a yucky face (she hates the stuff), and she calmed down and went to sleep almost immediately. The verdict: All of the drooling, fussiness, chewing, and extra-juicy diapers were right. She’s teething.

Normally she sleeps very soundly, but not since this teething adventure began. So, when I heard the drummer enter the door of our building and begin hollering, I was prepared for her to wake up. Usually, they bang around awhile & move on. However, this guy was particularly full of the holiday spirit. I just couldn’t take it. The hub was trying to nap (it had been a long night last night & a long day at work), Bean was just down for a nap, and the drummer was jolly-jolly banging away. Before I knew what I had done, I was out of my seat and heading towards the door. My plan of action was still unclear. Should I open the door? Should I say something? Or, should I just peer out the peephole and silently curse him in two languages? I was opting for the latter when the drummer made a mistake. He rang our doorbell.

After we came home from the hospital, a friend made a sign for us. It says: “Please don’t ring the doorbell, the baby is sleeping.” This is a wonderful sign. It makes people knock instead of ring our annoying doorbell that sounds like a spastic bird tweeting. (My apologies to the spastic community out there for comparing you to my doorbell.) Apparently Mr. Happy Drummer Man was like most drummers I knew in high school band: better at drumming than academic pursuits. He neglected to use his reading comprehension skills and he rang the bell anyway. I opened the door.

My first mistake: My hair was wet because I had just showered. This is a cultural no-no for a woman to answer the door or go out with wet hair. Especially freaky-sticking-out wet hair. I had been wearing a towel turban and barely remembered to rip it off before I opened the door. The result was truly shocking.

Next, I hollered at him. It was good-natured hollering, meant only to get his attention. After all, he was standing in our narrow hallway, facing my neighbor’s door, his back to me, and banging away on his giant bass drum. When he turned, the following conversation ensued:

Drummer Man: Hello Sister! (That’s a polite address for woman here. I could tell he thought he was going to get some dough.)

mab: Excuse me. My very little daughter is sleeping. Can you please not play?

Drummer Man: I’m so sorry, sister! (He stands there with a huge smile smeared on his face and a waiting expectancy. I realize that he still thinks he’s getting cash. I start to close the door. He and his buddy are shocked that I opened the door, but didn’t give them cash.)

Let me break this down for you: For me to open the door and tell him to shut up without giving him any money would be like you opening your door and flipping the bird at the 3rd grade Sunday School class that’s come to sing Christmas Carols. I realized that I was, in effect, verbally flipping him off, so I stuck my head out again. I was going to try to fix things.

mab: I’m sorry, I don’t celebrate Ramadan. Thanks.

So I know that’s not exactly a good thing to say. In fact, it is a pretty grinchy, rude thing to say. But, my language skills just weren’t up to a complex explanation of the reason I wasn’t going to give him money. I couldn’t say: “Sorry, dude, but your playing at 3 a.m. has been most annoying to me and my family. We don’t fast. We don’t need to get up early. We don’t need your nice playing. If you want to play for us at 3 p.m. when my entire household is awake, I’d love to tip you. But, it goes against my principles to tip you for a service that I don’t want at all. But, happy holidays to you!” My attempt to fix things failed. I had already verbally flipped him off. This was worse. This was like punching Santa Claus in the gut. Who would punch Santa? Apparently mab would. Sigh…. I meant all of that to sound different than it came out….

Drummer Man: (with more grace than I could have given if I were him) I’m so sorry, Sister! Have a great day!

He quit playing and left the building.

I’m not going to sleep tonight. I’m too afraid that the ghosts of Ramadan Past, Ramadan Present, and Ramadan Future are coming to visit me, the Ramadan Scrooge.