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The City That Cannot Sleep

Across Spain, 12 million residents are exposed to excessive noise. In Madrid, residents, lawyers, and officials want everyone to zip it.  
In Madrid, a bustling street life can keep residents awake.
In Madrid, a bustling street life can keep residents awake.Francisco Seco/AP

It’s after 2 a.m., and I’ve been awake for several minutes listening to the bark of a dog on the street. The windows of my second-floor apartment are open to let in Madrid’s crisp autumn air. I’m waiting for the dog to stop so I can go back to sleep. But the barking continues, so I get up to investigate. Who knows—maybe the dog is in trouble, or perhaps the owner is hurt?

It’s neither. When I pull back the curtains, I see two people, one Labrador, and a ball. The dog, no doubt delighted to run on a street devoid of traffic, is enjoying the game of fetch. The barking, the laughing, and the loud banter are reverberating through the neighborhood and I want to stick my head out of the window and scream, “Shut the f@&ck up!”