February 28, 2002
Closeted


"I think it's time to talk to the landlord," I sigh, as David and I are leaving for work this morning. And I cast a baleful glance in the direction of the apartment located directly above ours. 

David nods in bleary assent. He looks as wrecked as I feel.

Another night, another 3 a.m. wake-up call, courtesy of Upstairs Neighbor Guy and his stoopid broken closet door.

I understand that noisy neighbors are an unavoidable fact of apartment life, like having your welcome mat stolen, or finding unfamiliar boxer shorts in your laundry basket every once in a while. I used to BE the noisy neighbor. And although I would infinitely prefer to live in a *real* house, most of the time I'm OK with the idea of living here in this funky little apartment complex. I have no problem with the apartment itself, other than the fact that it's cramped, moldy, ant-infested, has absolutely zero storage space, has no windows to speak of and features the world's ugliest pink kitchen appliances.  And I certainly have no problem with my roommate, other than the fact that he talks about the fudking STOCK MARKET entirely too much these days. (That is, when he isn't talking about bike-riding, the California gubernatorial race or Japanese garage rock from the 60's.)  I would rather live in an apartment with somebody I'm madly in love with than live in the house of my dreams with someone I can barely tolerate.

But more and more lately, it's the little irritations of apartment life that are getting to me. The noise. The lack of privacy. Cigarette smoke. Cooking odors. Ducks in the swimming pool. Coming up with enough quarters for the laundry. That claustrophic sense of knowing that there are people on all sides of you ... people upstairs, people downstairs, people next-door, people across the hall from you ... and that most of the time the only thing separating you and those people is a thin layer of plaster. I find that intensely creepy.

But nothing -- I mean NOTHING -- rubs my last viable nerve raw like that stoopid broken closet door.

I don't even have to look at the clock anymore. If I am suddenly wrenched out of a deep and life-affirming sleep in the middle of the night, I can be certain that it's somewhere between 3:07 and 3:29 a.m., and that Upstairs Neighbor Guy is on the prowl again. I can also be pretty sure of what's coming next. All I have to do is lay there and wait  --  monitoring his movements as he shuffles back and forth between the bathroom and the bedroom (he wears shoes in the middle of the night, from the sounds of it) -- and after a while, there it is: a hideous, nerve-shredding skreeeeeeeeeeeeeking noise, as the closet door skids perilously along the side of the floor track,  followed by an ear-splitting THUD as the door eventually detachs from the ceiling track and derails again.

It's a little bit like like being trapped beneath a trainwreck. Over and over and over again.

And that's what drives me nuts about the whole thing. He doesn't just do it once. It's almost as though he looks at his closet door and says to himself Gosh, my closet door appears to be broken! ... and then he opens and closes it again, seven or eight or sixty-four times in a row, just to make sure.

All along, I've been trying to maintain a sense of humor about the situation. He's clomping back and forth in the kitchen all night long? (Maybe he's rehearsing for 'River Dance!')  I've tried to maintain perspective. He doesn't have a job, he doesn't have visitors, he almost never leaves his apartment, but he's still getting dressed at 3:07 a.m. every morning? (Maybe he's an early bird.)  I've tried to be patient. The manager has talked to him, the building superintendent has talked to him, we've left notes on his door ... it's a quick fix with a screwdriver, forcryingoutloud ... but the door never gets fixed? (Maybe it will get fixed tomorrow!) I've even tried to develop sympathy for the man. He's old, he's sick, he's alone, it's Christmas. (Maybe he would like this nice delicious leftover candy!)  But all of these good positive charitable thoughts fly right out the window at 3:07 a.m., when I'm laying wide awake in bed, listening to that infernal door slam back and forth for the second or third or fourth night in a row. Then he turns into precisely what he is: a creepy, annoying, thoughtless old fart with a closet fetish.

And I'm fed up.

I'm sorry if I'm sounding a little harsh. I'm not feeling very Oprah-like at the moment. Come back when I've had an uninterrupted night of sleep and I might be more charitable.

In the meantime, tonight when we get home from work, I'm marching straight to the landlord's door -- or maybe I'll have David march straight to the landlord's door -- and we're going to ask her -- no, David is going to DEMAND -- that she do something about this, once and for all. I don't care if Upstairs Neighbor Guy never, ever answers his door. Break it down. I don't care what he's got in that closet of his. I don't care if it's MRS. Upstairs Neighbor Guy. Those closet doors are coming down tonight, even if I have to tear them down myself with my own two hands.

And then we're replacing them with a goddamn BEADED CURTAIN.



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he left the basket of candy sitting on his porch, untouched, for two weeks ...
... until somebody finally picked it up and tossed it
into the dumpster.