Monday, September 27, 2010

B for BAD Neighbor

Okay, so after my last two posts, I’m going to completely shift gears today. It’s time to lighten things up around here. I got the idea for this post when my lovely bloggy friend, Shana, wrote a post about bad neighbors. I immediately felt bad for Shana, because I think we’ve all been there at one point or another. Then, I remembered the time that I had been a bad neighbor. A really, really, really, horribly, terribly bad neighbor. And, I decided to swallow my pride and tell you about it, because I’ve reached the point where I’m able to laugh about it. I hope you will too. Go ahead and laugh at my expense. It’s okay. I encourage it.

At the age of 25, I was living alone for the first time ever in my life. I’d gone from living in my mom’s house, to living in an apartment with my then fiancé, Alex, to buying a townhouse with Alex and living a very grown up life for someone in her early twenties. One day, I woke up and realized that I just couldn’t live that life anymore.

Alex and I had dated since I was 17 and he was 19. We had, in essence, grown up together. Or rather, I grew up. And he? Well, he didn’t. Not so much anyway. Not at the same rate as me, I guess. At any point, I didn’t love him anymore. At least not the way that you should love the man you’re planning to marry. I was sick of being his maid and his mommy and getting very little in return for that. It had started to feel more and more like we were roommates—not partners—and he wasn’t even a very good roommate at that.

So I did the most logical, yet hardest, thing I’d ever done: I packed up my things and left. I moved to a suburb about thirty minutes south of were Alex and I had been living. I’m not going to lie, lovely reader. I chose the suburb because a certain someone lived there.

Joe and I had reconnected months before. After having not spoken for years as a result of Joe crossing boundaries that never should’ve been crossed when you consider that I was the fiancé of his best friend, Joe emailed me and we started talking, which lead to us spending time together, which lead to me realizing how truly unhappy I was with my current situation. It should’ve been a bad sign to Alex that I was even talking to Joe at all, but he didn’t seem to care. And that’s what pushed me over the edge.

There had always been chemistry—a deep connection—between Joe and me. I know now, thanks to age, maturity, and hindsight, that it was just lust. But back then, it seemed like love. He encouraged me to move to the wonderful suburb he lived in. So, I did, and we started dating.

I found the greatest two-bedroom townhouse style apartment, which had a one car garage and its own entry (thus the “townhouse style”). I enjoyed my new found freedom and peace and quiet and took great pride in living on my own. Because Joe worked a second shift job, he’d often come over late on weeknights so that we could spend a little time together before I went to bed. Life seemed so great, and I was happier than I’d been in a long, long time.

One day, about six months after I’d moved into my apartment, I got home to find an envelope on my door. It was quite obvious that there was a very important message inside, because the envelope was fastened securely to the door with two large strips of silver duct tape. The envelope was addressed to Neighbor in Apartment 112, so it was definitely for me. I’ve included an artist's rendering below. (Note: I am the artist, and I’m not what you'd call very artistic, which I'm sure you'll notice.)

See? Whoever left this message really wanted me to get it. So, needless to say, I was eager to read it. Once inside my apartment, I tore open the envelope to find a one page handwritten letter:

Dear neighbor-

I wanted to make you aware of an issue that you might not be aware of, since I know you just moved in a few months ago. The walls and floors in these buildings are very thin, which means we can often hear much of what our neighbors do. (Editor’s Note: Seriously?! Someone’s gonna write a note to bitch about my TV being a little loud, or worse, me walking too loudly?) Many times this isn’t an issue, because we all tend to keep similar hours, but your boyfriend sometimes seems to visit kind of late at night. (Oh, Oh. Getting a little worried here.) I’m pretty sure he visited last night, which is what prompted me to finally write this letter. (Starting to wish this was just a complaint about how loud my TV is, but realizing it probably isn't.)

Last night, my young son woke me up at around 1 a.m. asking what was wrong with the lady in the other apartment. (My heart is in my throat.) He was quite upset because he thought that the lady was being hurt, because she kept screaming, “Oh, God! Oh, God!” I had to explain to him that the lady was fine and that she was probably just really excited about something. This isn’t the first time this has happened. (OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! I have to move. NOW! Right this instant!)

What you do in your apartment is your own business, but I wanted to let you know that other people can hear you. I hope that we’re able to resolve this issue without getting the apartment management involved.

Thank you,
Concerned (and tired) Neighbor

By the time I finished reading the note, I was shaking and my face was a brilliant shade of red. For a few milliseconds, I was proud. But then, I was mortified. I knew (as I’m sure you do too) exactly what noises the neighbor was talking about. You see, many times when Joe came over late in the evening, we spent time in my bedroom doing what many normal twenty-somethings who are oh so in love do. And though I’d participated in such “adult activities” with my former fiancé, it had never been as much fun or as good. Joe liked to know how well he was “performing” and how much I was “enjoying myself,” so I, of course, obliged.

I could not believe this was happening to me. I felt like a teenager who'd just been caught by her parents. (Which, incidentally, never happend to me.) Once I realized that moving wasn’t an option, because running from my shame wasn’t worth the amount of money it would take to break the lease and pay a damage deposit and first month’s rent elsewhere, I began to wrack my brain over which neighbor left the note. I needed to know who I now had to avoid at all costs. I was so horrified that I contemplated never leaving my apartment ever again.

I didn’t take long for me to figure out that “Concerned (and tired) Neighbor” was the neighbor who lived in the apartment below mine, a single mom with a son who was probably around five years old. I only had one other neighbor, who was barely ever home and to my knowledge had no children. Also, since his apartment was to the right of my living room, which was on the opposite end of the apartment than my bedroom, it wasn’t too likely that he would’ve heard any goings on in the bedroom.

When my mortification subsided a bit, thanks to an instant messaging conversation with Joe in which we had determined that the neighbor was probably just jealous that I was “getting some” and she wasn’t, I was a little angry. While I appreciated my neighbor’s tact (Could you imagine her going to the apartment management to resolve this instead of first trying to deal with it directly first?! Mortification times a billion.), and the fact that she had written a note instead of trying to discuss the issue face-to-face, I was pissed that she had closed the note with what I perceived to be a bit of a threat.

Also, since this issue quite obviously disrupted her life, why had she waited six months to tell me about it?! What kind of sick person listens in on other’s “adult activities” like that?! I knew that she didn’t have her son on a regular basis, indicating that he perhaps was visiting his other parent quite a bit of the time, so I was sure that Little Miss Pervert only grew tired of the noise when it happened to occur on a night that her son was home. Would I have received a note had her son never heard? I doubted it. (What can I say? I was a stupid, embarrassed, paranoid twenty five year old.)

I resolved to avoid Concerned Neighbor at all costs, which would be a little tricky to do since we basically shared a driveway. However, I decided I could use the thin walls and floors to my advantage. Every time I got ready to go somewhere, before I actually left my apartment, I paused in front of the door; looking out the peephole and listening for signs that neighbor might also be leaving her apartment. This technique worked well for quite a while; until the day that I was unloading groceries from the trunk of my car and she pulled her car into her driveway right next to me. I quickly decided to pretend I didn’t notice her, hoping that she’d quickly exit her car and walk to her apartment.

But, as I turned to walk to my apartment, I noticed her standing not even three feet away from me. Oh no. Please don’t say anything. Please, please, please, please, please. I’d fixed the problem. Joe’s late night visits were limited to once per week, and I worked diligently to keep myself quiet on those visits. In fact, I was pretty sure I’d become the quietest neighbor in the world...I crept around my apartment as though the floor was filled with landmines and I barely ever turned the TV on, let alone turn the volume up.

I gave a quick smile and began walking to my apartment, willing her not to talk to me and not to follow me. Maybe, just maybe, she didn’t know that I was “Neighbor in Apartment 112.”

I heard a voice behind me, “Do you need any help?” I wanted to disappear.

I turned halfway towards her, careful not to meet her gaze, “Ummmm…no thanks. I’ve got it!” I smiled as I felt my face turning red; the embarrassment I’d felt weeks ago came flooding back.

“Are you sure? Looks like you’ve got your hands full. Let me at least get that garage door for you.” She reached her hand inside my garage stall and hit the button for the automatic door.

“No. Really. I’ve got it. Thanks for taking care of the garage door though!” followed by a huge smile. The garage door finished its descent, bringing the blaringly obvious 112 into full view. If she hadn’t known before who I was, she certainly knew now. I wished for a giant hole to open in the ground and swallow me up.

We began walking. As we got closer to the steps where she’d go down to go to her apartment and I’d go up to go to mine, I began sweating. Was she going to say anything? Should I say something? Just then, I dropped my keys. WHY does something like that always happen at the most inopportune times?

I turned to pick them up, but neighbor was quicker. “Sorry,” I said as she grabbed my keys off the sidewalk. As she handed them back to me, I looked her in the eyes, smiled warmly, and said, “Thank you so much.” I hoped she knew that the keys weren’t the only thing I was apologizing or thanking her for. I was so incredibly grateful that she was such a good neighbor.

I think she got the point, because from then on, we were always cordial. And, not only was I never confronted by management with any neighbor complaints, but in the year and half that I lived there after that, I never received another note.
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  1. oh man! haha. Well, honestly, I don't think she was trying to be mean about it at all. I'm sure she didn't confront you in person because she knew you'd be embarassed and it probably would be embarassing for her as well. I think she was trying to be pretty nice about it. I don't think she waited so long because she was being a pervert and listening, she was trying not to be a complainer, but couldn't take it any longer. I've had run-ins with neighbors, so let me tell ya, she was trying to be nice about it :-)

  2. That is funny you wrote about this because I was the neighbor that was forced to listen to "it" for ever. Even when I talked to them about it they still kept doing it lol

  3. Oh wowza...embarrassing up the yin-yang! LMAO.

    I never heard anyone doing the deed in all my years of apartment renting...I think I missed out.

  4. Oh my gosh, hilarious!!! I'm so glad nothing like that has ever happened to me....I don't know what I would do! At least she was nice about it more or less. I can't imagine getting the management involved!

  5. HA! This is fantastic!
    I had a similar situation where AFTER I complained to management about my neighbors being loud ALL. The. Time! She accused us of being "loudly intimate". Too on the day she indicated there was no intimacy, loud or otherwise!

  6. Oh I would have done exactly what you did.

  7. Man, it is almost painful to be that age, isn't it? I'm so glad we don't have to do that again.

    Could have been handled much worse by both of you.

  8. So glad I have never had to "share a wall" with anyone. Sharing a fence is bad enough sometimes.
    At least you copped to it, and quieted down...seems like a pretty good neighbour to me!

  9. I have no idea how I would have handled that situation! It sounds like you did the best thing by letting it blow over and then being nice later.

    I have to admit I did laugh when I read this but I also started blushing for you! It must have been so embarrassing! Plus, I know what I sound like when I am having a good time, and I would be mortified if anyone other than the hubs could hear it!

  10. That was a hilarious story. I'm so glad that my post inspired you to post it!

  11. Yeah...super embarrassing. I think if I were to see that neighbor today, I'd still be mortified.

    I don't think I ever heard anyone either, and I'm okay with that! :-)

  12. Yes! I'm so glad she was so nice about it. I seriously think I would've moved if management would've been involved in any way. As it stood, though my neighbor and I grew to be cordial with each other, I was still embarrassed the ocassional time that I did see her. I couldn't imagine having to face management every month to pay my rent if they'd have known about it too.

  13. Thinking back, it absolutely was painful to be that age. So young, so stupid! I'm so glad that I did, indeed, get older and wiser. I am grateful the situation was handled the way it was, because you are absolutely right, it could've been much, much worse.

  14. Thanks! I am pretty proud of the fact that I did the grown-up, responsible thing and changed my boyfriend's visiting hours. I've always heard that "good fences make good neighbors," but it sounds like that might not always be true.

  15. I blushed recalling seriously was the most embarrassed I've ever been in my life! Just like the moments they're made in, those sounds are intimate. I felt so exposed and just plain mortified--I was almost sick over it.

  16. I'm glad you enjoyed it! I honestly felt so bad reading your post, and then when I realized I WAS one of them, I knew I had to confess. :-)

  17. I totally agree...I don't think she was trying to be mean at all. I appreciate how nice she was about it; I just felt awful that she'd put up with it for that long before saying anything. If anyone messes up my sleep, I'm an absolute nightmare, so I wouldn't have been able to hold back as long as she did!

  18. Now that's just weird and wrong that they just kept doing it even after you said something. No shame! I've never quite understood people who have no shame...I don't now whether to be jealous or afraid of them! ;-)

  19. oh my god! first of all, I can't imagine that the kid didn't hear worse stuff on tv. It's not like you were screaming stuff like "give it to me, daddy" or whatever.

    I'm guessing she was just exhausted and angry about something else and used you as her whipping girl. Or maybe it was one of those straw that breaks the camels back thing.
    It's still ridiculous!

  20. Ok I admit, I laughed at your expense BUT understand the thin walls! Great blog!!!!
    ~Naila Moon

  21. Wow. My words fail me. I think you handled that very wisely and maturely -- moreso that I may have, that's for sure.

    Everything that you felt (mortification, anger...) is everything I (and most, I assume) likely would have felt, too.

    Life is ever evolving and most likely a few years ago you may not even have been ready to write this post, but the fact that you're in such a different place in your life now speaks highly fo you and your evolvement.

    What a great post idea and one I'm so happy you shared with us!

    I haven't been on blog for a while and am so happy I stopped by to see you today -- I've missed you, your fanatstic blog and it's content!

    Love and friendship,

  22. LOL! Thanks! I totally could've been worse. I'm thinking the straw that broke the camel's back was likely the problem.

  23. Thanks, Jo! I agree--I think everything I felt is what most people would feel in the same situation. I didn't think about it, but you make a good be able to write about it now says that I've evolved as a person--I've grown up for sure!


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