Archive for February, 2013

My Elaine Benes Moment

February 16, 2013

The building I live in has a large office downstairs and 3 small apartments upstairs.  It’s not the best built, but it’s clean, has large windows, allowed pets, and is affordable. 

I’m in the first apartment, the one closest to the building’s 2nd story door that opens into the corridor.  One walks by my unit’s door to get to the 2nd and 3rd apartments.  The hallway is unheated, with big west-facing windows.  In the winter, it’s freezing out there, although it can warm up if the afternoon sun is bright; in the summer, it’s a furnace.

The next door tenant’s lease began in November.  I was gone during the week she moved in, which was good, since I was spared a lot of that nerve-wracking noise of having folks moving back and forth down the hallway and up and down the outside steps.  I was interested in being on a good footing with her since we share a common, uninsulated wall.  I’d managed to persuade the last tenant to move his television so that I wouldn’t hear it from my bed while he watched it non-stop, and I knew that if the new tenant had no vested interest in being cooperative, she could make my domestic sphere a pretty miserable place.

I’d enjoyed having the apartment next door mostly empty throughout October, so having someone, anyone, move in, was not going to make me happy.  When I saw what looked and then proved to be, a party girl who moved through her life inseparable from her high heeled shoes, I really started to worry.  What if she brought large groups of folks back from the late-night bar scene?  What if she was used to loud noises, played her music and tv at high volumes and thumbed her noise at my old lady, solitary ways? 

In the past few months, despite some sticky moments, we’ve managed to create a kind of detente.  Early on, I had to point out to her that I could hear EVERYTHING that was going on with she and her boyfriend in her apartment, and that leaving the cardboard box that had come with her new television sitting outside by the garbage can was not the safest, smartest move, but she seemed amenable to keeping the noise down and was willing to concede that leaving a box advertising her expensive and desirable purchase for anyone to see was not safe.

Still, since I wanted my intereactions with this woman to be as inflammable as possible, the less said the better; so when she’d leave her garbage in the shared hallway, I’d decided to keep my mouth shut.  I knew that with the heat rising from the downstairs office and the sun streaming in from the southeast exposure, the small apartments warmed up quickly and that garbage could easily get stinky.  I have less of a problem since I compost and flush my cat’s expensive biodegradable litter, but clearly, having a cat herself, she was having a problem.

Since the hallway had usually been chilly, the garbage never smelled too bad, but it wasn’t like the rest of us used the hallway as a stopping off point for refuse.   Once, rather than confront her, I tried to give her a hint by moving the bag outside to the landing, but I guess the attempt was too subtle, since she continued.

Part of me tried to find her laziness funny.  After all, she had a bumper stick on the back of her Chevrolet SUV that said “My sport is your sport’s punishment.”  Setting aside the fact that this made almost zero sense, basically, the damn thing made the claim that she was a diehard fitness freak.  But from my observations, she was too lazy to walk to the garbage can.  Indeed, her interest in fitness appeared related only to sporadic in-home, video-driven exercising and a few half-hearted runs, specifically designed to keep the drinking calories from having too marked an effect.

This past Thursday, as temperatures outside headed toward the upper 50s and the hallway heated up, the cat poop in the trash bag  was stinking up the hall.  Although in theory the women in apartment 3 suffered from the smell more than I and pretended they were going to say something, I realized by now that they would prefer to suffer in grumbling, stinking silence than force any confrontation.  If it was going to stop, I was going to have to say something.

I’m known for my sharp tongue, something I’m not as ashamed of as I probably should be.  A really sharply worded remark is a work of art, I believe.  Like an arrow, calibrated precisely between insight and judgment, the resounding thwack when it hits the target is deeply satisfying.  However, because it’s devastating, I rarely unsheathe it.  And I would not have, if, when I popped my head out of my apartment at the sound of her door opening, events had not transpired as they did. 

I suppose I’d expected to see her, garbage bag in hand, exiting the building.  She was exiting the building — she was almost completely out of the building by the time I opened my door — but the garbage bag was still by her door, still stinking up the place some 3 hours later.

“Hi,” I said.

She made a noise that suggested an irritated greeting as she kept moving.

“That,” I gestured toward the garbage, “is disgusting.”

She wheeled around, performing this flouncing gesture 15 year old girls have perfected for those moments when their moms tell them to clean up their rooms, and stomped past me to retrieve the garbage.

I should have closed my door then and there, objective achieved, but I simply couldn’t comprehend how she could leave the building without taking her stinking garbage.  Plus her attitude really gnawed me.  Why would we want to smell her garbage when she clearly didn’t want to?  She wasn’t thinking, never displayed any consideration, of others, the kind of behavior that gets my goat anytime I see it displayed.

Suddenly, as if it had been waiting for me to speak it for decades, the best line was tripping off my tongue like poetry.

“And if your sport is my sport’s punishment, you should be able to haul your ass out to the garbage.”

As I turned back into my apartment, the building’s door slammed.  Despite all the difficulties that lay ahead (my friend Scott is worried that one day I’m going to get killed), I insist it’s funny.  Not spiritually aware, not diplomatic, not even fair — just freakin’ funny.

Choo-choo choose me

February 14, 2013



As difficult as it was for me at the time to give everyone in my elementary class a valentine, I now see the practice as one of the most charming of anything required of me in school.  I wish we could still do this — give valentine’s to everyone who crosses our path this day.

So this is my valentine to anyone out there who comes across its path.  We all deserve love.  May you cherish the love that is in your life and remember to share it with others.