the days of borrowing sugar or an egg from your neighbor are no more. they might exist in cookie cutter suburbia, but it’s not really conducive to apartment complex living. maybe my tv work schedule hindered my “getting-to-know-you” attitude. in my first skyrise dc apartment i really only knew the concierge. in my lovely charles e. smith abode in crystal city i only got to know the concierge who worked the 4:30am shift, and by know, i mean caught him giving me really weird looks. my calvert apartment i was even more anti-social. i knew the manager. i’d visit with mrs. johnson a few times a week and she was more protective than anyone i know of my “daytime” sleep. i also knew our myriad of downstairs neighbors by site only to glare at them. (the first set – frat boys who would hit on us when drunk, have late-night extra curricular activities that we would overhear and early morning fights with sleep over girlfriends. the second set – two hispanic kids that liked to smoke, blast their rap en espanol and apparently not clean judging by our infestation of cockroaches.)
so when we moved in to our cozy apartment building i was excited that it was on the smaller side. i naively thought we could get to know some of our neighbors. but apartment buildings tend to just be all around mysterious. you rarely leave or return at the same time so you never meet anyone. you may hear them in the hall way… but try as you might, peering through the peep-hole doesn’t do the neighbors justice.
our only acquaintance was the manager, francie. she is an animated older woman, who we are pretty certain, wears a platinum blond wig. its hairstyle is a bob with big bangs. each day her entire outfit is coordinated, from her boots and fish nets all the way to the flower on her hat. we’ve seen her in purple, grey, black, leopard skin and hot pink. her make up is unreal. think electric blue eye shadow from the early 80s circling her entire eye, and at any given moment her coral-red lipstick will be smeared all over her teeth. she is by all definitions a character!
we’d just gotten married, spent a few days at a bed and breakfast and arrived at our little apartment with about five days to get things situated before christian headed back to law school. needless to say our days consisted of buying supplies at bed, bath and beyond and target, unpacking boxes and putting together ikea furniture. we did not have dance parties. we didn’t listen to music with the bass cranked up. we had no over. we watched some tv and went to bed around midnight and got up around 10am. we lived the lazy unemployed/vacation life. so we were completed shocked to find a note taped to our door one morning. it read:
“voices carry easily from unit to unit in the building. please keep the volume of conversations lower especially late in the evening and in the early morning. thanks.”
no name was to be found at the bottom… rather the cold signature of “401.” the impersonality of the note reflected the state of apartment living. i shouldn’t have been surprised, but i was offended. our apartment is only connected to 401 by one wall. and through that wall, i can hear people talking in 401 and movies being watched. but i did not write a note. besides that, we were never up early that week and the only noise we could imagine making was loud laughter. i hatched a plan to bake some cupcakes to take over and meet 401.
the opportunity didn’t present itself until easter last week. we were having the missionaries over for dinner and another couple. i made some little cakes, with extras for our manager francie, the mailman toby and 401.
christian and i opened our door and took the two steps forward to knock on 401. no answer. we waited, knocked again and then retreated. a few minutes later christian thought he heard 401 come home (maybe residents should consider walking more quietly since footsteps tend to carry…) we attempted a second delivery.
we knocked. on the other side of the door we heard some scuffling around. then a pause, followed by a muffled voice through the door, “yes, what is it?”
“it’s us from across the hall.”
“really not a good time.”
“we were just trying to drop some easter treats.”
“it’s not a good time, can i come over in 20 minutes?”
we were barely able to shut our door before we burst out laughing (which i’m sure 401 could overhear.) 20 minutes passed and robert appeared at our door. a tall, slender, dark-haired man who chatted with us about new york, seattle u, byu and ballroom dancing. and that was that…
a few days later another note was taped to our door. this one was signed by robert (with 401 in parenthesis.) it was addressed to chris & robin. well, he got it almost right this time.