i am a terrible neighbour

I grew up dreaming that as an adult I would own a house. As of today, that particular dream has not come true. And probably never will. (I also dreamed about being Mrs. Corey Haim and filling out a B cup so I should be used to my dreams being doused in animal urine and set aflame in a compost bin filled with huntsman spiders.)

I choose to not be sad about this perceived loss for a few reasons. Honestly, I struggle to keep our small 2 bedroom apartment organized and clean. Basically, a floor gets mopped if something gross spills on it, otherwise I “spot clean” aka crouch down, hock a polite loogie onto the small sticky spot and wipe it up absentmindedly with a lemon-scented wipe.

If I had more than 900 feet to manage, I would fail. I just don't have or want to acquire the life skills to own a house. Screwdrivers are delicious drinks, not a tool stored in a gritty oily toolbox. (I just gagged.) I thrive in the arts. I could destroy you in a pop culture war of wills. I love drinks that are complicated and ice cream that is too expensive. I take cabs. I don't like the outside a whole lot. Bugs that invade my personal space will be murdered. I am 100% a city mouse.

Hell yes, we would love more space and a backyard to ignore our kid in, but we both know that means grass to mow, weird sounds to investigate, the potential for big expensive things to blow up, roof shit, pipe shit, plumbing shit and all the other things that can go wrong when you own a home that Pinterest doesn’t tell you about. Sure, it shows me all the porch furniture porn I can handle, but nowhere does that site mention warped wood rot or surprise wasp nests that pulse to the beat of the meat you would shit in your drawers upon discovery. 

The hallways in apartment buildings DO provide excellent long stretches of soft carpet to try out your new scooter, so that's a plus.

The hallways in apartment buildings DO provide excellent long stretches of soft carpet to try out your new scooter, so that's a plus.

If you live in a house, I salute you. You are brave and much more resourceful than I will ever be. You also may not know that you have one crazy beautiful advantage over us apartment dwellers.

Garbage.

When you are done eating all the food you have to cook at home because you don’t have 16 amazing restaurants within one city block (sorry, now I’m just being a dick), you sort your trash and then on your designated garbage day, you rock-paper-scissors for who has to drag it all to the curb, and in return you get emptied bins, and have to maybe chase one that has drunkenly rolled down the street.

In my apartment building, the garbage room is deep in the basement. The builders must have figured that in order to ensure the room maintained a constant internal temperature of Hell on a Summer Day, only the bowels of the building would do.

As I am the one who consistently fills our garbage with leftovers I “was going to bring for lunch, shit, fuck, I forgot OH WELL BETTER GET CHIPOTLE INSTEAD” and the packaging from raw chicken that takes about 20 minutes to turn feral, I often take the garbage down.

Is the journey slow and dark and loud and weird with no cellular reception and blessed with a labyrinth of corners where a serial killer could be lurking with a clown mask and no pants on? You betcha!

But I’ve been told my face and posture exude a commanding “fuck you” so I’m never scared. And I hold my keys like a weapon, something me and every 90s girl learned in Sassy Magazine. Foolish or not, if push came to shove, I am convinced I could use my Mom’s flowered house key to puncture the jugular of anyone who jumped out at me. Basically, anytime I make it back alive to the apartment after a garbage run, I feel very pleased to be alive.

The hardest part, other than potential slaughter, is the actual trip down.

Problem A: Because our elevator is “energy-wise” aka the developer was a cheap asshole, so it is a slow slog to go anywhere. We are on the 9th floor so that is 10 looooong ass floors to bump and grind down.

Problem B: I know a few of our neighbours well and they are delights; we have an experienced comfort zone and once in the elevator we can do the social dance of "greeting, check in, weather comment, kid complaint, well wish and farewell" with our eyes shut. But there are a lot of people I don’t know and I have this cool anxiety where I can’t make small talk with strangers well.

Example:
Them: “How’s it going?”
Me: “I know, right?” (internally berates self for 15 days)

I also HATE standing in silence. As the floors slowly beep down, I can feel sweat trickling down my back into my butt and even though we both know there is NO SERVICE in that elevator I must remain glued to my phone like it has just revealed the secrets of the universe.

SO -  I like taking the garbage down late at night, when most of the families are asleep or begging their children to sleep. No human interaction = my dream.

Two nights ago, after signing up for Apple Music, I was blissfully rediscovering a bunch of music I had forgotten about. I had my headphones in as I hauled a very heavy bag (filled with a bunch of pumpkins I did not compost I AM SO VERY SORRY, EARTH) out our front door and around the corner to the elevator. It was late. I had picked my face a whole bunch because Sassy told me not to but I’d bet my butt they never wandered the Earth with a visible white head. I was shiny and tired and vigorously mouthing the words to a Weezer song. Everything was awesome until I looked up and saw I WAS NOT ALONE.

A neighbour. FUCK.
A neighbour I do not know. DOUBLE FUCK.
A neighbour holding a bag of trash. FUCK EVERYTHING I GIVE UP.

Male, European (our landlords are Euro so 89% of my neighbours are Euro), late 40s, clearly in his after-hours-bumming-it clothes. Weird shoes that looked like a sheep had tried to gnaw them off. We looked at each other and we didn’t need to say it because our eyes and shoulders said it all.

FUUUUUUCK.

We both knew we were now reluctant partners on a journey that would take far too long and we both just wanted to be alone but NO.

After exchanging watery insincere smiles we stood waiting for the elevator.

We rode the elevator.

We got off the elevator and buzzed through 2 doors together and he took a left, going the long dumb way to the garbage room proving he was a new neighbour and I should have been a pal and let him know about the shortcut but I was so desperate to not be buddies that I just booted it the short way but my bag was so heavy that we ended up at the garbage room door at the same time and I fumbled my fucking keys so he buzzed the door open then held it for me so nicely so I said “Thank you” with my headphones on which was probably super awkwardly loud, like I hadn’t spoken in 17 years and forgot social volumes.

Here was my chance. I could take an obscene amount of time at the garbage hole as he dallied with the recycling bins on the other side of the room. I could wait him out. I could inhale all this fresh garbage for as long as it took for him to leave, give him a healthy head start, then meander my way back to the elevator bank. EASY.

I painstakingly pried individual pieces of old pizza out of three different boxes and looked back quickly.

HE WAS STILL THERE.

We walked to the door at the same time and I shoved down my awkward panic down hard. I was tired and maybe my 90s rock was infusing me with confidence. Also, I couldn’t breathe. An apartment building filled with children creates trash with unholy odours.

He followed me out and joined me for the shortcut but when I took a right, he kept going straight and in my head I was like OH NO HE DONE FUCKED UP because that way to the elevators doesn’t work because I tried it once and our fob doesn’t work on that other door, and, yes our garbage floor is protected like Area 51 for some reason.

And a good neighbour would have pried out an earbud and sweetly informed him, “that door down there doesn’t work” but this fucking neighbour RAN to the elevators, jammed that Up button like a dick-waggling Pennywise was on my ass, jumped into the elevator and pushed the 9th floor button so hard my finger bent back to the first knuckle, as I heard him yarding on the door that wouldn’t work.

My heart was RACING, you guys. Turns out being a shitty neighbour is pure blood-pumping CARDIO. I don’t need fitness Apps. I just need to play after-hours garbage Russian Roulette.

Thanks for reading essentially a kajillion words about garbage. If you're into it, here's another story I wrote about awesome apartment living.