Thursday, January 18, 2007

Eviction Notice

Sure, I write the occasional haiku about a real-life event. Or, yeah, I'll post a quote-of-the-day. Or detail an incident that happens on some random road trip. But for the most part, I like to think I keep the gory details of my life off of this blog. I keep the gory details of my life out of most conversations, in fact.

But sometimes something happens. Something just distracting enough that you have a hard time thinking about anything else.

Now is one such time.

Late Monday evening — around 10:20 p.m. to be (slightly more) precise — I was sitting at my computer in my PJs when there was a loud knock on my door. You know the sort of knock that interrupts quiet and causes your heart to race?

It was that sort of knock.

But I was tired when I returned home from work that evening, and had been lounging around my apartment in flannel pajamas for hours. So Washington, who was watching television in my living room, went to see who was at the door.

Before I even had any idea who was on the other side, he opened the door a crack.

From there, I could only hear bits and pieces of the conversation.

I could hear Washington saying things like "You can talk to me, or I'm shutting the door" and "As far as I know, no, she didn't."

And from the slurred voice on the other side, I could make out the occasional expletive.

Eventually Washington shut the door, shook his head, and filled me in on the missing pieces.

Two tenants in my building, who live together, are being evicted. But they have until February 28th to get out, and they're on a mission to determine whose noise complaints precipitated their eviction. The seemingly drunk man behind the door was insistent on talking to me (and not Washington), but did eventually turn around and motion to the door of the man across the hall from me, shouting sundry foul names before leaving.

But Washington didn't even have to tell me who was on the other side; I could recognize the gruff voice under the slurs.

The man in question is not, shall we say, a friendly man.

He and his live-in moved in about six months ago, and the first time I ran into this particular guy in the stairway, my "Hello!" was matched with an indecipherable grunt. He's visibly agitated whenever our paths cross and — on one occasion — I was entering the front door as he was walking down the stairs inside the building.

I said "Hello!" and opened the door for him. He glared at me, his only greeting the "GO TO HELL" printed in large red letters on his black t-shirt.

Needless to say, I was fairly taken back by that encounter.

Parallel to these run-ins, the hallways in my building took on the ever-present stench of stale cigarette smoke & ammonia. An odd mixture that had my head racing with fears of meth production. I tried to rationalize it, instead, as the mark of smokers "cleaning up" their new place (my own apartment was a MESS when I moved in, and required LOTS of cleaning). The cigarette butts I'd find in the hallway were, I liked to think, indicative of this.

But this smell persisted for 2-3 weeks, by which point I was on the verge of formally expressing concern. But, much to my relief, the smell stopped.

But that's not to say this particular neighbor didn't look "out of it" whenever I'd see him. He was always flustered, but angry, and only once in the recent past did I really get a genuine, friendly "hello" out of him.

I considered it to be a mark of progress. But that was just two weeks ago, and now my anxiety concerning him has increased ten-fold.

You see, I have never filed a complaint against any neighbor. And as I have since found out, I'm only one of two tenants who didn't complain about these guys. Apparently, they fight loudly and obnoxiously — both verbally and physically — late into the night. I've never heard it myself; though their apartment is in the same "section" as mine, we don't share any floors or walls. So I wasn't necessarily privvy to their body-slamming.

I've also since learned that myself and other tenants are being cautioned to "Call 911" if we notice any suspicious activity and/or we again have unwelcome guests at our door. Seems management has noted that "retaliation" is a possibility and — given the personality of this one man in particular (his partner is generally a bit more friendly) — it could be violent.

"Why couldn't the eviction be more immediate, then?" you ask.

Because they need to be caught doing something explictly illegal first.

So now I'm worried about leaving Maude at home alone. I don't want to stay there myself, but I also don't want to leave her. I don't even want to be at work, because I'm worried about what may happen when I'm gone. At least if I'm there, I can grab the munchkin, my computer, and get the heck out of dodge.

I mean, I've had some questionable neighbors before — including one drunk who would come knocking late at night "just to talk" — but I've never quite felt this unsafe.

I didn't really realize just how much this was affecting me until I returned home Tuesday to find one of my locks unlatched and the inside security lock engaged (in other words: I tried to unlock my door but couldn't get inside because the lock that can only be engaged from the inside, well, was).

Let's just say my heart rate shot well above the zone for a good cardio-workout. My first thought was, naturally, "He's on the other side."

But after much pushing and pulling, I was able to get in. Turns out one of the pins on this security lock was out of place, but not so much that I couldn't make it snap back. But that realization didn't keep me from walking around and inspecting my apartment, with my cell phone at the ready.

So, yeah, I don't want to live there any more.
And you know — as crazy as this may sound — a part of me is able to empathize with these guys. I've come to realize they were part of ongoing fueds with other tenants regarding noise levels. These two were complaining about loud music; and the tenants playing loud music were complaining at the 3 a.m. judo matches.

And though I never heard those brawls, I don't doubt they occurred. But I also know that their complaints of loud music were justified. I mean, as much as I like the guy across the hall from me, he does sometimes play his music very loudly. And though I can usually only hear it when I'm in the hallway, I bet the people above him (these two evictees) hear it whenever it's playing.

And as for the guy who lives across the hallway from the evictees, he also happens to be the one who lives above me. I've often termed his music playing "thoughtless." Since he moved in 3-4 months ago, quiet-time at home has become a thing of the past. For awhile there, I heard his bass almost constantly. I even suspected he didn't work, because the music was there regardless of the time of day.

When it mysteriously stopped about three weeks ago, with only the occasional exception, I was relieved beyond belief. And yet, I likewise suspected he was out of town for the holiday and would return at any moment. But now I realize he had probably been asked to turn it down because of complaints from these two (soon to be evicted) tenants.

In which case: even if this eviction goes smoothly — sans injury or damaged property — I now suspect that once they're out, the music from above will start again.

And me with a few months to go on my (recently renewed) lease.
So, yes, the evictees have always made me feel uncomfortable. And more recently, I've felt rather unsafe.

But even the impending eviction date offers only minimal comfort, as it likewise signals the return of that agonizing THUMP THUMP THUMP.
I have a friend here who makes a living out of helping people find apartments and condos. He's given me some advice on this situation, and he's also on the lookout for a new place for me.

Until then... I can't get out here soon enough.


Winter said...

My first time living in an apartment I found out the maintenance guy was on a work release program!

LeA said...

You do have renter's insurance, right? I know that really doesn't cover Mz. Maude or the irreplacable things on your laptop, but it's something to make you feel more secure. A & I can't wait to move out of here when our lease is up, we have a place lined up already. Maybe start looking and that way you'll be fully prepared and feel a bit better about your situation.

Handful Of Hell said...

I wished the third-worst-poet-of-the-galaxy could use a few vitriolic verses to make her foemen run for cover!!

Take care.

Anonymous said...

The worse problem I ever had was with a "group home" of students living above me. They liked to vacuum at 11:00 PM. I put up with that. A wednesday night party where I had to call the cops at 1:00 AM was the only time I actually did anything. There was some verbal harrasment after that but they quieted up. I hope nothing bad happens.