A large portion of the soundtrack to my morning train travels – underscored, of course, by the infinite hacking of white-haired Asians loitering at the threshold of death’s door and the maddening musical mélange spilling from the headphones of presumably hearing-impaired Latina lovelies – is the distressing sound of disgruntled tenants on phone calls to their disinterested landlords. I am witness to at least one of these conversations daily. Occasionally, it’s the seasoned New Yorker with murder in his voice, threatening to withhold rent or punch something. Usually though, it’s the little shaky-voiced, blond recent transfer from North Carolina or whereverthehell, trying fruitlessly to confer with the hostile immigrant at the other end who has absolutely no idea what she’s saying:
“Oh, hi Mr. Mekenshlepenstophenopolis… It’s Becky Sue from 3C… Yes. Hi. No, the heat is still not working… No… And the cold air is coming through the bullet holes in the wall next to my toilet, making it very uncomfortable when I pee…”
“Oh hi, Mr. Snuffleupagous… Yeah, it’s Amanda Lynn Kentucky Fried Chicken from 2F. Hi. Yeah, the leak from the ceiling has gotten much worse… Yeah... Yeah… Yes… No, it’s really coming down now, and actually my roommate drowned this morning. So if we could… Yeah… Thank you, Mr. Snuffleupagous.”
The empathy I feel for these people quickly dissolves hopelessly to laughter. I mean, why do we all insist on living this way? We’re so stupid.
And while we’re on the subject of disgruntled tenants: No, that is not new matched luggage; those bags you see under my eyes are merely the result of having only slept six minutes last night. Thanks to my upstairs neeiiiiiggghhhhbor, who I've just learned (without giving out too much information) may very well be the standby to a certain well-known, equestrian boy wizard currently struttin’ his bawllz on Broadway, I was up half the night. As I'm sure many of you know, the confined quarters of city living leaves us all vulnerable to noise pollution. Even the smallest sounds carry. At any given time, I can hear a roach passing gas in the kitchen next door. So the heavy walking and unspecified stomping noises that have been going on upstairs at all hours have been rattling my nerves and the pictures on my walls. I mean, it sounds like he's teaching a damn Jazzercise class up there!
I have said something to him, and hope that the problem subsides. Because Mummy really does not enjoy being confrontational. I much prefer to take a more passive-aggressive approach. For example, if the music is too loud, I’ll stand on a chair, press my face up against the ceiling and sing along. (Luckily, to date, everything in his music collection has been in my repertoire and – more importantly – in my key.)
Why must I always be surrounded by young, active people who keep ridiculous hours? Why am I never lucky enough to live below the crippled old double amputee in a coma? I hate that no matter how grown up and fancy I may feel, as long as I live in this city, I will always be subject to the maelstrom of college dorm living! I’m so looking forward to a nice, quiet, restricted retirement villa. Hopefully next year.