Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tell Me Upfront, And I Can Live With It



Register columnist

The good news is, I don't want to kill myself.


The bad news is, there may soon be two people living directly under my feet who will want to kill me. And my child. And possibly my dog, though likely not my husband.

After a nerve-fraying, soul-crushing, happiness-sucking search, Hubby and I found an apartment. Which is good, seeing as how other people bought our house and probably wouldn't be too keen on us continuing to live in it.

It's a very, very nice apartment - bigger than our house, even. On a great street near a lot of our friends. Incredibly close to Hubby's work. And directly above a couple who allegedly fight late into the night and hate babies.

So deep is the couple's (alleged) hatred for babies that the current tenants - who have a 2-year-old - took us aside and said, "If we let you rent this place, we would feel terrible about ourselves."

Where can we sign?

Maybe it's crazy to knowingly walk into a simmering brew of (alleged) negativity, but when you're surrendering to the world of renting, you learn to give known evils a grateful nod. Better to know what will give you an ulcer over the next year than have to find out after you've set up cable service.

It's a lesson I've learned over the past few weeks of apartment-hunting, and it could probably apply to every aspect of life: Appreciate every bit of information you get. Even if it makes you cry.

Like, wouldn't it have been better to have found out during your job interview that your boss was a megalomaniac who'd require Eva Braun-like devotion of his employees? Or wouldn't it have been great to learn on your first date that your future spouse would eventually succumb to a midlife crisis involving trombone lessons and animal husbandry? Yes, yes, it would.

This is why I wasn't that upset when one duplex owner stopped returning our calls and started lowering the price of his listing weeks after we'd put in our application. Sure, that's bordering-on-psychotic weird. But at least I know he's weird now rather than after he sneaks into my house with his spare key and replaces my dog with an alligator. See? Knowledge is power.

There are other little "gifts" we've received along the way: One apartment Hubby looked at had a homeless squatter barricaded in a bedroom. Good to know.

Other undesirable amenities have ranged from "loud - no, I mean really loud" plumbing to bedrooms that share balconies with next-door neighbors. These are the kinds of things you don't want taking you by surprise.

And that's why I'm approaching all this with a calm bordering on optimism. I'm prepared. The father who lives in our new apartment now is a pediatric anesthesiologist, a man who has devoted his life to saving frail babies. But when he spoke of his neighbors, he said, "I want to snap their necks with my hands."

He could have done with a lowering of expectations from the get-go.

Instead, his anger and outrage are my cheat sheet. No amount of nasty looks and threats of bodily harm can elicit fear and outrage in me, no sir. Instead, I'll be so pleasantly surprised at every remotely decent gesture from my neighbors that living in this new apartment will be wonderful. Joyous. Life-affirming, even.

Unless there's something else we don't know.

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