Wednesday, June 09, 2004

In which we discuss the politics of my building . . .

(all names have been changed to protect the innocent)

1. There's a single woman downstairs from me, Merav, who is a little odd. I don't like her because the day I moved in, after searching high and low for my apartment and spending a lot of time changing the lease with my new landlady, she said "You are paying too much to live there. You shouldn't pay so much." I was like "I do not want to hear this, leave me alone." Also, I used to have a bow on my door, which was pretty and so I could tell people that I'm "on the first floor on the right, with a bow on the door." Well, she stole the bow while I was in America! A little cookoo, I'd say.

2. Above me is an American named Shirley. She arrived about 3 months ago under the auspices of some Christian organization and is volunteering for the old age home around the corner. We're not sure what religion she is. Normally I wouldn't care, but the woman next door to me, Miri, has a "thing" about "the Christians in the apartment upstairs." Anyhow, Shirley seems nice enough, and I have some pity for her because she seriously has no family at all, anywhere, but the old lady across from HER has been very mean and tells Shirley that she makes too much noise. It's not true because I live directly below Shirley and she's very quiet. But the old lady harasses her and has even come to her volunteer job to complain to her face in front of her coworkers. Also, Shirley started off on a bad foot here because she likes to feed the wild cats outside, and most of the building doesn't like to encourage the cats.

3. Miri, like I said, lives next door to me. She's from France and is also a freelance journalist. I've had her over for Shabbat meals and have gone to her place, and she seems like a nice person. A little eccentric, perhaps, but who am I to talk. Anyhow, Miri has a housecat named Mushi. While Miri was away once on vacation, I saw a note on Miri's door, from Shirley, that said "take better care of the cats on your porch or I will report you to the police. They are hungry and a kitten fell off the porch!"

I don't know what that was all about, but Shirley likes to complain about Miri because, according to Shirley, Miri's cat has kittens on the porch, and the kittens keep falling off, and Shirley has to walk around the building and save them. Miri denies all of this. I don't know what is going on, but they do NOT like each other.

4. I'm also having trouble with Shirley myself. Like I said, she seems basically nice, and I've invited her to come to my place to hang out or for Shabbat meals, but she's never come. I let it be known to her when she moved in that I don't think she should feed the cats, but didn't make a big deal out of it (the old lady was already making a big deal out of it), especially when I found out that she has no family. I figure I wouldn't take away her joy of taking care of the wild kitties.

But a few weeks ago, water started pouring into my window from above. I ran outside and saw that Shirley had overwatered the plants on her windowsill so much that there was like a waterfall happening. So I politely pointed it out and said it's not a problem or anything, but it startled me because the water was coming into my apartment. She said "Oh, man, I can't do anything right around here." I felt bad and said "I'm not angry or anything. It's OK. It just surprised me." But she did say she won't do it again, so I was OK with that and let it go.

Well, today I finally said something to her about the laundry. About once a week I put laundry on my line outside. And every week I have to keep it out there for days, because just when it's dry, Shirley does HER laundry -- every day -- apparently by soaking it in the bathtub and letting it drip profusely all over my almost-dry clothes. So I leave out my clothes for another day, and the next day they get soaking wet again. I asked her --so nicely -- if maybe if she sees that my clothes are hanging below, she could knock on my door and give me a chance to take in my clothes. She said that would be a big hassle for her, since my clothes are out all the time. I said "yeah, they are out a lot because just when they are almost dry, they get dripped on again." So I politely suggested that maybe she can hang up her clothes on the left-hand side, since my clothes are further to the right (2 of my lines don't rotate around, so I can't move the clothes over). She agreed, but as she left I heard her sigh, like I'm yet another of the mean neighbors.

I feel bad making her feel bad, but I can't keep having my clothes get wet!

5. The other day I ran into Merav outside, and she told me that she's collecting 35 shekel from each apartment, to hire someone to "clean the garden." We have a space in the front of the building with lots of brush and some thin tree-looking things that extend up past my window on the first floor. I couldn't understand why someone would take about 350 sheks (the total from our 10 apartments) to pick up the garbage in the garden-- ie "cleaning the garden"-- but I didn't want to argue with her, so I put out the money.

Well, today I go outside and there is a gardener, and the garden is . . . gone!!!! All the brush has been cleared and the tree-spindly-things had been cut down! It looks so depressing! I said "why did you do that?" and he said "I do this once a year, cut it all down and leave the roots, so it won't get too wild. Don't worry, in two months you'll have brush again and it will look very nice." Well, I was depressed. Now I have no shade in front of my windows, and THAT certainly will not grow back in 2 months! If Merav is going to arrange this once a year, why not in the fall when we don't need the shade?

The garbage is still out there, by the way.

6. Meanwhile, the old lady -- the one who harasses Shirley-- stops me whenever she sees me to demand that I tell her who is feeding the cats. She knows that my window overlooks the place in the garden where the cats hang out, and she tells me every time "you keep your eyes open! I'm sure it's THAT GIRL but I think there is someone else too . . . if you see them, tell them to stop it!" I just say "hm, yes" and wish her a good night.

All that having been said, I do, in fact, like some of the people in my building. I like Miri, though I do wonder whether Shirley's accusations about the falling kittens are correct. Don't know what's up with that.

And across the hall from me is a really nice Israeli woman, who ALSO works in media, for the Israeli Broadcasting company (3 apartments on my floor, all occupied by single women from 3 different countries who work in media! - a lot of newspapers accumulate on my floor in the mornings . . . ) I like her a lot, but she's hardly ever home.

And downstairs is another immigrant, a young man from Ethiopia who is studying Economics at Hebrew University. We bump into each other sometimes at the mailboxes and he's very friendly and happy-seeming.

But with all the politics, I feel like I'm living on Melrose Place, except without the handsome men and passionate sex.

I just went outside to take out my garbage. The cats who live in the garden look very, very confused about having lost their ground cover. (What does a confused cat look like? You ask. I don't know, it's an intuitive thing, OK?)

I also noticed that, while I thought we only had 3 cats living out there, actually there are 5. They aren't hurting anyone, and they keep the scorpions away, so as far as I'm concerned they can stay. I just wish they wouldn't whine at each other at 6 in the morning . . .

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