When we first got married, my wife and I felt that living in an apartment was the best option for us. We wouldn’t have to worry about mowing a lawn, property taxes, and plenty other things associated with home ownership. Plus we knew we weren’t really ready to settle in one particular area yet. We wanted to explore and find the right fit for us. That was 1999, back when it was just the two of us. It’s now 2013, we still live in an apartment and there’s a fussy (but incredibly cute) addition to our family that would like a little more space to scoot around in.
Now that we have a child, our thoughts have been turning to finding a “home” for ourselves. We want a yard that’s bigger than the 4 foot by 4 foot space used for planting trees on the sidewalk here in New York. We want neighbors who might actually want to hang out with us, rather than those who quickly say hi and scurry into the safety of their apartment. We want a washer and dryer that are solely for our use and don’t need a card or coins to operate. And, most importantly, we (ok maybe just me) want the peace and quiet that a home can provide.
When visiting our families this past Christmas, I noticed how quiet it was in their houses. There was no city noise, no hum of people passing outside their windows, no fire truck/ambulance/police car noises to be heard. It made me miss that quiet very much, and it also made me think about all the noises, disturbances and neighbors we’ve dealt with as apartment dwellers. Everyone has “those neighbors” at one point or another, and the stories to go along with them. Looking back, and in some cases back to earlier this week, I can remember the ones that stand out for us:
- “Stompy”: The upstairs neighbor who seemingly wore cement socks. We knew where she was at all times and wondered how she ever found shoes that fit her cinder block feet.
- “Laundry girl”: Her living room/laundry room shared the wall with our bedroom. She was on a completely opposite schedule from us, which meant she did her laundry while we were trying to sleep. I guess we should have asked her to set the spin cycle for a time closer to when we needed to wake up.
- “Car Warmer”: This guy would go out in the wintertime to warm up his car in the early morning, but he would always blast his radio while doing so. Our bedroom was at the front of the building right next to the parking lot, so we were consistently being woken up by him. No one should be subjected to muffled ‘morning zoo’ chatter that early in the day.
- “The students”: We rented a house one year (I know, not technically an apartment) on a college campus and the house next door had some students living in it. One evening we were jolted awake by the sounds of Marvin Gaye coming out of their house. It was as if they resurrected the man, got his band bad together and had them perform in their living room at 3 in the morning. Granted it was a great set, but I think most people would be annoyed by that too.
- “The Slammersons”: This family living below us had a thing for forcibly slamming their front door, so we always knew when they were coming or going. On top of that, they owned a karaoke machine and enjoyed performing songs well past midnight. They did not care what their neighbors thought and even won a court case brought up by building management in regards to their behavior. They were pretty much bulletproof, which made them worse.
- “Surround sound”: One of our current neighbors happens to be a very sweet little old lady whom we share a living room wall with. Unfortunately she is hard of hearing so she has to turn her television up really loud to hear it, which means we hear it too. At times we’ve been able to sync the channel we’re watching with hers and create some low budget surround sound.
- “Jackie Lalanne”: Another one of our current neighbors (this time above us) likes to drop things late at night. We met her when we moved in, and she informed us she too was a bit hard of hearing. She neglected to tell us, however, that she pumps iron at 12 o’clock at night and likes to drop her free weights on the floor (that’s what it sounds like at least).
Now I’m not naive. No matter how considerate I feel that we are/have been, I’m sure we have annoyed neighbors at some point. We had a dog while living above “The Slammersons,” and when I went down to complain to them they informed me that they heard him running around but never complained to us about it. They were right, he did run around, but we made sure he was always done singing karaoke at a reasonable hour.
In my mind, having a house would (hopefully) give us some well needed space and quiet that we crave. It would also allow our now larger family to have more room and not feel like we’re on top of each other when at home. I’d love to have a little yard for our daughter to play in, perhaps a small garden, and a spot where we can sit in the sun and relax. Mainly, and most importantly for my wife, we need a place to call our own. I know living in a house comes with its own set of problems to resolve, but I think it’s time for us to deal with those for a change.