Friday, March 15, 2013

Won't you be my neighbor? Part II

As some of you may recall, I have already discussed my beloved neighbors and their eccentricities, but such is the magnitude reached by said eccentricities over the past several years—nay, over the past several weeks—that I feel the subject warrants revisiting.

Like I mentioned in January, I am now officially self-employed, working from home, a free agent, etc., and am (mostly) loving it. The new boss in particular is one cool chick. The office, on the other hand, could use some work. Let me explain:

Prior to being self-employed, I worked long days far from home, meaning I missed out on exactly what goes on in my apartment building between the hours of 8:30 am–8:00 pm. In my blissful naïveté, I always assumed that nothing much went on at all, aside from the occasional delivery (mainly for me). But since merging home and office, I have realized that no such peace reigns in my apartment building. Quite the contrary, actually.

First off, nobody works. I don’t know what my neighbors are all up to, but they are definitely up to it at home. Victims of France’s 11% unemployment rate? Fellow freelancers? Rentiers? Whatever the case, they’re all here, all the time. I am thus treated to a smörgåsbord of weirdness all day long.

Undoubtedly lives in my building.

Let’s begin with my certifiably insane next-door neighbors and the 1-inch partition separating them from me. Crazy Neighbor #1 is an elderly Japanese gentleman, who judging by the noises coming through the wall is a true connoisseur of gay pornography. He is also the victim of some form of extortion by an old lady to whom he refers as “ma pauvre dame,” and who regularly calls him demanding money. Their conversations go something like this: “WHAT? No, ma pauvre dame, I will NOT send you any more! Pardon? Forty euros? OK, but this is the LAST TIME!”

As if that weren’t entertaining enough, last week Crazy Neighbor #2, a.k.a. Crazy Neighbor #1’s 20-something Brazilian alcoholic boy toy, returned from wherever he had been for the last few months (not rehab in any case), and the pornography fest ceased..., only to be replaced by drunken shouting matches, slamming doors and gangsta rap. The novelty wore off within the first 24 hours since, let us not forget, the aim of my being home all day is actually to work. And I don’t know about you, but I need some modicum of calm in order to succeed.

At one point, I actually resorted to an online white noise generator in a vain attempt to block out the insane loudness of all that vodka-soaked screaming. Sad, I know. And ineffectual. So I took it up a notch. As I was working on a project involving the Middle Ages, the idea came to me to crank up some nice loud medieval music. And as it turns out, nothing combats the sound of two drunken, shouting men like a bunch of chanting monks. So that is my new secret weapon. When things get out of hand next door, I release the holy brethren.

You want a piece of me?

So that was last week. THIS week has been a whole new adventure. Monday I came home from having tea with a friend only to find a baby carriage, baby included, sitting in the apartment entryway unattended. I wouldn’t dare leave a piece of luggage unattended in the entryway, let alone a baby, but then I’m not insane. My conscience told me to stick around, so I kept the forsaken child company until, some 15 minutes later, his (clearly incompetent) mother, a.k.a. Crazy Neighbor #3, came strolling nonchalantly down from the 6th floor singing to herself.

Me: It seems you have forgotten someone here.
Crazy Neighbor #3: Oh! I was just upstairs getting some diapers!
Me (seeing no such diapers): Mmm hmm.

On Tuesday, a plumber showed up at 10 am to break apart our shower tiles. I’ve oft mentioned the disastrous state of our ceiling, so one would naturally assume that any work done on our place would involve first and foremost the ceiling. Not so (our landlord is evidently also crazy). Monsieur le plombier was nice enough, although I can definitely confirm that “plumber’s crack” is an international phenomenon. Is there a specialty clothing store for plumbers, where all the pants have ridiculously large waistlines and no belt loops? Anyway, so we now have some new, entirely unasked-for tiling (in the wrong shade of white, but who’s keeping track?). Meanwhile, our ceiling is getting to the point where the sound of pieces of it breaking off and exploding on the floor no longer makes me jump. It’s become a sort of familiar background noise, not unlike the cheerful humming of the refrigerator.

Wednesday was pretty uneventful, aside from our upstairs Crazy Neighbors #4 and #5 spending a good part of the night dragging heavy objects across their 19th century wooden floors. Judging from the sound, and the guests, I can only assume they were having a nocturnal furniture-rearrangement free-for-all. They do that sometimes.

We’re not crazy, we just enjoy doing this at midnight.

And then on Thursday came the crescendo. I arrived home with my husband, laden with sacs of groceries, only to find that our entire block had been sealed off with yellow crime scene tape, flashing lights, stationed police agents, the whole thing. They let us pass, but upon reaching our building, we saw the reason for all the hubbub: a body. As in, a dead body. There it was, just lying on the sidewalk, hidden under the gold foil that the French use to cover dead bodies, shock victims, and the homeless during winter. No explanation, nothing on the news, zip. I called my mom:

Me: So there’s a dead body outside our front door covered in gold foil.
Mom: Gold foil? The French gift wrap their dead?
Me: I told you it’s an elegant culture.
Mom: Did they put a bow on it?

I figure that the day one’s own mother no longer seems surprised by the theater of the absurd that has become one’s life, one needs to perhaps consider making a change. So as fun as this all has been, I think it’s about time we looked to greener, saner pastures. I was reluctant to leave our “nice” neighborhood, but you know what? I think I can handle it after all.