I live in a suburban area on a very long street. It is actually two blocks connected as one separated by a long ago removed right-of-way set of railroad tracks. With the tracks gone it looks like a small prairie between the condominium building I live in and the one just east of us. But, it is a world of difference.
The other condo is for the rich people who can afford to go to live in warmer climes during the winter while mine is for those brave enough to deal with the snow and patient enough to handle parking restrictions between November and March.
They have a tennis court; we have azaleas planted in the back garden. They have a uniformed doorman; we, a buzzer to let you in. The village put a stop light at their entrance to facilitate getting in and out of their compound. At our street connection, we wait for traffic to dissipate and pray that someone doesn’t try to speed up and clip a car as they rush to make it to the safety lane.
But, our neighbors had to sue for big bucks when the outside stone facade to their gorgeous structure started to crumble. Ours gets a good power wash when it rains heavily. On average, their units sell at a price a good deal more than ours but their property taxes are also much higher.
If someone leaves our building to get to his car parked in front, it is just a quick walk to the front lot. To do the same at our neighboring edifice is almost a full block walk. And let’s not forget the time a new unit owner in the other place was confused as to how to drive in the compound after she turned in off from the street we both share. Unfortunately, she drove the car with a flying leap like Steve McQueen did in movie â€œBullitâ€ into one of the underground parking lot ramps. She died on the spot.
We have an outdoor swimming pool and so do they but ours is ten feet at the deep end while theirs is only six feet. Okay, they have two exercise rooms while we only have one.
So, here I am living as a poor cousin to my grand neighbors to the east. The thing is when I mention to anyone who asks the general location of where I live, he or she immediately envisions that I live in the fancy building. Or that there must be guilt by association and lead the same charmed lifestyle. It’s true that we have some in my building who fly with the geese south for the winter. I don’t see them again until after the Cubs have lost at least five regular season games by early April.
My computer is stationed next to the balcony so that when I take a break from typing I can look out at the traffic going along the main arterial street we share with the rich dudes. There is traffic all the time with maybe a twenty second respite from both directions depending on the timing of the traffic lights. Even in the middle of night, hardly a minute goes by without at least one car traipsing along. And I like it.
There are the aggravations that we tend to forget once the situation passes such as power outages and fire alarms. It seems as if the very loud and ear piercing fire alarms go off at least three times a year. Usually, it’s in the middle of the night. But, today, on a Sunday, it went off during the mid afternoon. I opened the front door and peeked into the hall to see if there was smoke wafting through the long corridor or if our floor was at least temporarily safe. I noticed a realtor showing a vacant unit to a potential buyer. The small group had a look of panic on their faces as if maybe they touched something that caused the doggone torture generator to go off. They were quickly heading to one of the stairwells to get the heck out of the place. Who needs them? And if they had bothered to come back on Monday, chances are they would have been around during one of the two times it went off again. Apparently there was a short in the detector on the second floor. I guess it meant that those of us higher up should have avoided landing on the second floor when we jumped.
The first time I experienced the alarm was in the middle of the night. Being a rookie, I had no idea that it was one of the fraternity type initiations into making this place my home. Like a fool, I hurriedly got dressed at 3am. This was at a time when my body was still used to sleeping the entire night and not yet having those water theme dreams. I raced down the stairwell in time to greet the approaching firemen who needed someone to help get them into the building. This was corrected a year later after the third false alarm. The fire department was given the master key to the all the common areas.
Then at an association meeting, the fire chief visited us and told us to stay in our units when this should happen again as we would be getting in the way of the firemen marching up the stairs. That philosophy lasted until a fire in a building downtown caused several people to die while the firemen were lazy about communicating properly with the commander on the scene. Since then, when the alarm goes off, all bets are off. However, our track record has been that only once was there any real smoke and it was very quickly contained. It had to do with a back draft ventilation of smoke hitting the inner corridor rather than going to the outside balcony when someone’s pot boiled over.
The biggest nuisance have been the power outages we used to get at least twice a year during the early years of my residency. But, the guy in charge of pulling the plug wasn’t just picking on our building. The fancy building next to us is on the same power grid so they shared darkness and guessing when the lights would go back on like the rest of their poorer cousins.
It’s not so bad sitting in the dark when you can readily run outside and get in the car and go somewhere else for a while. But when you are in a building where even the stairwells go pitch dark after forty-five minutes and your car is stuck in an equally ebony-toned underground garage controlled by electric doors, the best you can do is light a few candles and read a good book or do a crossword puzzle.
So, why do I live in a condominium after all the acrimony that I describe? Because I enjoy being kept up after midnight by my next door neighbor who finds that it is the most convenient time to yell at his teenage daughters for not being in bed asleep instead of just coming home. Because throwing out the garbage means opening the door to my unit and walking fifteen feet to the left and tossing a bag into a chute rather than having to go outside in all types of weather at different times of the day. Yeah, it also means I hear the jerks who throw their garbage down the chute in the middle of the night when it is illegal to do so. By the way, did I tell you I used to be in charge of the rules committee in the building?