Me and my landlord have got ourselves into a bit of a standoff sitch. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I signed on for living above a retired bloke. Not that there’s anything wrong with retired people, I love lots of them from the bottom of my heart – it’s just that for many their worlds get smaller again, and for some, their lives are centred on their four walls. Living above someone who carries on most of his existence in the space below would of course mean lots of attention placed on me and what I do.
Back in Windsor we lived next to two old retired guys, both of whom obsessed over their yards. And mine. Dominic and Joe would stand on their porches and watch me cut my grass. Once, when I was finished, Joe walked over to the fence and asked me, “You going to bag that grass now?” I was nice, and didn’t respond that I, who worked and went to school full time and was raising two little girls and managing a house and yard, actually didn’t approve of bagging grass to send off with the garbage man when it’s good for the soil anyway. I just sweetly said “no” and carried on.
I always try to be nice to people. I believe you get what you give in this world and goodness me there’s enough bad feeling floating around out there already. And my landlord is usually a really nice man. He’s got all kinds of Irish charm and he loves to talk. That may be part of the problem – I think in me he was looking for someone to talk to. He’s got loads of people to talk to – he spends hours on the phone every day and visits friends all the time. But I wasn’t signing on to keep him company. I am a nice person, but I am relatively reserved and I abhor small talk and I choose my friends carefully. Maybe it sounds uncharitable, but all I wanted was a nice clean place to hang my hat in a nice neighbourhood and a normal, congenial landlord/tenant relationship.
It became evident that renting there was a mistake right after I moved in and the head games started. It took several days of him playing his TV very loud very early in the morning and me overhearing some agitated sounding telephone conversations, which I sensed I was supposed to be overhearing. I found out through a third party (the agent who took care of finding him a tenant) that my living room was above his bedroom and I was staying up too late and he could hear my TV and me walking around. And that he didn’t like the smell of what I had cooked the weekend previous.
It was a low moment, coming to terms with the mistake I had made. A comfortable home is one of the main ingredients to happiness in my books. Both my sister and a friend of mine assured me he was simply peeing on his territory and the dust would settle, but I knew I would never claim that flat as anything like “home.” Sure, I had rights, but he was making it clear this was HIS home and he wasn’t going to let me forget it.
So I changed things around in my flat and we eased into an agreeable relationship. But there on in I would carry guilt for staying up into the morning hours on weekends, or coming in late or cooking fragrant meals.
Then, last year, he again got to “communicating with symbolic actions” rather than speaking to me, when arose THE MATTER OF THE WINDOWS. He likes his place warm. And as it turns out, sealed shut. It’s not so bad in winter to come into a nice warm place, as long as you’re comfortable enough with yourself to walk around half naked most of the time. When spring came, however, I would – like most other people in seasonal climates – crank open the windows to enjoy the fresh warm days and rid the place of the winter’s stale forced air.
He soon made plain his displeasure in open windows, because every time I committed this offence, he took to cranking up the furnace to an unreasonable degree. I’m not sure what the point of that is – our apartments have separate entrances, closed off from one another. There is no way that me opening a window would affect the temperature of his place. But clearly, if he wasn’t trying to make some kind of point then he was trying to ensure I wasn’t comfortable.
It was late spring – eventually he would switch over to the air conditioning, but this was certainly past the time when I or any sane person would engage a furnace.
This year, unwilling to endure the furnace game for another season, I gave him the obligatory sixty days’ notice and began a search for a new home. He was nice about it. He was going to go abroad for the month of May and said he was glad he’d be back before I moved out. And I was glad because I’d have the month of May to make as much noise as I wanted packing and to open the windows and relish spring. And as it turns out we’ve had the most wonderful, early, warm, sunshiny spring.
With the warm sunshiny spring and continued running of the furnace came a warmer and stuffier apartment. And so again begins the battle of the windows.
I don’t open them wantonly or to provoke him, and I always close them when I leave. But unfailingly, as soon as I open one, I hear him go outside and then come back in and with a growl the furnace rages forth. One night it got up to 87°. Herein lies the standoff. Not willing to suffer in unreasonable dry heat, I open the windows. And he, not willing to endure an insufferable window opener, jacks up the thermostat.
This week I’ve figured out he’s not going on his trip, probably related to the battle of the windows, but I wouldn’t know, he hasn’t communicated any sort of reasoning or plan to me. Maybe he can’t stand the thought of going abroad and me opening windows and him not being able to protect his house from my addiction to the evil, home destroying fresh air smells with his forced air gas weapon.
I am moving soon and it’s goodbye to head games and bad feelings. I’ve got the opportunity to get my new place two weeks early and I’m taking it. This time I’m moving to a condo down in the harbour, the likes of which I’ve never lived in before. I got a great deal on the rent, it’s in a great location and has nice amenities. It's different and it'll be fun. And I’ll be anonymous.
Maybe desiring anonymity is kind of sad, but living in a fishbowl is exceedingly irksome. Anonymous is more agreeable than being the subject of someone’s need to control her comfort level. I’ve reached the end of my nice; the only thing left to do now is say goodbye and go.