This is not happening to me. This is not happening to me. This is NOT happening to me.

I love my apartment – it’s the first place that I can call my own and no one else can dictate who is allowed in or what happens there. Except Sam the Cat, but she’s a pretty cool roommate. My place is actually really nice – it has cathedral ceilings and large windows, plus every room has a skylight. I love light in my home and I often leave my windows open to catch the breeze, even when it’s cold out.

My mother’s best friend is an older woman in her 60’s who smokes three packs of cigarettes a day and rents the house I lived in as a young child. I’ve known Syab my entire life, she was my mom’s neighbor before my older brother was born. Recently, her landlord gave her 60 days notice on her place (which is actually nice of him, since he’s only legally required to give 30 days). Syab, after receiving this information…did nothing. She didn’t start packing, she didn’t start looking for a new place. She just ignored it, even going as far as to say, “What’s he going to do if I don’t move out?” Uhhhh it’s his house, so I guess he’d call the sheriff and have you evicted.

My mom started looking for places for Syab, then she would drive her to these homes and help her look at them. Each was dismissed as “not good enough”. Syab lives almost exclusively off of social security…there are no nice places for that little money. I stopped by to bring her some cookies I had made and I was shocked by the state of her house. It always smells like cigarettes, but it’s been a few years since the last time I was there. The walls had yellowed even further and the drapes on the windows were shredded from her cats and were falling apart. Dust, ash and cat hair covered every surface and it looked like the dishes hadn’t been done in months. The floor was the worst – there were stains but it also looked like it hadn’t been vacuumed since 2001. Judging by the layer of dust on the vacuum, I’m probably not far off.

So imagine my surprise when I received this (slightly edited) email from Syab:

Went this morning and looked at an apartment in your building [WHAT?]…The management company has a lock box so you can let your self in….

OMG…your apartment is a palace compared to this one. The carpet was cleaned but there were big spots…kitchen was much smaller than yours and the refrigerator stuck out to the middle. It was upstairs and is on the freeway side, so the noise was deafening even with the windows closed and it kind of smelled musty. I was really disappointed because I really like your apartment and there are not a lot of places that will take cats.

Wait, she wants to live in my building? With me? My apartment is the only place safe from my family. So I did what anyone would do. I scoured Craigslist and sent her a bunch of links to places in her price range that take cats. According to her, none “are good enough”.

Then my Granny called, asking if she could stop over to drop off some things. I said yes, and as I walked her back to her car she paused. “Hmmmm, that apartment is open” she said, indicating an apartment facing the freeway on the ground level (I’m on the second floor facing the mountains). Apparently, Granny called Syab and they went to look at that apartment.

Just got back from checking out #XX with Granny. Big difference from the other one…carpets look good, nice vertical blinds, kitchen refrigerator definitely is back farther. You actually don’t hear freeway noise at all.

I sent her more Craigslist ads of places far away from me and started crossing my fingers. Please, please, please find a different place I begged. I don’t want to run into people I know in the laundry room or while I’m out taking a walk. Then this email came in:

I called to get info about filling out an application but the apartment is already rented. However, #YY will be ready to rent probably next week…they are putting in new carpet, blinds etc.

I think #YY is directly underneath your place, Zoogie2…before I do anything I would like to make sure it is in the front where I think it is.

Any thoughts?

So many I can’t even begin to sort them out. Immediately I called my Mom. I told her exactly what I thought about this new development. My old downstairs neighbor was a sweetheart, but she smoked and there really wasn’t anything I could do about it. She lived there for over a decade. Since she’s moved out, I’ve really liked the fact that my place doesn’t smell like an ashtray, and I would not be OK with a smoker moving in. I don’t have anything against smokers (I used to be one myself), but I find it difficult to refrain from taking my smoking addiction back up when I’m surrounded by the smell. With my windows always being open, there would be no way to avoid the smoke if Syab decided to light up.

Not to mention the sound issue. One time Smokey came to visit and we started talking about how her current boy toy had dumped her because he got a girlfriend. She was a bit regretful that her Friends With Benefits situation had come to an end. We weren’t shouting and we weren’t loud but when I ran into my downstairs neighbor a few days later she had a comment about the situation. That’s how thin the floors/walls are – she could hear every word. Now that I’ve decided to date again, imagine how TMI that would be – if I had a guy over and Syab could hear everything!? Gross. Plus she’d probably call my Mom to complain, who would then henpeck me about bringing the guy to meet her. There are no winners in this situation.

Plus, I somehow picture Syab coming to “borrow a cup of sugar” and parking herself on my couch for untold amounts of time. The HORROR. Syab is retired, with no close family nearby and few friends. Basically, she sits at home with her cats and rarely leaves the house. I already get numerous calls from her every week – imagine if she lived downstairs and knew exactly when I was home?

Finally, I decided that I needed to say something. I felt guilt, because she needs to move by the end of the month or get evicted and it’s not like I own the building – anyone can apply to live there. I just always saw it as my pool of serenity away from my annoying family. On the other hand, she had two months to make arrangements and she hasn’t done anything by herself. Everything was prompted or done by my mom & Granny. At what point do you tell her “you need to do this by yourself or suffer the consequences”?

I explained everything to my mom (including the whole, “ummm you can hear through the floors and walls and I’m kind of dating right now”, which was mega awkward). Surprisingly, my mom agreed with me! She did this thing she often does, where she purses her lips and frowns and then says something she thinks people won’t want to hear. She agreed and said she’d brought the topic up to Syab, but Syab said that it was the only place she wanted to live and that “Zoogie2 won’t mind”. After that she became snappish is Granny or Mom tried to bring it up again. Oh hell.

Furthermore, Syab had already applied by the time I talked to my mom. Dammit! Mom encouraged me to say something to Syab, but I decided not to for now. What the hell is the point? She’s already applied and we haven’t heard if she got it or not. If she does, there’s not much I can say that will make a difference. If she doesn’t then there’s no point in making a big deal out of nothing. Per the smoking, it’s a non-smoking apartment so she’d have to smoke outside in her garden. Which is directly beneath my window. I was OK with my former neighbor smoking, because she’d been here longer but I told Mom that if Syab’s smoke filtered into my place I’d tell her to stop and then go to the management company. So I guess my options are to use the management company as an intermediary between us – that may make it even more awkward.

I love my place, but should I move? Should I say something even though the deed is done (so to speak)? Do I just buck up and deal? Does it make me a bad person for hoping she doesn’t get the apartment??

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