Friday, February 13, 2015


Every time I mention to someone that I’m tired of shoveling snow or mowing my lawn, I hear, “Maybe it’s time you sold your house and moved into a condo or an apartment.”

It does sound tempting not to have to worry about any type of yard work again, but the truth is, I enjoy my privacy…and especially the peace and quiet.

I grew up in a tenement building on Manchester’s West Side. We lived on the bottom floor, and it seemed as if every few months, the tenants above us would move out and new ones would move in.

There was the couple from Canada who enjoyed dancing something called the French quadrille.  Every Saturday night, another couple would visit them and the dancing would begin. I had no idea what a quadrille was, but it involved a lot of stomping.

My parents and I would sit in the living room and try to watch TV while the old chandelier on the ceiling overhead would swing back and forth. I missed half of my favorite Saturday night TV shows because I was too busy looking up, waiting for the chandelier to come crashing down on my head. My father, on the other hand, said he was waiting for the leg of one of the quadrille dancers to come through the ceiling.

Then there was the couple who had a dog, which they left alone in their apartment while they worked all day. The dog howled the entire time they were gone – first softly, like whimpering, and then louder and in higher octaves as the day progressed. By late afternoon, he sounded something like a wounded coyote.

Whenever someone would call us, all they’d hear on the other end of the phone was, “Arroooooooh!  Arroooooooh!” We actually had to shout above the howling to be heard. To this day, out of habit, I still shout whenever I answer the phone.

The most amusing, however, were the newlyweds who moved in. When they argued, which was frequently, they would yell at each other, and we could hear every word as clearly as if they were sitting in our apartment. Most of their arguments were so ridiculous, we’d sit there struggling not to laugh out loud.

One night, for example, they were arguing about the husband’s handkerchiefs.

“They are disgusting!  I refuse to wash them!” the wife shouted at him. “Use tissues from now on!”

“Tissues are for sissies!” he shouted back. “Manly hands like mine poke right through them!”

“Then use a whole handful of tissues at once!”

Another time, they argued about her cooking.

“You haven’t touched any of your tuna casserole,” she snapped at him. “I thought you loved my tuna casserole!”

“That was when we were single and I was trying to be polite,” he said. “Now that we’re married, I can tell you the truth. Even the cat would bury this stuff!”

“You’re heartless!” she cried, bursting into tears. “I’m never going to cook for you again!”

“Praise the Lord!” he shouted back. “I won’t have to spend half my paycheck on Rolaids any more!”

That was another drawback of living directly below them. We often could smell what the wife was cooking for dinner.  And believe me, it smelled like everything from skunk to burnt rubber. When Christmas rolled around, my father joked he was going to buy the husband a sympathy card and a year’s supply of antacid.

And finally, a grouchy elderly couple moved in. They were quiet, but complained about everything. If I played out in the yard with my friends and we giggled too much, they complained. If my parents and I watched TV late at night, they complained. They even complained when my mother sang while hanging clothes out on the clothesline because they said she couldn’t carry a tune (actually, they were right about that, but my mother was highly insulted).

To be honest, now that I’m about the same age as those grouchy elderly people were, if I moved into a condo or an apartment and had to live with noisy people above me or next door, I’d probably be grumpy and do a lot of complaining, too. That’s because the older I get, the less patience I have.  I think I’m even beginning to understand why John Wesley Hardin once shot a man for snoring.

So for the sake of all condo and apartment dwellers, I’m going to try to stay in my house for as long as possible.

I’m pretty sure they’ll thank me for it.

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