Springer Show Extras
January 03, 2006
Apartment living sucks. It’s like living on the back lot of the Jerry Springer Show during audition season.
The apartment we moved into in late June 2004 has three apartments sharing direct contact, one to the south, one to the west, and one upstairs.
The neighbor to our south was a little old lady who’s only contribution to our lives was a false fire alarm. We were only aware of her being there on those rare occasions when we were coming or going at the same time. Otherwise her apartment was a black hole of silence. Perfect apartment neighbor. Then one day she came and knocked on the door saying her smoke detector was going off. When asked if there was smoke or fire she said no. I thought it was the intermittent beep that happens when the battery is running low. Grabbing the kitchen stool I followed her into her apartment. Sure enough there was a loud, repeating beeping coming from the bedroom. Once up on top of the stool I realized the sound was coming from the bed side table alarm clock and not the smoke detector. Turns out she had been out of town for a week and forget to reset the alarm before leaving.
On the day we moved in we nearly put the bed in the west bedroom. However, as we were putting the frame together we could hear through the wall the television of the neighbors to the west. That was enough for us to move our bedroom to the east bedroom. Even today, whenever I go into the west room, or the west bathroom I can hear the constant dull murmur of television through the wall. I think they leave it on all the time, day and night.
Our original upstairs neighbors were two twenty-something males who both worked for a local lawn care company. Their garage stall, which shared a common wall with our bedroom, was full of lawn supplies and two motorcycles. Their single allowed parking space was filled with three trucks. Two commercial pickups from the lawn care business, and a personal pickup. The eight apartments that shared the parking pad each were allowed one space in addition to their garage stall. And the lease quite clearly stated that the garage could not be used solely for storage. We complained early and often as having the lot full of their huge vehicles made getting into and out of our garage stall difficult. They were also noisy with their stereo from time to time. We were both pleased last spring when they moved out
The apartment sat empty for several months, and we enjoyed ever moment of silence knowing that the peace would not last for long. Every time we’d hear the place being shown I’d peer out the peep hole and try to get an idea of who was looking at it. One couple was pregnant and had a two-year-old sized crumb cruncher in tow. We were very relived when they didn’t rent.
The renters turned out to be a twenty-something couple. At first we were barely aware of them, but there were some early warning signs that Michele picked up on that have been born out by the soap opera like proceedings I live under now.
- Our first face to face meeting with the couple in question happened as we were returning from the grocery store. They were outside admiring their newly acquired SUV while consuming beer and wine. He was drunk at 5:30ish in the evening and kept crowding me as he talked. The first story he related to us about himself involved his getting arrested and convicted of DUI. He was indignant that he couldn't get off with a warning. I was amazed that someone would consider that an appropriate ice-breaker for new acquaintances.
- Within in six weeks of their moving in they had a huge fight; stomping up and down the stair, scream obscenities at each other, slamming doors, the whole nine yards. It was fascinating in a sick voyeuristic way. Together we debated about calling the apartment complex or the police. The "Bickerson's" quit before we made up our mind. The girl ended up sitting outside their front door, literally under our bedroom window crying. Michele, a veteran of ten years of domestic violence counseling as a therapist, stepped just outside our door to offer help. We learned they weren't married, and that the girl was only twenty. He was twenty-six and worked for his families business. She was cut off from her family and had been in abusive relationships before.
- About four weeks later the erupted again, this time with crashing sounds through the ceiling. Later we learned he broke one of the interior doors by hitting it. We also observed that she always wore long pants and long sleeves, even in the scalding heat of the Kansas summer. We did inform the apartment management but to little real effect.
- About this time we became aware that there was a third person living in that apartment, and it was only after Michele's death that I learned it was the mother of the boy. My guess is that she is going through a separation/divorce with her partner and was seeking a place of refuge. For a time having her there was a good thing as it kept the very short fuse from being lit.
- One night shortly after Michele died this extra woman came knocking at my front door. It was a bitterly cold evening and she was outside without a coat. Even as I opened the door the warning tingle I get on the back of my neck was going off, I sensed that this was trouble. She introduced herself (this is when I learned she was the boy's mother) and wanted to know if she could come inside. I told her that she couldn't and asked what this was about. She said she wanted to talk about dying, that she knew my wife had recently died, and she wanted to talk about dying.
Noticing that she appeared to be in some pain I asked if she needed me to call the police or an ambulance. She said no, but that she had learned that day she was very ill and was going to die. Something about hepatitis. Again I offered to call the police and she refused. I politely said that I wasn't going to let her in or talk to her and closed the door. She remained outside for some time, having a loud screaming fit over the phone at someone, I assume her ex.
- Last evening, for several hours someone upstairs was stomping back and forth across the floor. Even with the television on loudly I could hear and occasionally feel the stomping. Joy. I had great difficulties getting to sleep last night, tossing and turning for about two hours before finally getting to sleep around midnight. At 12:30 the screaming and yelling started. Along with stomping up and down their stairs, which bottom out directly outside my bedroom window. Finally about 1:00 I got up and peaked out through the blinds, someone was moving out it appeared. Getting dressed I moved to the living room to look through the peep hole. It was the mom leaving, and the son through bags of belongings out the front door. They were both yelling obscenities at the top of their lungs. After ten or fifteen minutes of this he disappeared inside and she stood outside yelling at no one in particular.
I managed to pass out from sheer exhaustion about 2:00 am, and when I left for work at 6:30 there was still a laundry basket of clothing, and several trash bags of belongings strewn about the yard and parking lot.
I really need a low-light video camera so I can capture these special moments forever. Maybe I could create one of those “digital camera, $500, apartment rent $1000, neighbors who want to be on the Springer Show, priceless” commercials and put it on the Internet.
P.S. Their miniature dachshund shits all over my concrete patio.