This morning on my way to work, I taped a letter to my super’s door. I couldn’t stop thinking about it on the train, in line at Dunkin’ Donuts, or in the elevator.
I emailed my roommate as soon as I got to my office: I’m assuming you saw my envelope taped to Mo’s door when you left this morning. Or had she already taken it down and read it and she was standing outside her door with her foot stuck out to trip you? Sorry that you have to be associated with a curmudgeon like me.
Caitlin and I live right above our super—I’m calling her Mo. She came up to the apartment late last Sunday morning, a few hours after I had heard music pounding up through her ceiling and rattling my floor. The music has become a contention between us in the last four or five months, but I absolutely dread confronting her about it. The thumping always stops when I go downstairs and ask her to turn it down, but I never feel better.
It’s not like it’s so loud that I can hear the melody or the lyrics from my apartment, but that almost makes it worse. The disembodied, incessantly rhythmless bass beat sounds ominous, sometimes like rumbling explosives.
When she knocked on my door that morning, I hadn’t been out of the apartment but I was definitely out of bed. And yet, I pulled this ‘sleepy’ act. I had my knuckles in one eye before I reached for the door knob with the other hand. I stood there rubbing at imaginary sleep sand and sort of squinting. My end of our conversation consisted of mewls and mumbles and I thought “what am I doing? This isn’t even an accurate portrayal of me when I’ve just woken up.”
Me when I’ve just woken up looks a lot like me still asleep, except scowling. The words, if there are any, are loud and have been known to hurt feelings.
But the super came up and I transformed into a darling kitten. I couldn’t even look Mo straight in the eye as she said, “I was just coming up to ask: when you stomp, does that mean ‘too loud’?”
Oh, so I guess she did hear me stomping those couple of times when I’d had it up to here and intentionally tramped down the hall or danced an aggressive running man, just to expel my own frustration. But when someone basically asks you, “are you so passive aggressive that you’ve resorted to throwing teensy fits?” can you really look them in the eye if the answer is “pretty much”?
Mo went into my room to listen and neither of us heard anything at that moment, so she said she wouldn’t turn the volume up past that setting. We must have listened during a track change or something because the test failed. All week I heard the thumping. I couldn’t read or watch TV or brush my teeth without listening to it, eventually listening for it.
Mo actually suggested that I continue stomping on the floor whenever the sound bothered me, but I felt like that could turn really quickly into me becoming a cat person who shuffles around in a polyester housecoat and carries a broom at all times. Enough!
Finally, I put my plea in writing. I composed the letter. Cited a timetable. Delivered it. I put my foot down. And right now I would give anything to become a kitten and curl up in a basket so I don’t ever have to confront this issue again.
P.S. The January 11th episode of This American Life is called The Super. The free download has expired but it’s so worth streaming it for free. Act I is particularly fun to listen to and has a stunning revelation at the conclusion. Act II is a real story’s story. It starts around twenty-seven minutes in.