Friday, 9 November 2012

Looking at my life through someone else's eyes

All day I thought, I can't wait till five o'clock.   Going to go home, have a glass of wine and a grilled cheese sandwich and a shower and go to pick up my kids.  Steph called me mid afternoon and said, had a little trouble with the neighbours, who have a number of unaffectionate nicknames in my house.  What was the trouble?  They think we stole their baby stroller.

Neither of us drive.  Ages ago now, our wheelie-cart gave up the ghost, and about three months ago, we found the frame of a baby stroller in the garbage a few doors down, and thought we might be able to use the wheels to rehabilitate our cart.  On closer examination, one wheel was not in great shape, and it got relegated to the back yard as a "maybe later we can do something with this" object.  It has sat outside, rusting, ever since.

These neighbours have lived upstairs since late spring, early summer.  I could rant and rave about them for pages, but I won't.  Suffice to say, they are the greatest source of stress in my life.  They don't like keys, so instead of carrying them, they break the locks on the doors - two sets of locks have been replaced four separate times.  This means that anyone - the insane woman who pisses in the alleyway, the guy two blocks down who reportedly cooks meth on his barbeque, any of the 5,000+ homeless people in Toronto looking for shelter from cold or rain - can get into our tri-plex.  We normally have two locked doors between the street and the door to our apartment, but at any given time, day or night, those two doors are propped open, so there is zero security.

The access hallway we share with them has been photographed by us many, many times - since they've moved in, it's been full of bikes, furniture, baby strollers, computer equipment, skateboards, which we've duly sent to the landlord.  The landlord has in turn told them it's a fire hazard to block the hallway, but they consider it their storage area.  Hallowe'en night, despite repeatedly locking the doors by us and by the folks to the front, there were groups of people, little kids earlier in the evening, teenagers later, trick or treating inside, when they aren't supposed to be able to access our doors.  Their stroller went missing that night.

The other thing I would add is that Steph accompanied the landlord to the tribunal hearing two weeks ago, when the landlord tried to get them evicted.  We have not interacted with them AT ALL, nor have they with us, but they're obviously not our biggest fans since then.

This afternoon, looking out the window, one of them saw the piece of crap stroller carcass in the back yard, and took an iPhone photo.  Then they came knocking on the door.  Steph was cordial when they asked about the stroller and told him theirs had gone missing, offered to go and get it so they could look at it so they could see it wasn't theirs.  He left them at the the door to go towards the backyard, and six people barged into the apartment, one of them smoking a stinky European cigarette.

Those of you who know Steph, know he doesn't suffer fools gladly.  He was polite, but definite.  You need to get out of my house now.  Most of them backed out on their own.  Steph is fairly persuasive when he's being...definite.  The last of them, a big muscly tattooed psuedo-tough guy, ended up on his ass in the hallway, and Steph closed the door after him.  We have a metallic board with magnetic poetry on it on our front door.  This guy started pounding on the door so hard he knocked all the magnetic words onto the floor.  The smoker, an older lady, was shouting "Police! Police!" in Hungarian.

I was home by five-fifteen, not knowing anything except that there had been a problem related to the stroller, and that the police had been mentioned.  It was totally different to get a knock on the door and find two cops outside who wanted to search our apartment for a stolen baby stroller.

I know the limitations of my apartment.  I took it on short notice, mostly because it had a backyard - permitting a garden, kids playing and dogs - and I could get all my stuff out of storage.  I did not take it because it was beautiful or spacious.  We live tight.  There isn't enough room for all of us and our stuff.  I've been here for almost three years...I'm a good tenant, cooperative with both the landlord and my neighbours.  But, watching two judgmental, accusing strangers I wasn't expecting, walking through my apartment, through my bedroom to the door opening onto the deck, observing me and Steph and our space....I felt exposed in the worst way.

We rearranged furniture two weeks ago, and there are two pictures still leaning against the wall that still need to be hung.  There's a chair, currently homeless, that's got two knitting project bags, a t-shirt, a computer monitor, two teddy bears and an afghan piled on it.  Sable's comforter is under the table, and there's clumps of dog hair drifting around the edges of the hard furniture. My rocker has a wine stain on the cushion, a jubilant souvenir from Obama being declared President.  There's a gray cardigan and my last club shipment of yarn from indigodragonfly beside my laptop.  A pile of folded tea-towels ready to go downstairs to the kitchen.  The cowl I'm currently knitting, hanging over the top of the chair by my rocker, with the cable needle on the seat.  A roll of duct tape beside the PS3.  The ongoing bag of clothes going to Value Village on the floor by my bedroom door.  Two pieces of a wooden dinosaur skeleton and a toy soldier on the floor beside the summer/fall purse I switched out for a darker one a couple of days ago.  A copy of Sophie's Choice on the floor on my side of the bed next to an empty water glass.  The unmade bed with a laundry basket on it where I rummaged for socks this morning. The track bag that has winter clothes in it, and the one that has summer/fall clothes in it, mid-transition.  My ball-winder and swift on top of the laundry basket.

They did not find the stroller they were looking for, because we didn't take it.  The cops warned our neighbours, for what it was worth, not to block the hallway, to keep their belongings safely behind their own locked door, not in an area accessible to others, and that if they harassed us in future, they could expect to be taken out in cuffs.

Not exactly the way I expected to start my weekend.  One more thing I detest them for.

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