Posted by: mindyourknitting | January 31, 2010

Is that guy dead?

Because I don’t think you want to hear about how we’ve started on the scary road to soother elimination for Abigail (or do you?), I give you this instead.

When I moved back to Ottawa after living in London (the London in Ontario, not the good one) for a couple of years at the start of my PhD, I rented an adorable apartment on the edge of Chinatown in downtown Ottawa.  I had lived on my own for several years at that point, easing into the adult responsibility of paying for and taking care of a home all by myself by first house-sitting for one of my professors during undergrad for several months.  During my MA year I shared a sketchy row-house  with two guys near the Ottawa University campus (the guys were perfectly  nice, not sketchy at all, and there was a great Asian food place right across the street), and then I sublet a bachelor apartment near campus before moving to London where I rented a very nice apartment in Old South.  But none of these places ever really felt like home – the first few places felt impermanent because I always knew they were short-term accommodation, and, looking back, I don’t think I ever really intended to stay in London longer than required, despite the fact that it’s a really nice place to live as a student.  I had friends there – I met someone who was an extremely close friend for years there – and a social life, and I was busy with school and TAing, but I missed Ottawa, or rather the people in Ottawa.   London always felt impermanent to me.

When I got the go-ahead to move away from the university while finishing up my PhD (oh, was I optimistic…that was about eight years ago), I looked for a place I would be happy to stay in longer than a year or two.  I found a lovely, big, affordable ground-floor apartment in an old house that had been split into six apartments, two per floor.  The layout was pretty typical for an old apartment – the front door opened onto a long hallway, with the living room  and bedroom off of it, and led  to the back of the apartment where the kitchen and a bonus sunroom were.  It had big rooms, hardwood floors, high baseboards, built-in bookcases and a fireplace (for show) in the living room, a sunroom at the back with a backdoor to the small parking lot and lots of windows.  There was even a picnic table on the back lawn for our use.  It did have its quirks – because the sunroom was an addition on to the back of the house it had exposed brick on two walls, which was lovely, but it also meant that  the old-fashioned window in my bedroom looked out into the sunroom, so my bedroom was a bit on the dark side.  And the bathroom the size of a closet and had no tub, but it was a fair sacrifice for the fabulousness that was 102 Cambridge Street North.  It had “character.”  I was thrilled to be able to paint it any colour I wanted.  Sick of the white walls I had lived with in my London apartment, I chose a pale lavender-gray for the living room, a rich, warm claret for my bedroom (or should I say “boudoir”), a springtime green for the hallway and kitchen, and a sunny yellow for the sunroom.  It was colourful and homey and a bit eclectic and I loved it.  I had Christmas parties there, weekly Buffy and Angel-watching nights, hosted pre-game drinks before going out to the (gay) bars, had friends over for dinner, and made it my first real home on my own.  I felt safe there, despite the fact that, sometimes, I probably shouldn’t have.

My apartment was in an almost-bad part of town.  It was on a short block that was a mix of owner-occupied  century-old homes, old houses that had been converted into rental units, and at least one home for transients.  There was a crack house a few streets away that was raided more than once.  I might walk home at night with a friend, but I usually tried to avoid doing it by myself.  My building wasn’t dirt cheap, but if my poor university self could afford to live there, it certainly was affordable.  Neighbours came and went over the years, and I was friends with some of them, but mostly we were just polite to each other.  Most of the neighbours were of the quiet, responsible variety, with a few notable exceptions.  There was the short-lived couple (well, short-lived in the building, I don’t know how short or long-lived the relationship was; one can only hope because, wow, were they ever unpleasant to each other)  who had a tendency to take their screaming matches out of their third-floor apartment onto the front lawn, and whom other tenants called the police about more than once.  But it was my neighbour across the hall, a guy who was already there when I moved in, who proved to be the most troublesome.

Let’s call this neighbour Bob.  That’s not his name, but I can’t for the life of me remember it despite the face that I lived next to him for years. (I’m not sure what that says about me, but it’s not like we were close, as you will see).  Tom?  Tim?  Let’s just call him Bob.  So, Bob was a nice enough guy who was a bike courier/carpenter who cycled through periods of working hard and being unemployed and who loved really, really loud music and booze.  Specifically, he liked to get really drunk at night and crank it.  This was a problem because when he turned up whatever death metal he was listening to  you could hear it throughout the building, and it drove everyone crazy.  I didn’t really care most nights, but there were two instances where the cops were called.  The first time it was an upstairs neighbour who was just about losing her mind, but the second time it was me.  I admit it. I called the police on someone (actually, I think I called bi-law, but what showed up was a police car and two policemen).  The music had started at about 9:00pm, and  by 1:00 or 2:00am I thought my brain was going to start leaking out of my ears.  A few of us tried knocking on the door and yelling at Bob over the music, but he didn’t answer.  So I made the call.

The cruiser pulled up in front of our building, and I buzzed two policemen in.  Our vestibule was roughly the size of a passenger elevator, so the minute they stepped inside they knew what the problem was.  They pounded on Bob’s door for several minutes, yelling to each other over the noise.  Our apartments had large front windows, so they decided to go outside and see if they could see in through Bob’s window to find out if he was there.  They hoisted themselves onto the railing of our front stoop so that they could see through my neighbour’s window.  Thanks to some fluke of acoustics or engineering (and not at all because I was sitting on my couch craning my neck to see out my living room window, ear pressed to the glass), I overheard the following:

Young police officer:  I think I see him, there on the couch.

Slightly older but still hot police officer:  Yeah, I see him.  He’s not moving.

YPO:  Nope, not moving at all.

SOBSHPO:  Is that guy dead?  Maybe he’s dead.  Should we call paramedics?

YPO: Let’s see if we can get his attention first.

SOBSHPO: I really hope he’s not dead.

Uh, what??  They thought he was dead??  So they start banging on the window, and one of them comes back inside to really wail on the door, really improving the noise situation.  But they finally roused Bob, and he answered the door with a (I’m not making this up), “What’s the problem, officers?”  But really, realy slurred.  They get him to turn of the music and go to bed, and that was that.  It didn’t stop him from doing it again, of course.  But I think of that night when I get wistful for that apartment, or when I hear our neighbours through the wall of our semi-detached home (why aren’t they called duplexes anymore?).  We don’t hear much noise from them, and I’m sure they hear our kid way more often than we hear theirs, so I can’t really complain.  It will be nice to live in a single family home someday, but we love this house too, it’s our first home as a family and it’s a million times better than that apartment.  Also, it doesn’t have bats.

The bats were what finally signalled the end of my love affair with that apartment.  The bats likely came from the burned-out house down the street, got into the basement through holes created by renovations being done by the super, and worked their way upstairs through nooks and crannies that old houses seem to have.  By the time they broke into my apartment with their little rat faces, I was neck-deep in a love affair with my husband, and when he asked me to move into his newly-rented condo-like apartment, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.  The shine had come off – waking up once with a bat in your sunroom is bad enough, as is spotting one curled up on the exposed brick wall of your living room, but waking up a second time in the middle of the night with one in your bedroom being chased in circles by hungry cats is grounds for breaking a rental agreement, in my book.  And in case you ever find yourself in such a situation, Animal Control and landlords are useless.  A shoebox, a boyfriend, and my own gumption saved the day (and by “gumption” I mean mad squealing and much freaking out while I tried to trap a bat with a shoebox, followed by a desperate 7:00am call to the boyfriend to come empty the shoebox outside).  We won’t even talk about when one of the cats pinned one to the floor by its wings.  *shudder*

What homes are you wistful about, or couldn’t get out of fast enough?  Did they have bats?  Have you ever called the fuzz on someone?  Are you having a good day?  A bad day?  Tell me, internets, or I’ll run out of things to read and have to go back to writing my thesis.


  1. […] than spiders.  Those horrible house millipedes are one them though – one of the few drawbacks of my awesome apartment  was that it was an old house and had those awful many-legged quick-as-lighting fuckers.  Yes, in […]

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