Tuesday, January 06, 2015

war, passive/aggressive style

One of the many unique features of apartment living is the ability to get into petty squabbles with one's neighbors. And like most conflict, the level of investment is surprisingly huge simply because the stakes are low.

My particular antagonist is my next door neighbor. She's approximately 137 years old. When I first started moving into this building, I did my best to be as nice to her as I could. That's when I found out that she had been living at this complex pretty much since it opened around 50 years ago. I thought at first we got along just fine. However, as the loading and unboxing continued, I realized that what I mistook for friendly neighbor behavior was closer to "know your enemy."

One day, she pointed out a mark on the wall. She did the same thing the next day. And the next day. I was as gracious as I could be at first, but when she kept doing this after I had finished loading in, I began to get a little peeved. Then I had a washing machine overflow on me, and she immediately set in on telling me exactly what I did wrong and how I was supposed to do things...basically treating me as if I had never done laundry before. She then snooped around, just waiting for me to do something she didn't like, so she could tell (never ask) me to do it different, and so she could call the office to complain.

At first, I spent a lot of energy trying to figure out why this woman didn't seem to like me. At first, I thought it might be because she met me in the summer and thought I was unemployed. Then I thought maybe she stereotyped me based on my tattoos. Then I came to the conclusion that she was just a bitter old crone.

Later, I got confirmation. One day, when I went to the office to pay rent, I did tell them that contrary to what they might've heard, I am a good tenant, and I am not actively trying to destroy everything they own and stand for. The office manager just said, "apartment xxx?," shook her head, and told me I wasn't the first to receive such treatment...and not to worry about it. A while later, my wife was talking to a a guy from the complex maintenance staff, who told her that my antagonist used to stand out on her balcony, and, when she saw kids playing incorrectly on the playground across the parking lot, blow on a whistle before yelling at said kids. He also referred to my antagonist as "The Gila Monster." It's nice to know you're not the only one.

I know it is, in the end, all rather silly. It's been a great source of humor between my wife and me, including (and not limited to) jokes on my end about the appropriateness of wishing for someone's death. Yeah, it's tasteless, but I'm not really all that serious about this conflict in the first place. Really, I find it both silly and sad.

Except there are times. Lately, whenever I shower, I have at least one (but usually more) instances of freezing-to scalding-to freezing water temp...and I can't help but picture her sitting in her apartment, hearing the sound of my shower, and running to the sink to turn on the hot, then the cold, and then the hot. And it's in these moments where that dark part of me feels like hunting down my copy of Sun Tzu to find something to gain the advantage.

It might be a stupid war. Still, I would rather win it than lose.

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