I don’t know what it is about living in an apartment that stirs up some kind of mischief in my husband and me. For years, we’ve lived pretty sedately in houses in Charlottesville, Virginia, Dallas and Austin. In fact, we’ve always been pretty well-liked in our neighborhoods, aside from that unfortunate incident with the pipe bomb and shrapnel and shattered window next door circa the Fourth of July 1988.
(What can I say? I’m married to a pyromaniac who likes to experiment with gunpowder and dynamite. One year, I published a column about it, which one of my friends referred to as a “cry for help.” The local police took to circling our block every Fourth of July, which I, for one, found quite amusing.)
But anyway, houses and apartments. Maybe it’s the massive investment in a house that keeps you upright and stable or maybe it’s because, by the time you can afford one, you’re too old and tired and too much of a role model to your kids to create much havoc. So, we haven’t repeated our shameful little acting-out episodes from the good old days when we lived in an apartment. No,we’ve become respectable, sad to say.
Still, here we are again in an apartment. Slowly, but surely, it begins to bring out the worst in us. We begin to scheme about making some changes in our communal living place. Improvements, we like to think.
For example, our apartment building doesn’t have a name, which we feel lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Every day, we pass swanky-looking apartments with fancy names like The Beresford and The Montana. We would feel far better about our living arrangements if our apartment had a name — like, say, The North Dakota. (This would also be geographically accurate since we are, in fact, north of the Dakota.)
The name, of course, would have to be painted somewhere, which leads us to our apartment’s next shortcoming: It has no awning. How is anybody going to know the apartment’s name if it doesn’t have an awning with the name on it? Would taxicab-yellow be an appropriate color for our new awning? We believe that would work.
Finally, we really really need a doorman who would preside under said bright-yellow awning at The North Dakota. Somebody really cheerful and helpful who’d scream out our names and ask how we’re doing and where we’ve been and ain’t this rain a bitch?
We’ve hesitated to bring all of this up, since we know money is always a factor. To help defray costs, we’re thinking about circulating a signup sheet for everybody in the apartment house to pitch in and serve a few hours a week at the door. Since my husband and I are the organizers of all these improvements, we’d be exempt from doorman duty; I mean, you’ve got to have a hierarchy, right?
Oh, well, It’s only in the planning stages, as I’ve said. So right now, only my husband and I know we live in The North Dakota. Maybe, at this stage in life, we’ll just keep it to ourselves.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read more about being forced into being the vocabulary cop