Thursday, March 24, 2005

Friends in high places

I thought living in a 250-unit highrise would give me an instant community of friends and an endless string of evenings sharing bottles of wine Pepsi over impromptu neighborly dinners.

I had big social plans for the inhabitants of the 11 units on my floor when I moved in four years ago. BIG social plans: open-door parties, plant-watering services, built-in dates when real dates couldn’t be secured, borrowed cups of sugar, friendly help with DIY projects … it was essentially going to be dorm life without the homework. Or the Flock of Seagulls haircuts.

Unfortunately, the inhabitants of my floor—at least the handful of them I’ve met—aren’t exactly the ideal dramatis personæ for playing out my social fantasies. To wit: the unbalanced gay couple who won’t answer their door after they invite me over and who won’t tell me what they do for a living, the disheveled hermit whose place looks like the set of Earthquake: The Musical, the barking dog who doesn’t seem to live with any discernible human, the steady parade of guilty-looking miscreants who move in and out of the one rental unit with alarming frequency, and the squatty Polish lady police officer with the hearing problem and the mullet whose increasingly frequent orgasms ring loud and clear through the wall we share. LOUD AND CLEAR. (Though I was shocked to hear the moans of men coming from her place as well; I would have bet lots of money she drove a doughnut truck, if you know what I mean.)

Despite my optimistic social aspirations, though, the sad reality of highrise living is this: empty hallways lined with securely shut doors, elevator floors that are too fascinating to tear your eyes away from and (in my building, at least) an abundance of monolingual Russian grandmothers who smell like borscht.

The only real place to meet people in my building is the elevators (making friends in the laundry room is for some reason so totally uncool even Britney wouldn’t try it). But with three elevators and a population somewhere in the 400 range, it’s extremely hard to run into the same people in my building more than once a month. Which makes it all but impossible to cultivate friendships that last more than the time it takes to hit the lobby.

And I—your pathologically shy protagonist—have nevertheless worked my BUTT off trying to build enduring elevator friendships. Even with people who look boring. Even with people who don’t speak English. Even with people being carted out by the coroner.

My easiest point of entry so far has been dogs. Our building is littered (HA! LITTERED!) with them, and they’re constantly being ushered in and out for elevator rides and bowel-voiding adventures. I discovered early on, though, that the your-dog’s-beautiful-what’s-his/her-name approach is too small-talky to induce lifetime relationships—so I’ve been reduced to more drastic measures: Talking directly to the dogs. Which has to get to the point quickly if it’s going to impress the dogs’ owners:

me (in exaggerated doggie-voice excitement): Are we going outside to POOP? Are we going outside to POOP?
dog: wag wag wag
dog’s owner: (chuckle chuckle) We sure are!
me (as elevator door is opening): So … um … can I have your number?

I know: It wouldn’t even work for someone as beautiful and charismatic as Trent Lott.

Speaking of molten dog crap, a shitz-poo with an alarmingly full rectum actually got me involved in an elevator chat last night that ended in an hour-long conversation with a guy on my floor and tours of both his place and mine. Woo-hoo!

See, the dog left a rather soupy, revolting mess on the Senate lobby floor, and once we got on the elevator, this guy and I laughed about how glad we were not to be the poor owner who had to clean it all up and face the world every day knowing that she actually owned something called a shitz-poo. And when we realized we lived on the same floor and we weren’t both hooker-killing sociopaths, we became Best Friends Forever. Except I can’t remember his name. And I already asked him twice what it is.

Here’s the kicker: He’s lived on my floor for more than two years. There are only 11 units on my floor. And we’d never met until last night—which just underscores how challenging and unlikely it is to meet people in my building.

But he does live on the other side of Orgasm Lady, whose hearty vocal stylings waft into his place as loudly and clearly as they do mine.

So you might say she’s what’s been coming between us all these years.


windreader said...

"Earthquake: the Musical" made me laugh so loudly that it startled my son who was playing his new bass guitar at the time. well done. made me want to give up on my opus "Island of Dr. Moreau: the Musical". and out-of-city life ain't much better. we live on a block with approx. 12 neighboring houses and have rarely talked to the neighbors at all. unless you count our "Bush Must Go" sign and our neighbor's "Bush Must Stay" sign as a conversation.

Todd said...

So it isn't just Atlanta's fairly recent love affair with the high-rise that's causing the lack of knowing the neighbors?!?! We have lived here for 5 years, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen certain neighbors. But you've hit the nail on the head; if you want to meet people, get a dog. Granted, you'll meet only other dog owners, but at least we're a (generally) responsible lot.

Kevin and I frequently talk about having a cocktail party and inviting some of our less scary neighbors to it, but it hasn't happened yet, so it probably won't.

On the other hand, we've met some people in the building who are friends-for-life types. And for that I'm grateful.

Oh, one more thing: I've found that clapping and whistling after a particularly loud um, performance generally stops the moans of love, at least for a few months.

iPhil said...

Just because you write(/wrote ?) advertising copy, that does not give you license to use the two worst puns ever conceived by in/human mind.

i) Littered: not God-awful. Perhaps one of Hinduism's minor deities-awful. Still really quite bad.

ii) "she's what's been coming between us": Oh, really, Jake. Most emphatically not what I'd come to expect from your blog. Really not. Good luck next time. I mean it. For the sake of your (undoubtedly large) readership.


Michael Guy said...

My 'moaner/groaner' neighbors lived below us for 5 years! She had some fireplug/no-neck boyfriend banging the headboard against our common wall just about every night. Once--during a particlarly loud performance of the VAGINA MONOLOGUES she stated: "Shhhhh! The neighbors might hear us!" Imagine the eye rolls here. But then fireplug/no-neck/whore hound said: "What!? Those FAGS upstairs?! I don't care what they think!!" I nearly fell off the two paint cans balanced on top of the laundry basket teetering on the toilet seat next to my air vent. Some folks are so classless.

David said...

I'll bet the 'Earthquake, The Musical' guy is my friend Richard. Does he have a dog?

Derek said...

Hmmm all I get for neighbors is the young polish couple above me with the kid who likes to stomp on the floor and the couple next door to me . . . The husband likes to scream at his wife every so often and when I'm around to catch it I get to hear more and more about their life. "GODDAMN YOU F'N BITCH I CAN'T BE F'N PERFECT ALL THE TIME!" "THEY CAN'T PROVE I WAS DOING COCAINE! I HID IT!" "I SHOW PEOPLE HEAVEN! I'M GOD!" Sorry bud but with statements like that we can prove you were doing cocaine.

Unfortunatly they're selling their condo. It's too bad because it was more interesting than cable TV some nights!

Alina said...

I live in a hostel with 400 students and even here it is hard to make friends. There are like 80 people living at the same floor as I and my only friends at the floor are a girl and her boyfriend. I should mention that I know the girl since high-school…Another friend I’ve made is Kara, and, yes, she is a dog! Another thing, the Bucharest hostels used to be known for the huge parties here. Yet the only party I went to was organized by my room-mate and I with people outside the hostel…

Erik said...

Is 'driving a doughnut truck' a Midwestern pastry-induced masturbatory fetish?

Jake said...

Nope. It's just a Jake-made-up euphemism for "lesbian."

Cincy Diva said...

I think it is just apartment living in general. I live in a 3 unit building and we rarely see each other in the halls. It is just me. an old woman named Wilma and a very young Gay Mormon. The VYGM and I run into each other more often than we do Wilma and perhaps she likes it that way. I do intend to leave Chocolate in the mailboxes for the Holiday. Something I couldn't afford to do in a high-rise.


Mark said...

I think you should leave a clever little note on your new friend's door, something that will elicit another note in response upon which he will sign his name, thus solving the name problem.