I’ve never lived in an apartment before – what, by the way, is the difference between an apartment and a flat (aside from pretension?). We used to live in a house on a busy street in Yarraville. It was great to be so close to “the village”, but the trucks. Man, the trucks. We knew what we were getting into when be bought the house, but our deposit wasn’t exactly huge, so we ended up with the worst house in the worst street. Except it wasn’t.
Over the next five years we got to know our neighbours, and they were lovely, funny, interesting people. The house wasn’t in good shape, structurally, but we got around it. We painted a little, did some gardening and tried to ignore the alarming slope of the floors and Niagraesque leaks during big storms. What I couldn’t ignore was the relentless roar of the trucks. I used to fall asleep counting them. Most nights I’d get well into the hundreds before falling into a swampy, fitful, dreamless doze that left me feeling perpetually jetlagged. But people like Noel and Joyce, the old timers up the road who had Buddy, the 50 year-old cockatoo, made up for it. There was a time a huge branch was hanging precariously over our neighbour’s fence. Someone knew someone who turned up and lopped it off for some beer and $50.
Timing is everything, and shortly after we decided to sell and buy an apartment in Footscray, my 83 year-old Dad became sick and was admitted to hospital. For the next four months the wheels sort of dropped off. Everything kept moving forward, but smack in the middle of it all was Dad, having good days, and then quite a few bad days, and then eventually he died in April last year, but that’s a story that feels like it won’t ever get finished.
So we got the apartment (I’m leaving out a whole lot of stuff right here). It took two incredibly fit removalists seven hours to get our old house empty and us in. We helped too, which seemed like the right thing at the time, but these guys were super fit. Later that night I hobbled into an empty room and lay down on the carpet. Ten minutes later, I was still trying to get up.
They would hand me a box and say, “Here, take this light one”, and I’d nearly burst a hernia. Which reminds me. During a short break six or so hours into the move, one of the guys and I sat down for a breather. I was asking him lots of questions about his job; one included “So have you ever had a hernia?” He paused, tilted his head and looked a little quizzical. “Aww. I don’t think so. I know they’re up your bum…” That’s when I RUSHED in with a mortified over explanation. “No, no! I think you mean a haemorrhoid. I meant a hernia. Some people who lift heavy things for a living get them, like my brother in law. He’s a farmer…” Dad would have laughed.
When I spoke to friends and family about living in an apartment, a lot of the same sort of stuff came up.
- Don’t get too friendly with your neighbours. You don’t want them knocking on your door every five minutes.
- Weird cooking smells.
- Don’t buy an apartment with a gym, pool or a lift. Body corporate fees will kill you.
I’ve noticed some unspoken rules. Like when you’re out on your balcony at the same time as your neighbour, it’s ok to ignore each other.
People get described by their location. “Have you met the guy in the third floor in 27?”
My own experiences about apartments were based solely on movies, especially Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and while the reality is a lot less glamorous, there’s a lot I like about living here.
Some days it feels more like a big cruise ship – a half empty one. I work from home, so when I take the dogs for a walk, I can hear a distant door closing, or a clanging pipe from way off. The corridors are all carpeted, which is great, but you can’t hear people behind you, so I think I may have accidentally frightened a few. Sorry about that.
It’s taken many months, but I’ve bumped into most of our neighbours, who seem lovely, even the smartly dressed woman from upstairs who asked me if I played Bridge.