Thursday, April 11, 2013

The chaos of chairs

Much like marriage, apartment living is a continual exercise in consideration and compromise.

We apparently have multi-storey living arrangements a far lot easier than the average Swiss person in that we have our own washing machine and therefore escape the dreaded laundry room timetable.  Friends on much higher salaries than ours are unable to go out on Monday nights because it is when their allotted two hours are given to use the washer and dryers.  The judges' decision is final and no further correspondence will be entered into, such is the difficulty in trying to nab a Saturday afternoon slot.  Someone has to die and have their next-of-kin tracked down, bribed and shagged to have any chance of being able to change the time you have been given.  (While we were in Spain, our house and dog-sitter said the highlight for her was being able to wash her clothes when she felt like it - such small pleasures)

For those of us with washing machines, life is relatively carefree as long as we don't use them before 8 am or after 9 pm and never on Sundays.  The Sunday restriction is regularly flouted by me - surely it's OK to do something other than stay utterly still and silent from, say, 10 am to 4 pm?  Doesn't that allow sufficient time for a sleep in or pre-work wind down? So far, no neighbour to the left, right, up or below has taken offence at my rest day rejection.

With our dog now fully embraced by our concierge, The Fratman, and able to leap into the lift doors and accompany elderly couples to their floor (and back down to me) with joy and safety, we figure that the block is pretty used to the noisy Australians who like to yell 'Tea is READY' instead of walk the fifteen metre dog leg to the bedroom area.

However, there is a big booger still dangling from the symbolic nostril that is upper-level etiquette: our balcony.

When it rains, the water simply gathers into small pools, eventually turning into one rather shallow swimming area when they join up.  The drain may be set in the far corner but the undulating slope of the tiles means that it rarely gets wet.  Instead, the water is eventually dried up by the sun or soaked up by my ugg boots; whatever happens first.

Unfortunately, it is not just worn woollen footwear and solar power that is removing the water - it is also seeping through the balcony and starting to stain the ceiling and upper walls of the apartment directly below us.  The neighbours (to be referred to as the Seventh Floor Fusspots from hereon) are understandably annoyed by this and have asked the land agent to contact the owner of our apartment to fix the problem.

With Swiss efficiency meaning that the plumber rings to apologise if he's going to be ten minutes late, I assumed that the balcony repair work would be relatively easy.

But no. In the past eight weeks, I've had no less than ten separate visits of men arriving with clipboards to
a) have a smoke and fling the butt over the edge of the flower boxes down into the garden that no human is allowed to enter;
b) point to the drainage hole and hold some intense discussions about it;
c) jump up and down on the tiles; and
d) tell me 'We fix. Later. Fratman will call you.'

TEN TIMES.  Unless they somehow scrape off a thick layer of cement and slope the entire balcony surface towards the drain or knock the entire edifice off and build a new one from scratch, it is not clear what quick job they can do to prevent the Seventh Floor Fusspots from continuing to complain.  Put in a blue pool liner perhaps?

Mrs Fusspot has usually been friendly to me whenever we've crossed paths by the mailboxes or in the lift, but the frustration of no action and her presumably still-ugly brown-stained walls are starting to fester beyond  annoyance at the owner and towards the renter.  Me, in other words.

Witnessing her pretending not to see me as she struggled into the four person lift with myself as the only other person present was a little too much, so I applied my cheery 'Hello' that often gets unfriendly dog walkers to respond when we pass by every single day.

She grunted.  I tried again. "Look, I'm sorry that there seems to be no improvement on the balcony for you.  I've had ten lots of men come up to look at it, but not one of them has returned to do anything.  Is there anything I can do to help it happen quicker for you?"

"Yes," she hissed, causing me to step back a little in surprise.  Even her drop pearl earrings were swinging erratically. "You can stop scraping your chairs on the floor."

"Oh, sorry.  We have those felt dot things on the bottom of the legs---"

"It's NOT ENOUGH. You scrape them all the time and we need you to stop."

We had arrived at her floor and she swept out to my, "Sure, I'll speak to my family about it...."

Arriving back upstairs, I realised that our six dining chairs are all on carpet.  An IKEA job that has soaked up a few of Milly's left-inside-too-long butt nuggets, an infinity of dropped bread crumbs and more spilled wine than what had remained in the glasses they were originally poured into.  The rug now had several extra layers that not only prevented the chairs from scraping, but also provided recording studio-quality sound-proofing and a large, aromatic area for the dog to ram her nose into for a lick and a sniff if the kitchen floor is too clean.

It was hard not to laugh.  If this complex was in Australia (say, Flemington), housing this many people it would be a madhouse of noise.  Two hundred residents would mean that simple Aussie-related maths would see at least two out-of-control parties, several domestic incidents, a visit from the ambos, stolen wheelie bins, hard rubbish put out seven months too early, hills hoists pulled over, cars being keyed and Eminem on level eleven during work hours.  And we'd be pretty accepting of all that....

I saw The Chair Scraping Shrew again the following day.  "Good morning Mrs Fusspot.  We've had a think about what you told us and realise that it's not us who are scraping the floors.  It must be people on either side or on the ninth floor, as we have carpet under our chairs."

She stopped unlocking her mailbox and gave me a skeptical look. "No, you are wrong, it is you.  You have chairs in your kitchen."

"No, we don't, actually.  Our kitchen has a fixed bench in it and no chairs."

The fact that I dared to question her statement and profess knowledge of my own kitchen still did not convince her.  She shook her head. "I think you are mistaken. Your kitchen chairs scrape all day."

All day....?  When I'm home, I'm usually in the study - with a different apartment underneath me - blobbed out in a rollerball office chair and never on the dining setting. I felt my mouth form into the universal sign of increased annoyance - the cat's arse pucker.  "Look, Mrs Fusspot, you're more than welcome to come on up and see for yourself."

"That won't be necessary. All you need to do is stop the scraping."

It was then that I decided forget about visiting the bootmaker's in Petit Saconnex.  Not because he doesn't do a good job in re-heeling my beloved black boots, but because I was going to ask him to apply a layer of special rubbery stuff that would stop the 'clop clop clop' sound of my brand new boots (black again, of course) when I walked across the parquetry floor boards not covered by rugs.

Sod her.  Milly's nails can get longer AND the double spin cycle will be selected on Sunday.


FruitCake said...

The woman clearly has "isshues". She has obviously never lived in a flat with a bowling alley in the flat above. She obviously does not know the joy that comes from having marine flares lit by neighbours any time between sunset and sunup Mon to Sun, and needs to hear a good domestic between feral "grown-ups", the decibel level of which cannot even be topped by police sirens.

She needs a life. You need a washing machine that spins so violently it dances across the floor.

Kath Lockett said...

Thank you for your support, FruitCake. She's apparently been living there for over ten years but had previously 'enjoyed' having an elderly widower as her ceiling neighbour....

Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

It's bad enough living in a terraced house with two neighbours, but an apartment with neighbours at the top and bottom as well ...

And I can't believe there are slots for use of the washing machines etc. in some places.

I think I would probably invite Mrs Fusspot up for coffee - just to prove it wasn't me making the chairs shriek across the floor.

She probably still won't believe you though.




Kath Lockett said...

'Some places' for washing slots = ALL places if you're not allowed to have a washing machine in your apartment, PlasMan. A friend decided to get a plumber to install some fittings so that she could have a washing machine in the guest bathroom and then got sent a 'fine' for doing so!

Mrs Fusspot wouldn't be seen dead in my apartment. She can barely tolerate me in my unshowered state, wearing a worn out old coat and ready to take Milly off for a walk....

River said...

Is Mrs Fusspot hearing the chairs on you balcony perhaps?
I can't believe "they" are taking so long to fix the drainage up there. Don't they realise the damage water can do to the lower flat? in any case the water shouldn't be seeping at all, regardless of where the drain is. It's possible the tiles have been laid without correct waterproofing underneath them, or perhaps the balcony has waterproofing but the tiles were laid over the original surface and are now too high thus negating the waterproofing. I'm not sure I'm making myself clear. Are all the balconies tiled?

Kath Lockett said...

The balcony chairs are rarely moved and we haven't been eating dinner outside for months and months and month.

'They' are indeed being slack, River, and you'd think that the delay in getting the problem sorted would leave the owner of our apartment with even more expense if the Fusspots decide to pursue them for increased damage and delay... *sigh*

Isabella Golightly said...

Have you considered shoving a polaroid through the letterbox? She sounds like a real cow!

Kath Lockett said...

Tempting, Ms Golightly, very tempting...

Then again, she did deign to say a brief 'hello' to me in the lift this morning...

Ellena said...

I can hear noises from an empty apartment above and couphing from the left and click click of an excercise machine from 2 walls away on my right. Makes me happy to know that some neighbours are still alive.
And, it happened twice now, when lying in bed late at night trying to fall asleep I heard an earthquake approaching prior to feeling the shaking of the building. Yes, really. I live on ground floor.

Kath Lockett said...

Ellena, I agree that normal sounds of life are part-and-parcel of apartment living. Scraping chairs (as long as not done at 3am non-stop) are just background musak.

Anji said...

She does sound nasty.

I once unblocked the drain of a flooded balcony forgetting that there were people in the street below. Fortunately I missed them.

wilbo43 said...

I would have thought by now this 'Don't do aything on Sunday' thing would have been disgarded. I remember in 1970 when we were living in Switzerland, out of suitcases, one Sunday we took the opporunity to use the empty laundy of the building to do our washing. All went well until, Diane hung out the washing on the line, then all hell broke loose. We were on the road for an aperitive when we casually mentioned it to my parents. My poor Mum nearly had a fit. No, No, you can't do that! Not on a Sunday. Dad, she insisted, turn around, we must go home and remove the clothing.

So nothing's changed. Funny, that!

diane b said...

Oh the joys of apartment living. One reason that we never joined the hoards of fellow retires swapping an empty nest house for a smaller apartment. Most of them have returned to houses.
I was flabbergasted when I lived with Bill's parents in Thun and I discovered that she only washed once a month due to the timetable. That was a bit difficult when we only had a suitcase full of clothes. So I decided to wash on Sunday as the timetable was free then. Little did I know about the no wash on Sunday rule. Bill has told you the rest of the story.. That was in 1970,I can't believe they still have that old system.

mm said...

Does Milly push her dog dish around in the kitchen?

Fenstar de Luxe said...

ha ha get some tap shoes, that should fix the problem. Well, she won't complain about scraping chairs!

My ex lived in the rabbit warren in Flemington and boy were those flats noisy.

Kath Lockett said...

...and it would have been hilarious if you hadn't missed, Anji, plus you could duck inside and they wouldn't be able to figure out which apartment to find you in!

Wilbo43, luckily now there aren't any shared clotheslines (just dryers) and we're not allowed to hang anything on the balcony, so my flouting of the 'No use of washing machines on Sunday' is hidden inside. Well, not 'hidden' exactly as it's all hanging from doorknobs and draped over dining chairs!

Dianeb, I don't think I'd want to be a retiree in an Australian innercity apartment either. Far far too noisy and no little terrier for a concierge to set your complaints to rights.

mm, nope, even Milly can't be blamed as her dish is on the doormat (inside, so wet feet from the balcony don't mess up the floor) and wedged into the corner so that it doesn't move. See, I'm a PERFECT tenant!

Fernstar, tap shoes could be a good idea, but my black boots already do a good 'clack' when I 'forget' to take them off by the front door. :)

Ann ODyne said...

balcony needs plastic to keep rain off it, instead of the floor of it being realigned.

Fussy woman is transferring angst onto you from some other bad part of her life. Is there a Mr Fussy? Offer him wine. That'll give her Le Pip. Main thing - do not stress yourself about this.

I love your description of typical flats life, and fruitys too.
My street has TWO drummers in different houses.
Bon chance.

Kath Lockett said...

Mr Fussy is seen very, very rarely but has always been nice to me. Perhaps I'll try and turn on the charm a bit next time I see him....

Alexia said...

Hmmm - maybe a regiment of rats lives in the floor space between your floor and her ceiling??

I don't think I'd adapt well to apartment living :(
It sounds like you are indeed the perfect tenant!

Pandora Behr said...

So lucky to live where I do with the neighbours that I have... But you've done well to adapt to apartment living. Sounds like she has nothing to complain about really.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

She sounds like she just might be an unhappy person in general to be honest and if it weren't the chair it would have been something else...

Kath Lockett said...

No space for rats, Alexia. And the Swiss are too clean for such things to occu...

Kath Lockett said...

She wouldn't know a real problem if it scraped itself on her actual head, Pandora!

Maybe that's the reason why I should invite her up for a drink, OpEx?

Andrew said...

I read this and wanted to comment but I had to go to work and now I don't know what to say. A neighbour of ours' balcony was leaking into the apartment below. It ended up at VCAT, you explain what VCAT is, and it cost the neighbour around $18000, for what was a construction defect, but too late to claim. Apparently while the body corporate thinks it can tell you what you can and can't have on your balcony, ultimately it is your responsibility. Bodies corporate work on a lot of bluff. If it is your property and on your title, you can do with it as you wish, as you could in a house.

Kath Lockett said...

But it's NOT our property, Andrew, we are only the renters. If it was, we'd have had the balcony fixed properly months and months ago.

I think the owner (of ours) is being very, very tardy.....

ashleigh said...

Understand the noise thing on her part - I dislike noisy neighbours.

We were away a while ago, and the place we staying in had people upstairs (not too muck clacking, thankfully).

But the constant sound of drawer runners.... Gzzzhht! Gzzzhhhtt! For hours and hours. Most odd. And TV's coming through - gee some people must have their TV up load for it to go through 4 inches of concrete.

Makes me happy to be back home, mind you, earplugs at night makes for a good nights sleep.

So I can sort of see where she is coming from re the noise, but it is probably somewhere else. Concrete, if not designed for kill noise, conducts things like scrapes a long way.

Place we stayed in London was concrete, we had people above, below and alongside and never heard a peek from them. That place was obviously built properly.

As for the balcony - prepare thyself for a week of hell. To do the job right, the tiles need to come off, then the concrete needs to be cut back and skimmed to get a proper fall, then re-tiling.

All possible, will cost the landlord a lot of money, and will make dust, noise and hell for you for about a week.

Mrs Fusspot will probably grumble about the noise from that too, and ask that you stop it.

Kath Lockett said...

Ashleigh, you'd honestly be surprised at just how deathly silent this building is - even friends who visit (and live in other apartment complexes) are amazed by it.

And no drawer runners or clacking or scraping from us - at least not after 10pm. And yes, there's even a policy here on how loud your television is allowed to be!

ashleigh said...

It does seem just a fraction over the top.

And as for banning washing on Sundays, that's just downright silly. Perhaps there's some vestige of the old religious no-work-on-Sunday thing going on.

I assume you know about the ultra-orthodox Jews who can't work on the Sabbath. That includes pressing the buttons in lifts - hence on the Sabbath they just stop automatically and open the doors on every floor.... or so the story goes.

At least its not like that. But there do seem to ba lot of rather petty rules.

Clyde said...

Hello Kath Lockett..... I think you are facing a problem of water leakage at your Balcony.It's better consult Leaking Balcony Repairs to solve your problem.