The People Downstairs
So I live in a pretty great place. Got a pretty sweet deal on it. I rent a condo that came pre-furnished with an awesome living room set (including a huge big screen TV), a bomb ass kitchen set (prestocked with wine and like 5 different kinds of syrup), and a pretty good setup overall. It’s the best place I’ve lived in outside of my parents’ house. We have a solid view and the place is pretty pleasant. We live in a nice neighborhood and a nice area. White folks run and walk their dogs a lot around here, even at like midnight. Buses run here a lot and can take me to a lot of places. I don’t have to drive for the most part during the week unless I want to. We have a solid array of food places and grocery stores, ranging from fast food to trendy Pad Thai spots to Wal-Mart to Whole Foods.
And the place is totally, irrevocably racist.
At least how I see it. Read the story and see if you agree. I’ve been here since August, and things have recently reached fever pitch with my resentment of the place. I hate being one to complain, but while I can deal with always feeling out of place at work or school…it gets depressing when I’m at home. The red flags have been flying high since I got here but let me give you a quick history.
When I got here, the first month passed by without much incident. It struck me as odd that I was one of perhaps 10 black folks in the entire complex (including my 2 roommates who are both black), but in this town you kind of get used to it. One day I was running late to the bus and drove my car to the other side of the complex and parked to go run after it. As the bus was pulling up, the grounds keeper ran up to me and told me that only people who lived in my apartment could park there and said he would tow my car. I told him I lived there and he demanded to see proof, which caused me to miss that bus. After showing him the lease papers I happened to have in my bag, he still didn’t believe me, and asked for my landlord’s number. Only after I literally threw the papers in his face and gave him the number did he back off.
I didn’t think much of it. He hadn’t known me…and hell, maybe some guys actually do fake lease papers just to get a shitty parking spot to catch a bus. I don’t know. I came to find out later that he had actually towed a car my roommate had there after claiming he sent several mail notices that never were received (but had never once actually knocked on the door and tried to talk to him personally about any issue).
But it goes beyond just that guy being a douche. A couple weeks later we threw a little shindig. All of the people that came were black. It got a little out of hand and a little loud, and before I keow it someone knocked on our door. I opened the door and a very angry Asian lady yelled at me to “TURN IT DOWN!” Although our offenses weren’t past the weekend quiet hours limitation, we turned the music down and soon left to go party elsewhere. We woke up the next morning to 3 noise complaints, a call to the police, and a new apartment policy stating they were changing the door code and not to let anyone in that you didn’t know.
So very predictably I went through the next week or two getting dirty looks from the people inside the building as I tried to get into my OWN place of living. It seemed as if everyone except the nice Hispanic lady and her son downstairs were told under pain of death to not let me in the place, even if my hands were full of groceries. My roommates and I tried to stay cool, even though the same thing happened to them.
We lived in a pretty tenuous peace for the most part up until this weekend. The Asian lady who lives underneath us has a son who is DETERMINED to practice the same shitty song on his cello every damn time I want to study. I don’t complain. I don’t call my landlord or the HOA or bang on the door or stomp on the floor because that’s decidedly asshole-ish. I just deal with it. My next door neighbor moans and makes loud weird noises every night (he lives by himself and never has anyone over…I don’t want to think about what it might be). There are nasty smells coming from some apartments. Some people have unauthorized dogs and I see them let them take dumps without picking them up. I’ve stepped in them. It really sucks. But I decide to be cool because that’s what I thought good non-asshole neighbors do.
So color me surprised when, this past Saturday, I was at home drinking, smoking hookah and listening to music when I heard someone on the floor below banging on their ceiling. It was a bit rude, so I turned the music down and continued drinking. A couple minutes later my roommate and I heard the doorbell ring. We went to the door, and the feds were standing outside.
They didn’t give us a citation or anything, but made it clear that the next time they would. The next time? Apparently we’ve gotten multiple noise complaints for VACUUMING and WASHING CLOTHES after 11. None of which were communicated to us at the time of the issue so we could fix them. All anonymous. The only warnings we’ve gotten in months have been a lady yelling and someone banging on the ceiling. This isn’t some slum complex. You can actually call or (gasp) actually come and ask nicely for me to stop doing what it is that’s so loud. I’ll stop. Most times we don’t even realize that the stuff is loud. So the next time I decide my apartment is a bit too dirty or need to wash a shirt for the next day, I could end up paying a fine.
The story doesn’t end there. My roommate went downstairs and asked the Asian family (who we know called in the complaint) about why they couldn’t just talk to us. The lady’s husband told us that she didn’t want to because she was small and afraid. Let’s just time the fuck out right now. This is what me and my roommates look like:
Note the decided lack of “scary” or “threatening” elements. I shop at Trader Joe’s, only eat organic apples, and have 6 different pairs of boat shoes. One of my roommates has like 6 different types of Pink Moisturizer. I’m serious. One of the noise complaints we got was from playing Radiohead too loud. What I’m trying to say is, it would be much more reasonable to be afraid of the 6’5″ white neighbor who lives alone, has a pedostache, never speaks, comes in the building at 3 am every morning, and furiously faps himself to sleep every night than a group of 3 graduate students who happen to be Black. But she goes to speak to him all the damn time. What gives? The family said they contacted the police, the landlords, and the HOA about us being loud but contacted everyone literally possible to contact but us. I just don’t get it.
I’m not sure if it’s “active” racism or not, but I’m really just tired of not being given the same leverage or leeway as what I give others, and I’m almost certain this comes from my skin color. We go so far out of our way to be better than good neighbors and prove all the stereotypes wrong and end up getting slapped in the face. Now, because people are afraid of us or whatever and won’t speak or even politely ask us to not use the dishwasher or play “In Rainbows” on our computer speakers, we face a fine and a real possibility of eviction the next time anything happens. We won’t even be notified about it. Buuuuuttt….maybe that’s what they want. I don’t know, maybe I’m overreacting.
What do you think?