Woman to Women
Love Your Neighbor
Until the fire truck shows up
“Love your neighbor” is a perfectly reasonable, rational, respectable phrase to live by. And if we all kept it in mind, all the time, it might even be safe to say that this wacky world of ours could be (gasp!) a better place. It’s an adage to adhere to, except, that is, on Saturday at 3 a.m., amid screaming sirens and crooked crowbars, when the last feelings you have are those of love.
As I walked into the lobby of my building recently, a sharp odor smacked the tip of my nose. It must be … paint? No, cleaning fluid? That relentless neighbor who makes your unibrowed ninth-grade home economics teacher’s recipes seem almost edible? None of the above. It was gas. Or at least, I was pretty sure it was.
Gas. The dreaded, silent monster that puts a pit in the stomach of any homeowner (or, in this case, renter) – especially when your house is home to many. And with those five little words in my potentially paranoid mind (no, not “Run away and ignore problem”), I loved my neighbor as myself and called the gas company.
To my pleasant surprise, they loved me right back, and within 15 minutes of my reporting the pesky smell, two dutiful inspectors arrived at my building. With the aid of a Ghostbusters Proton Pack-inspired device, they detected that the first-floor apartment was in fact leaking gas – a small amount, but gas nonetheless. “So, I’m not a crazy bitch, then?” I asked my knight in shining coveralls. “Well, you might be a crazy bitch, but there is gas coming from that apartment,” he replied.
And “You did the right thing” were the only five words I needed.
They said they had to get in. Fair enough. I called my landlord. I called my landlord’s cell phone. I called my landlord’s pager. I went next door and buzzed the super. I buzzed the super again. Just as I was about to send out the bat signal, they told me that if I couldn’t help them get in, they were going to have to call the fire department – and break in.
I pleaded, “Is that really necessary? I’m sure my landlord will call me back [I’m still waiting, by the way] in the morning or my neighbor will come home and we can fix this.” But the engines were already in earshot.
The hour of 4 a.m. is a time for enjoying many things – a B-rated horror film, a slice of Hawaiian pizza, even a firefighter, except when he arrives with an entourage consisting of three fire trucks, six firefighters and one fire chief. On second thought….
That’s besides the point. I had caused total panic, sheer chaos and was sure I’d be hearing “We are evicting you now” in the near future. Once the chainsaw started ripping through my neighbor’s street-facing window, I lost it. And the only fiver my mom offered in consolation was “Did you get any numbers?”
We all have to look out for each other – there’s no doubt about that. But I will think long and hard before stirring the pot of a public utility anytime soon. With that, I propose an amendment: “Love your neighbor as yourself. And love your sanity a little bit more.”
(Update: The author never received a return call from her landlord or a thank you or acknowledgement from her neighbor.)