My Condo Is Trying To Make Me Crazy
Monday: On Monday afternoon, I returned to my Toronto condo for the first time in a few weeks, having been on holidays. I had had absolutely no desire to leave the comfort—and quiet– of my small town in the meantime, so naturally, I was a little worried about what would happen when I opened the door. Would there be an overwhelming smell of something decaying, even though I was pretty sure I’d emptied the refrigerator and taken out all the garbage? Would there be another flood, even though I checked all the taps before I left in July? Would there be spiders? Would a colony of mice have taken up residence in my closet? I stood outside the door for a second, bracing myself for the worst. Then I put the key in the lock, and tried to open the door. “Tried”, because it wouldn’t open. What the hell? That wasn’t even on the list. Had someone changed my lock while I was gone?! I turned the key again, and this time I gave the door a shove in frustration. It moved slightly, and I realized that it wasn’t the lock causing problems, the door was stuck in the frame. Now, to my knowledge, this only happens when something has shifted, and I got a little worried, because my building has 33 stories, and if it’s starting to shift, that’s a pretty big f*cking Tower of Pisa, and how long will it be before the furniture starts sliding towards the open balcony door? But it was a really hot and humid week, so the other explanation was that the door was just swollen in the frame, and with that in mind, I braced myself again and started pushing. It finally opened enough that I could squeeze through, and then I was inside. Everything looked exactly like I had left it. It smelled normal. It was a little warm, since I’d turned off the air conditioning, but other than that, it was pristine, aside from a little dust on the floor (the hardwood is very dark and shows EVERYTHING), which could be easily swept up.
I unpacked, then poured a glass of wine (these events may or may not have been in the opposite order), and got out the broom. I swept, then I swiffered, until the floor was spotless. This may seem like a really boring and pointless catalogue of events, but just wait. I puttered around for a few more minutes, rearranging the two pieces of furniture in the “guest bedroom” in preparation for the arrival of a friend later in the week, then I came back out into the main living area. I stopped dead. In the middle of the floor, which I had just carefully cleaned, was a broken fingernail. A long, broken F*CKING FINGERNAIL. I stared at it for a minute, then looked at my hands. I was intact. I picked it up by the edges and examined it carefully. Then I looked back at the floor and realized that there were also several strands of long, blonde hair laying in various positions around the room. Yes, the floor that I had just swept. It definitely wasn’t mine, me not being remotely blonde. And then I remembered that I hadn’t done my usual security check of the unit when I got in, because I was so distracted by trying to push the door back INTO the frame and lock it. I was feeling a little panicky, and started to envision an intruder, blonde and badly in need of a manicure, hiding under the bed. So I did what anyone would do in similar circumstances—I called Ken.
Me: I need to talk to you while I search my condo.
Me: I found a broken fingernail and some blonde hair in the middle of the floor after I swept it. I don’t know where the hell they came from. They weren’t there a few minutes ago.
Ken: Did you open the balcony door? Maybe they came in through there.
Me: I’m on the 27th floor. Do you really think someone broke a fingernail down on Yonge St. and wind currents carried it up here!?
Ken: Maybe they were under the couch….
Ken tried his best, but I remained convinced that my condo might just be haunted by a crazy blonde. It makes sense—hair and fingernails continue to grow after death, right?
Wednesday: I’d pretty much forgotten about my blonde ghost, and nothing weird had happened since Monday. I went to bed after re-watching an old episode of “Lost”, which is a great show, but after later events, it occurred to me that my current situation and the show have certain similarities, the first of which is the seeming presence of mysterious “others” on the island and in my condo. The second similarity was the screaming alarm that woke me from a deep sleep at 1 o’clock in the morning. I jumped out of bed, completely disoriented, and ran out of the bedroom like a decapitated chicken, deafened by the sound, and terrified that Toronto was about to be bombed. The sound was coming from the ceiling, and I realized that the things in each room I thought were vent covers for cold air returns were, in fact a P.A. system that was currently emitting a sound very similar to the warning alarm in the hatch in “Lost”, right before the blast doors come down and the electromagnetic field causes the hatch to implode (if you haven’t seen the show, just imagine an insanely loud air raid siren, going at two second intervals, then all your forks flying around the room). It wasn’t a bell, like regular, human, fire alarms, and I was terrified. I looked out into the hallway, and a young guy was standing outside his unit. “Can you hear that in your apartment?!” I screamed at him over the din.
“Yeah,” he yelled back. “It’s in all the units and the hallways. It’s the building’s fire alarm!”
Fire alarm?! My building was on fire? Was I going to have to evacuate in my pajamas at 1 in the morning? I wasn’t wearing my “good” pajamas, so I would probably have to get changed first. And what would I take with me that I could carry down 27 flights of stairs?! I have some really nice paintings, a couple of lovely antique cupboards, and a big ass flat screen TV that I would hate to see all melted. As I was making a very short inventory (I don’t have a lot of personal stuff in Toronto but I AM responsible for the external hard drive that holds copies of all of Ken’s pictures of flowers, trees, clouds, fences, rabbits, frogs, and whatnot, on the theory that if our house ever burned down, they would be safe with me. Well guess what, Ken? Maybe not so much, since I never gave the hard drive a single thought until just this moment, so it would have been literally up in smoke), suddenly a voice spoke through my vents, like the voice of God. An elderly, Jamaican god. It said this: “Attention, resydents. Dere is a problem wit the fi-ah alarm seestem in Buildin’ 21. Please stand by for furder information.” (I’m not so great at writing out Jamaican, so bear with me.)
Building 21?! WTF—I live in Building 25, so why am I being terrorized? Turns out the alarm system for my building is connected with theirs. Thanks a hell of a lot, Building 21, for your stupid electrical issues. 10 minutes later—yes, another 10 minutes of a screeching klaxon filling my ears and condo, the voice came on again: “Attention, resydents. Dee fi-ah department has been called and is on its way.” This was repeated twice, just in case we missed it. I hoped for a second that the alarm might be shut off at this point but no such luck. I could hear sirens getting closer and then could see flashing lights reflected in the glass of the building next door. Another 10 minutes went by; I tried going into the bathroom and shutting the door, hiding in the walk-in closet, and finally resorted to putting on the TV as loud as it would go, but I couldn’t drown out the sound. Finally, the voice came on again: “Attention resydents. Dee fi-ah department has given the All-Clear. Go back to your regular activeeties.” My regular activities? What the hell did he THINK we were all doing at 1:30 in the morning? He should have just said, “Go back to bed, mon.” Which I did, for about 20 minutes, when the f*cking alarm went off again. This time it was only for about 20 seconds, but it was just enough to scare the crap out of me again. I finally got back to sleep, and guess what happened? Yeah, at 5 o’clock in the morning, for a full 5 minutes this time. Then silence. Blissful silence.
Thursday: I have a dishwasher in my unit which has never worked. Ken and I tried it once, but all it did was fill up with water, then nothing. The water just sat there in the bottom until we bailed it out. I should have taken care of it sooner, but I kept getting sidetracked. Then I had to notify my property management company about the door sticking, so I figured I’d throw the dishwasher in there too. On Wednesday afternoon, I got a call that “Tech 2000” would be coming by on Thursday to fix the dishwasher and I needed to leave a key with my concierge. I initially envisioned a kind of cyborg-ish repair person, like the Terminator or something, but it turns out that Tech 2000 is just the name of the company, not a guy whose arms morph into giant screwdrivers. When I came home from work, I asked the concierge if the repair person had picked up the key. She said “No”, then handed me the key envelope, which had clearly been ripped open. “Are you sure?” I asked. “Because it looks like someone has taken the key out of this envelope.” She just shrugged and maintained that she hadn’t seen him. I didn’t know what to expect when I went in, but here’s what I got. The dishwasher was partly open. The bathroom door was shut. Let me just clarify that when I left that morning, the opposite was true—that is, the dishwasher door was shut, and the bathroom door was open. Was there someone IN the bathroom? Was it the crazy blonde ghost, using my manicure kit? I was getting a little panicky again, so I did what anyone would do under similar circumstances. I called Kate (because Ken was still at work):
Me: Hi, it’s me.
Me: So I came home and my bathroom door is shut. It was open when I left.
K: Is there someone in it?
Me: I don’t know. I need you to talk to me while I open it.
Me: Do you think I should knock first?
K: What? I don’t know.
Me: OK, I knocked and there was no answer. I’m going to open the door….all right, there’s no one in the bathroom. Just wait until I search the rest of the rooms.
Me: Are you playing Counterstrike right now?
Me: Thanks for the help. I think I’m good now.
I still have no idea if the dishwasher got fixed or not. So between, fire alarms, fingernails, doors that won’t open and doors that are weirdly closed, it was one hell of a week. In the latest episode of “Lost”, the gang gets chased by a polar bear, so I guess I have something to look forward to.