Tuesday: Hammer Time
When I first moved into my condo last February, I almost immediately had an issue with the noise level. No, I don’t mean that I could hear someone’s TV, or their children running around, or fun party music. I mean, I had an issue with the upstairs neighbour hammering. Not “hammering”, like a metaphor for something else—actual f*cking hammering. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if the construction efforts were happening while I was at work, or making dinner. No, this hammering was taking place at 2 o’clock in the morning. The night I moved in was peaceful enough; in fact, it exceeded my expectations regarding what living in tiny, stacked houses would be like. Then came the second night. Around 11 pm, it sounded like someone was bouncing a very heavy basketball on the floor above my living room. Bouncing it once, then letting it continue on its own, as in BOUNCE, Bounce, bouncbouncebounce, if you can understand what I mean. This went on for about an hour. After an hour, I started banging on the vents—I couldn’t bang on the ceiling because it’s sprayed with that popcorn stucco, which is very sharp and will fall into your eyes if disturbed. However, because the building is SUPPOSED to be soundproof, it had little effect. Then, shortly after midnight, the hammering began. Hammering all over the place at first, then becoming localized above my bedroom. What the hell was this guy doing? Installing a floor in the middle of the night? It was insane. It would stop for brief intervals, but every time I started to doze off, the noise would begin again with renewed vigour. It was like the way the CIA tortures terrorists by playing Death Metal music non-stop. Then it occurred to me—what if it WAS a government agency, trying to determine my stamina? After all, I had just taken a government job and had sworn an oath of secrecy, as well as an oath to the Queen. Could CSIS be upstairs? By this time though, I would have given something really important, like my favourite shoes or my last bottle of wine for the Death Metal to begin. Anything but the damned hammering. Finally, at around 5 am, the noise stopped. Of course, I had to get up at 6:30, so I went in for my first official day of work feeling like a sleep-deprived prisoner.
When I went to bed that night, I wasn’t too worried, figuring that it had to be a one-off—I mean, who in their right mind spends all night, every night renovating their condo? Each unit is only around 600 square feet, so there couldn’t possibly be a single thing left to hammer. And that’s when the sawing started. Sawing. With an actual saw. Right above my bedroom. I stood in the walk-in closet, and it sounded like the person was trying to cut a hole through the floor. Then I suddenly had a terrible thought—what if my upstairs neighbour was a serial killer who was building a false wall in his condo in order to conceal the presence of his latest kidnapped victim? This may sound farfetched in retrospect, but I had just seen an episode of a crime show where a very-innocent looking record producer had done JUST THAT in his recording studio—the investigators had cleverly discovered the hidden room by looking at blueprints. The sawing finally stopped around 3 am, while I cowered in bed, praying that someone wouldn’t rappel into my closet with murderous intentions and wondering how I could get my hands on a floorplan. I was now completely fed up, so after work, I decided to talk to the night concierge. I explained what was happening but her English wasn’t very good:
Me: The person in the unit above mine is hammering in the middle of the night. It’s keeping me awake. What should I do?
Concierge: Ammering? What is this to mean?
Me: (hammers on counter with fist) HAMMERING. Like this.
Concierge: Someone is ammering in your unit?
Me: No, in the unit upstairs! At 2 o’clock in the morning. I can’t sleep.
Concierge: Why would someone be ammering at the middle of the morning? It’s not sense.
Me: Yes, this is all pretty nonsensical. What should I do if it keeps happening?
Concierge: You call me and I go to upstairs and see what is the problem.
This sounded very promising, despite it also sounding fairly incomprehensible. Sure enough, not long after midnight, the hammering resumed. I immediately called down to the front desk, reminded the concierge about our earlier conversation, and gave her the unit number where the noise was originating from. She promised to go up and see what was going on. Unbelievably, about ten minutes later, the noise stopped completely. Blessed silence. It was like that all night, and I had my first good sleep since coming to Toronto. Over the next several weeks, there were still a lot of bizarre sounds coming from Jeffrey Dahmer upstairs, but they always stopped before 11 pm—the concierge must have reminded him about the noise bylaws. By late spring/early summer, the upstairs unit was completely silent. Then last Monday, I happened to be talking to my aunt. She asked, “Have you had any more issues with the person upstairs?”
“No,” I said. “That all seems to be in the past now.” Could I have been any more cavalier to tempt fate in such a brazen way? I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right—finally, at 1:45 am, I’d had enough. I called down to the night concierge (a different one this time, but with equally poor English skills) and explained that someone had been hammering on the floor of the unit above mine for the last two hours. “OK, no problem—I go talk to them,” he said. I had my doubts, but the noise stopped shortly after. Here’s to hoping that the renovations—or ‘victim cage’—are finally complete, knock on wood. But I have to admit, I’m burning with curiosity—what the hell is really going on up there? I’ll probably never know—and maybe it’s better that I don’t.
Friday: Secret Santa Flashbacks
Friday, at lunch, a group of us were sitting around talking about upcoming social type company events, because I work for a great company with supernice, professional people. Suddenly, someone said, “We should do something like a Secret Santa, you know, where we choose names and give each other cute little gifts.” My back immediately went up, because I’ve had more than my fair share of the short end of the Secret Santa stick. Luckily, the conversation moved on to simply making charitable donations or adopting a needy family, because we all acknowledged that we already had enough ‘stuff’. Still, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth from my last Secret Santa. Mostly because I got things that tasted bad.
It happened in a previous workplace. We pulled names—I got someone I knew quite well, but I didn’t know who had MY name, which apparently is all part of the ‘fun’. I’d never done a Secret Santa before, and I was really excited about finding things for MY person that matched what she had put on her list of likes and dislikes. On my list, I had put the following: under “likes”, I listed the colours black and purple, hot chocolate, white wine, any kind of book (but preferably funny), and a couple of other things which I can’t remember now. I wasn’t being demanding—this was all in accordance with the instructions, as in “colours you like to wear, food you like to eat, alcohol you like to drink”, etc. On my dislikes, I simply put dark chocolate and coffee. I also mentioned that I was unable to eat gluten.
That weekend, I went shopping for my person, and was thrilled to find a handknit scarf, a book of short stories, a little box of specialty teas, and a couple of other things she said she liked, all staying fairly well within the $10 budget. I had a bottle of wine for her Friday gift which put me slightly over, but hey, it was Christmas, and it was apparently a traditional for the last day’s gift to be alcohol. On Monday, I got there early and put her first gift in her mailbox with a cute note. There was nothing in MY mailbox. (I should probably clarify at this point that MY Secret Santa was NOT the same person that I was giving gifts too.) By lunch, there was still nothing in my mailbox. Partway, through the afternoon though, I was downstairs, and I saw something sticking out of the slot. I reached in and was a little dumbfounded—it was a single, crumpled package of hot chocolate with a broken candy cane scotchtaped to it. It looked like it had been shoved into the mailbox rather hastily. Well, it was the thought that counted, and it was hot chocolate that I liked. In fact, I had an ENTIRE BOX of the same hot chocolate on my office desk. There was no note—but it was only the first day. Maybe the rest of the week would prove to be more Santa-y and cute. Despite my optimism, I was a little let down:
Tuesday: A small package of two pieces of VERY dark chocolate. The box said, “Compliments of Jackson Triggs”. That isn’t a person’s name—it’s a winery. I couldn’t eat the chocolate, but it occurred to me that if I was getting old chocolate from a winery, perhaps there was a bottle of well-aged wine not far behind. I gave the chocolate to a colleague who reported that it was ‘rather stale’. So maybe REALLY well-aged wine. Still no note.
Wednesday: Partway through the afternoon, I discovered what seemed to be a Christmas placemat, rolled up and secured with an elastic band in my mailbox. It looked as if it had been used previously, judging from its wrinkled aspect and what appeared to be a gravy stain on the corner. Oh well, I could toss it in the laundry and then use it…somewhere. Still no note.
Thursday: A small bag of coffee, such as you might find in a hotel room. It occurred to me that maybe my Secret Santa had recently gone on a wine tour and had stayed at a cheap hotel. Well, my parents drink coffee—I could always give it to them.
At this point, I started wondering who exactly my Secret Santa was. At first, I had a very stereotypical thought that it had to be a man, given the lack of cutesy notes, and the apparent indifference to my list of like and dislikes. But then I remembered the last time that Ken had been a Secret Santa, and the way he went above and beyond to make his recipient feel special. I knew it had to be someone from a different department—if you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that the people I worked directly with in my previous workplace were very unpleasant, and if it was one of them, it would have gone something like this:
Colleague: This is for you.
Me: A lump of cold poison. Thanks?
Colleague: Are you being sarcastic? Oh my god, could you TRY to be a little nicer? You’re so passive-aggressive!
Me: But you gave me cold poison.
Colleague: I don’t believe you. Just wait until I tell EVERYONE how you just acted.
Two days later:
Mediator: I’ve asked you here today because you hurt Bob’s feelings over your “I don’t like cold poison” attitude. You should try to be less authoritative and kinder.
Me: But he gave me cold poison and then told the rest of our colleagues that he was hoping it would make me very sick.
Bob: You don’t want to be Facebook friends with me. You’re so mean. If Steve had given you cold poison, you would have been nice to him.
Me: What?! That doesn’t even make any—
Mediator: I think you need to respect Bob’s social boundaries and not provoke him. Now let’s hug it out.
Me: Oh my God, I can’t even.
So, no, definitely not an immediate colleague. Which only left around 60 people. Guess I was going to have to wait for Friday. Then Friday came and went, with nothing in my mailbox. Other people were ooh-ing and aw-ing over their gifts—alcohol mostly, by the looks of the smiles on their faces. I felt sad and a little neglected. But on Monday morning, I went to my mail box, and lo and behold, there was a little bottle with a note attached to it! My Secret Santa hadn’t forgotten me after all. I put my reading glasses on. The note said, “Enjoy!” Then I looked at the bottle carefully. It said “Margarita Mix”. I asked the person next to me, “What is this?” and he replied, “Oh, you add it to tequila to make a Margarita. They attach them to the necks of the tequila bottles at the liquor store as an added bonus. It tastes really good.”
“Do you want it?” I asked.
“Sure! Thanks!” he replied. “Merry Christmas!”
I never did find out who my Secret Santa was, but I learned a valuable lesson, based on my colleague’s reaction to the Margarita mix–it’s better to give than to receive.