Wednesday, January 9, 2002

Ordnung muss sein

[A text from the deep-storage archives]

My apartment building doesn't have a superintendent, but when I moved in my landlady told me to watch out for the guy who thinks he's the Hausmeister. But I can't figure out which one of my neighbors she meant: so far, three of them have stopped me on the staircase to comment on my behavior. First it was the old woman who tends the patch of gray bushes in the courtyard that passes as a garden. She asked me to stop putting my garbage in the wrong dumpster. At first I thought she was concerned that I didn't understand the building's recycling rules, but then it turned out that the tenants from the left-hand wing of the building are supposed to put their trash in the left-hand dumpster, etc. "I've seen you use the wrong dumpster several times!" I continue to use the wrong dumpster, in the hope that she's watching me out the window. Then there was the old man with the very straight back who stopped me on the stairs to ask my name, apartment number, landlady, length of stay. I pass him in the hall at least once a week, and he never smiles. Just today another one of the building's old men passed me as I was unlocking the courtyard door to bring out the trash. Coming back in, I was careful to double-lock the door behind me because I could sense him still standing there half a flight up, listening for the key and then there he was, all cardigan and houseslippers, wanting to know why I always slam the door behind me when I go in and out. "Because it's fun!" I tell him, "Have a nice day!" The door to the courtyard is kept double locked at all times, the door to the street only at night (after 8 p.m., according to the home-made sign affixed to the door)—so you can't get out of the building without a key. If there's a fire, all the superintendants will go up in smoke.

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