Our downstairs neighbor, Laura, just moved out. She left in a civil manner so we don’t have to worry about her setting fire to the house or coming back to steal our mail. But she also left because of us. We drove her crazy. We have that effect on people who live underneath us.
It all started back at our old flat on Alamo Square. Randy, who I liken to a gray-haired drug-dealing version of Schneider from One Day at a Time, squatted in the storage unit below our building. He parked his white serial-killer van in the driveway at all hours. One day his meth-head girlfriend stood outside our place with a metal rake and scraped the sidewalk for about seven hours. That Night of the Living Dead moment freaked me out so bad that we packed up our precious baby and fled our awesome Victorian for the so-called safer digs of Noe Valley.
But trouble soon came a knockin’. Bill, who lived in the in-law unit below us, was initially nice enough. Friendly. Took his turn taking out the trash and recycling. But Bill went on a downward spiral after getting laid off. He stayed up for three solid days on a drinking binge that turned him psychotic.
He ended up hallucinating a massive scenario in which snipers hid in trees and I took his side (thank God) against a conspiracy put forth by the landlord. It all culminated one sunny spring day when he gave me a look on the stairs that scared me so bad I was afraid to go home. I imagined him smashing in our window with a baseball bat or pushing me down the stairs in front of my child.
Poor Bill put a few belongings in a ragged suitcase and a paper bag, and he walked down our street into the Mission neighborhood. I thought he was off to become homeless, but he checked himself into SF General. Our landlords called his family in L.A. to come get him, and then Bill was gone.
I started to wonder if my family made our neighbors turn crazy.
The in-law unit stayed empty for a year while the owner cleaned out the dusty remnants of Bill’s psychosis. And then came Laura.
Laura toured the place while we were out of town in Texas, so she didn’t get a chance to sneak preview the cacophony of stomping and screaming that would go on over her head each day. She quickly became tired of my family’s noise. But instead of acting cool about it and just talking to us, Laura threw scary temper tantrums that shook the walls and rattled the windows.
See I told you we make people crazy.
We made countless compromises in our lifestyle, resulting in greater conflict for our family. We constantly barked at the kids to keep the noise down so as not to bother Laura. Nothing helped.
No matter how much we took off our shoes, closed off the playroom (above Laura’s bedroom) until 10 on weekends and 8 on weekdays, forced my eldest daughter not to stomp or jump or run or have any sort of fun…no matter how much we did any of those things, Laura became angrier and angrier with us. She called the landlord to complain about us. She slammed her doors.
And she got into this crazy passive-aggressive thing with her bathroom fan.
The cheap fan is located directly underneath my pillow and it vibrates our bedroom floor so hard that the bed shakes. It gives me a headache even if I am up and walking around. If Laura turned it on while I was trying to sleep I might as well just get up and clean the house.
We also had our second child right around the time Laura perfected her fan technique. The fan woke the baby up from her naps and bedtime sleep pretty much every day. This greatly hampered any glimmer of sympathy I could muster when Laura yelled at us that she was “completely sleep-deprived” because she couldn’t sleep in until 11 on Saturdays due to my children playing.
Suffice it to say that Laura completely sucked as a neighbor. But our landlord totally took her side and always asked us to keep it down. He even went so far one time to question our parenting, a move guaranteed to earn any landlord a special place in San Francisco tenant law hell.
Yes, we are happy that Laura is now gone. And even though we are curious about the next person who will live downstairs, we are currently celebrating. We’ve been in this house for 5 years, and we love our “affordable” San Francisco digs.
I let the kids run straight into the playroom at 6:30am this morning and dump a giant box of legos on the floor. They screamed and stomped, as children are supposed to do. And at dinnertime this evening we made a family toast to Laura. “Here’s to being as loud as we want in our own home!”