The Joys of Living in an Apartment

While searching for a house in the suburbs of Chicago, my wife and I rented an apartment for almost a year. Now that we’re finally Melvin Durai's Humorliving in the house, I’m enjoying all the extra space, but I miss several aspects of apartment living.

What I miss the most is being part of a small community. If you live in an apartment building, you can’t help but get to know some of your neighbors, whether it’s the old lady next door who needs help carrying groceries to her second-floor apartment, or the young man upstairs who needs no introduction, because you hear his girlfriend scream his name every night.

Our apartment complex was a good place for singles to meet, especially those with four legs and a tail. In the center of the property, beside several weeping willow trees and a pond, was a fenced-in “dog park” that was a prime pick-up area. It was a place where dogs could try to pick each other up, and their owners could pick up after them. (Our dog, Legacy, unfortunately, took the picking-up a little too literally. She picked up a tiny dog and shook it, leaving us to pick up a $300 veterinary bill.)

The dog park was a great place for me to get to know some of the neighbors, such as Jim, owner of Jackson, the cutest dog you everJackson1 did see, and Howie, owner of Bella, a mastiff that was big enough to eat Legacy for lunch, but far too gentle for that, as I lamented after getting the veterinary bill. I couldn’t get Bella to open her mouth or lick her lips, even after spreading ketchup on Legacy and shouting, “Hot dog, Bella! Hot dog!” Maybe I should have tried mustard.

The apartment complex also had a fitness room and swimming pool, where neighbors could get to know each other even better. The pool was a good place to catch up on reading and being an avid reader, I caught up on all the words inked on bodies. Some of it was poetry in motion, but most just platitudes at rest. People who visited the pool seemed to spend 90 percent of their time on the lounge chairs; the remaining 10 percent walking to the soda machine.

Another advantage of apartment living is not having to fix things yourself. Apartments are full of appliances and fixtures that are specially designed to ensure that you do not get your security deposit back. Take the vertical blinds, for example. If you have little kids, especially boys, the vertical blinds in your apartment will last 48 hours tops. When a boy sees a vertical blind, he thinks to himself, “WWTD,” which stands for “What would Tarzan do?”

If you’re in the room when your son does his Tarzan impression, you can stop him after he has yanked off a single blind. But if you’re away for an hour or two, you will come home to find your daughters complaining fervently about your son: “Daddy, he pulled down all the blinds! It’s not fair. We didn’t get a single turn.”

Whether you have kids or not, something in your apartment will inevitably need to be repaired, perhaps the air conditioner in the living room, probably the dishwasher in the kitchen, definitely the towel rack in the bathroom. Most apartment complexes, thankfully, have good maintenance crews. Just make a call to the office, tell them that the air conditioner isn’t working and they’ll send a maintenance man over within a year or two.

“¡Hola!” he says, entering your apartment with a large toolbox.

“Hi,” you say. “You speak English?”

“Yes,” he says. “I’m bilingual. Do you want me to fix your air conditioner in English or Spanish?”

“It won’t make a difference, will it?”

“Of course, it will. If I do it in English, the cool air will stay in your living room, mostly on your couch. If I do it in Spanish, it will go all over your apartment. Kitchen, bathroom, everywhere.”

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If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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