(Part 1 of the story is here)
Our first year in the new place was awesome. It was a perfect home for us: great location, excellent and active mosques close by, peaceful and safe neighbourhood, and close enough to our families – but still far away for us to have our own privacy and independence.
There were hiccups at the beginning, though. When we moved in, we found that the place had a lot of work to be done. From the bathroom cabinet to door handles, and most especially windows – many of which were not functional. In fact, the bathroom window – which was permanently open because it couldn’t close – caused the most trouble.
My wife is terrified of bees. And, early in our stay, it seemed to be bee season. Many early mornings, we’d hear them outside the bathroom window. And, sometimes, we’d see them gathering outside there – probably drawn to the light (which we needed on to see anything). On a few occasions, some got in and I had to spray them with our best friend: Doom (which you may remember from The Night Visitor. Anyway, one time, it got so bad that we had to go further. We had to take our towels and jam them in the window – so that the bees couldn’t come in.
All of this happened because our very busy agent just couldn’t get someone to come and do the repairs (there always seemed to be some reason or delay). In the end, we had to get our own handyman to do most of the work – and the landlord obviously paid. (To the agent’s credit, the on-site handyman did do some of the work – but he wasn’t deemed skilled enough to do the major stuff).
Anyway, about a year after we moved in, with my wife now pregnant, we thought it best to look for a new home. The only problem, really, was that we were on the 3rd floor – which meant a lot of stairs (there’s no lift); something we thought could be dangerous during the pregnancy and once the baby arrived.
Coupled with that, we had new neighbours downstairs. They were a family of youngsters – brothers and sister – living without their parents. They had this freedom and independence to live as they pleased, and do what they wanted. From what I remember, three were at university / college, and the other was still in high school.
Now, as we found out, the walls are not very soundproof here. We hadn’t really noticed in our first year, because the downstairs neighbours weren’t really noisy.
But these new neighbours were quite the opposite. They spoke very loudly, blasted their music and TV, and slammed their front door constantly (since people were in and out a lot). And they never seemed to sleep – or at least, someone always seemed to be awake in there. At almost all hours of the night.
On many occasions, I’d find myself calling the security guard to tell them to keep the noise down. And, numerous times, I’d have to go down myself: sometimes after 10pm, a few times after midnight, and once at 5 in the morning – to ask them to keep their noise down.
Early in their stay, they got a visit from the police one night – so bad was their behaviour. They were drunk, and one of them – who, I think, was being particularly rude – had to be locked up somewhere on the premises by the complex’s supervisor (due to underage drinking). Another time, not long after, they got another visit from the police –presumably for the same reason.
Anyway, no matter what we tried, they would just never calm down and be decent neighbours. Their behaviour completely lacked consideration for other human beings. They seemed to think this was their own little city, and they could do whatever they want, make as much noise as they want, and disregard or ignore every warning or complaint about them.
My highly irritable wife (with the irritation induced by their noise) often had to fall asleep listening to her mp3 player – just so she wouldn’t hear them.
It wasn’t that they were necessarily ‘bad’ people. I think it’s just that they were young, away from their parents, and given freedom which – obviously – they were not mature enough to handle yet. With every freedom comes responsibility. And when living in a community, you have the responsibility to be considerate of your neighbours. Clearly, they either didn’t know about this – or they just weren’t mature enough to accept it.
Anyway, needless to say, their behaviour made us more eager to move somewhere else.
But we were having no success. We saw one place, a separate entrance, which seemed promising at first. We walked in to the main house – where we had an appointment with the landlady – and we were impressed. It was an eloquent, fancy house, which made us think that the separate entrance would also be nice.
It wasn’t. It was a decent size, but rather dingy – and not a place we saw ourselves staying in.
At this time, our agent (the quirky old man from part 1) was looking for a new place for us – but he didn’t have anything. We realised we couldn’t rely on him – despite the optimism he seemed to portray when he spoke of finding us alternate accommodation.
(On a sidenote, there’s a lesson in that which I’d like to relay: don’t rely on agents. I learnt this about employment agents a few years ago, and it seems the same applies to property agents. It’s fine to use their services, and even to hope that they can get you what you need. But never rely on them…don’t depend on them. In reality, your search – whether it’s for a home or a job – is your own; it’s your responsibility; so don’t let yourself think that someone else is going to do it for you. After all, agents can only work with what’s available to them – whether that be properties or jobs).
We also did our drive-around thing again – but this time scouting for places to rent. We drove around the area we wanted to stay in, looking for suitable complexes, and found quite a few. We took down managing agent numbers, then called them – but alas, there was nothing for us.
Anyway, back to the people downstairs: their landlord was well aware of the problems with them. Other neighbours had also complained; but he didn’t have sufficient legal cause to evict them. Fortunately for us (and everyone else in the block), they were a bit behind on their rent – so he wanted to wait for them to fall far enough behind that he could evict them.
But he was beaten to it. One Monday night, they brought a truck, put their furniture in, and disappeared – never to be seen again. They hadn’t told their landlord, and had only mentioned to the security guard that they were going away for a while – and may be back the following month.
Thankfully, they never came back. And we hope, for their sake as well as their future neighbours, that they’ll grow up and learn how to co-exist peacefully with others – without being a menace to the people that live around them.
Meanwhile, our search came to an end: we decided to stay put, and make the best of what we had, even if the stairs were going to make life difficult.
Although it might have been disappointing to not find a new place, I was pleased. I was always reluctant to leave our home – such was my attachment to it, and the fact that I like my comfort zone.
So, we stayed on; made the second room into a nursery, and looked forward to the next stage of our lives.
But, months later, things were to change again….
(To be continued)