Sunday, January 12, 2014

Getting to Know the Neighbours

Since moving into my new apartment in September, I've barely seen my neighbours. The are four doors clustered at the top of the stairwell. The one next to me, I'm fairly sure, is empty, because the bills (which are stuck between the door and the jamb) are never collected. Across the way is a young couple who always look a bit cross (although they're Russian, so that doesn't mean anything). The fourth flat must surely be occupied, but I have never seen anyone coming or going. I am on the third floor out of four floors.

Until today, I'd had maybe three conversations in total with people in this building. That all changed when the old codger downstairs started doing repairs: he (inadvertently or otherwise) managed to cut the power to the whole building last night. There was a terrific thump around midnight and everything went dark and quiet. It was still off this morning, which effectively ruined everything in my freezer. I could have gone and dumped it all in the snow outside, but it didn't occur to me and if it had, I probably wouldn't have risked my already dubious reputation as a foreigner.

Anyway, as the morning wore on, I got a bit worried and investigated. My neighbours did the same, and suddenly we were bound together in our concern. It's the dusty, rusty Soviet wiring, you see. Difficult to fix, not to mention dangerous. I learned the names of several neighbours as we congregated on the stairwell and discussed options. My language abilities are pretty rubbish, but I followed along because the conversation stuck to fairly basic vocabulary. In time, some electricians turned up and went to the roof and everyone returned to their flats. After several hours and many false starts (which I fear may have killed my fridge) power was finally restored.

Nothing will change probably, except that perhaps we will make more eye contact than normal and more meaningful nods of heads when we pass each other. I got excited for a moment and envisioned myself making cookies for everyone, until I remembered the last time I tried that, in a different block of flats - many suspicious looks and some flat-out refusals. I guess I'll stick to nods.

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