Ok, so, here in Germany, like about 3/4 of the adult population, we live in an apartment building. Our neighbors mostly fall in three groups: retirees, adult singles, and families just starting out. Everyone has been quite sweet and nice, except this one old alcoholic guy who happens to share our bedroom wall. That is also one of the few hollow walls in the building that carries sounds from everywhere. If the ladies at the wine import business downstairs hang a picture, we hear it. If the train conductor upstairs taps out his espresso filter, we hear it. And, of course, we hear the TV and urination habits of our adjacent neighbor. Its an apartment building. Most of the time it isn’t a big deal. But, sometimes you hear stuff. You cope. Or rather, everyone copes except Crazy Neighbor (CN). If you are a longtime follower, you may remember a few stories about him from the past. He was a music professor, we are told, and sound bothers him a lot. When we first moved in, we had a bunch of IKEA furniture to put together. On Sunday the first week we were here, he came over to complain and to tell us that Germans never make noise on Sundays. We explained we were making furniture for our children’s rooms. Didn’t we know that we had to be silent on Sundays? No, we didn’t because we are Americans. Sorry about that, we will stop.
At the time we didn’t realize that the gentleman is actually just plain bonkers. This narrative of the furniture-building stuck in his mind. Now, and for the past 4 years, anytime he hears a sound (which, as mentioned above, can be often) he thinks we are making children’s furniture. If the lady above us vacuums her rugs, we are making children’s furniture. If a work crew is there installing windows, we are making children’s furniture. And he comes over and SHOUTS at us. Or shouts through the walls. Or pounds loudly and rings our doorbell, then runs before we can open the door. This is not someone capable of a mature and calm conversation or rational thought. For a while he was convinced that David had rigged a cell phone so we could ring his door buzzer (the one that only rings from outside the building) at 3 AM….. And thus, when he would get home from his drinking binges, he would also ring our buzzer at 3AM. Fair is fair, you see. We are also pretty sure he is the one responsible for all the packets of lunch meat in our mail box. But, that is another story.
Anyways, we have been working with our landlord and the Hausmeister (like a building super) to try to deal with this issue for about 3 years now. It kind of goes in cycles, and CN rarely does anything that crosses a line to “illegal”. Mostly, just really asinine and obnoxious. There have been a couple times when CN was acting scary enough that I asked David and/or some of our friends to come and help me deal with it. But, mostly it is just a lurking annoyance.
Recently there had been another uptick in the crazitude, so the hausmeister had written letters to CN’s brother and son asking them to intervene. We live in a small community. Crazy Neighbor’s brother is actually our Hausmeister’s dentist! Unfortunately, of course, these letters just set off a flame in CN’s heart. Yesterday when we got home, CN met us at the top of the stairs in front of our apartment and proceeded to SHOUT at us for 5 minutes. Actually, mostly he shouted at David because I hustled the kids inside as soon as he started in. He once again accused us of making children’s furniture, but now the story has expanded in his mind. Apparently he is convinced that we are running an illegal furniture making business out of our home– and we think we can get away with it because we are Americans. Most of the local friends believe CN is not just an alcoholic and crazy, but a bigot, too. Trifecta of Awsome!
When my husband denied the furniture business story, CN demanded to see so he could confirm it himself…. Now, we have made a point of keeping CN out of our home, but in this case David, thinking that maybe reality would help solve the crazy, agreed. So, CN came in, looked around and decided that the clothes drying rack in our bedroom is where we are producing our illicit furniture. ” That is a clothes rack!” “Yes, but that is where you do it!”
When he came out of the bedroom, CN, newly re-enraged over discovering our secret hideyhole of … well, actually, nothing,… charged across the room shaking his finger at me and shouting that I need to tell my man to stop making furniture because it is illegal. As the title states, you haven’t really been yelled at until you have experienced a raging, crazy German giving it his all! He was pretty keyed up and aggressive, so David stepped in front of him. CN continued to shout at me over David’s restraining arm for several moments until David finally managed to order him out of the house. He shouted for another minute in the hall, and then stormed off to his apartment.
Once things seemed settled, David and the kids left. I actually was scheduled to have a skype meeting with my editor about 10 minutes later. I thought I could calm down and proceed. But, then the hausmeister showed up. Apparently another neighbor (the one we call Motorcycle Guy because he seems to be a retiree who spends most days tinkering with his small collection of motorcycles in his garage) had called him about the ruckus. Coincidentally, the basement of the building was flooded with sewage that day, so the Hausmeister was close by…. and the SMELL… wheeew.
The Hausmeister asked me what happened, then asked me to call David back so they could talk. Next he went over to talk with Crazy Neighbor. CN shouted at the Hausmeister, called him names, and then slammed the door. That was an escalation. Usually CN is on better behavior with Hausmeister. In fact, the Hausmeister had never personally witnessed any of the outbursts over the years because they are typically over within a minute or two and there is no time for him to arrive. I wrote my editor to try to postpone the meeting. But, unfortunately she didn’t get my email and was instead greeted with a rather out of breath author in the midst of “a situation”. She graciously agreed to reschedule, and I hustled downstairs to discuss it all with David and the Hausmeister.
The Hausmeister is very wary of involving the police. We aren’t really sure why, but he seems to think it is a bad thing to have everyone’s names on lists at the police station. We suspect he may have had similar experiences before. But, the good news is that he thinks that now that he has seen CN acting crazy first hand, he may be able to apply more pressure. Honestly, if another incident like this one happens, I am not sure how we can not involve the police. I can’t live my life worried that a crazy guy will be waiting for me and my kids at the top of the stairs every day. SO, a little bit of tumult for our Thursday evening. The timing was clearly not ideal, but in a way I am rather glad it escalated enough that the hausmeister is taking it more seriously. One friend has recommended we take things up a notch to a regulatory agency called the Ordnungsamt but we aren’t really sure what that option might be able to help us with. So, we go back to research and wariness.
Be very, very wary…….