One day while I was minding my own business
“It’s Mrs. Pensiotti,” (Their last name has been tweaked on the off-chance that the grandchildren of these people think they’re cute and cuddly, and not a couple of looney birds.)
“Hi, how are you?” I replied.
“You know, when you flush the toilet at night it wakes us up. If you need to use the bathroom at night, can you not flush the toilet?”
What the frack?
“You don’t want me to flush the toilet,” I repeated.
“My husband and I, we’re very light sleepers. And last night we heard you flushing the toilet several times.”
I feigned understanding and hung up the phone.
We all remember our first apartment. The excitement, the freedom, the privacy – all a breath of fresh air to a 20-something just starting out. After dating for two years, Michael & I decided to take the plunge and get a place together. It was a spacious apartment, the second floor of a cape cod. It was new and wonderful and our very own place to canoodle. Well, sort of our very own. We did have the Pensiottis to contend with. Our best efforts to be quiet, respectful tenants were met with continuous dissatisfaction. Mrs. Pensiotti did all the talking throughout our time living upstairs. I wondered if she had her husband tied up and gagged in a closet because he had disturbed her while she was watching All in the Family reruns. Maybe Wheel of Fortune? And since I was raised to be polite and respectful of all elderly people, (even those who I thought should have their own cozy, squishy, padded room) it was especially hard for me to be firm with them when I felt they were being unreasonable.
A few days later
“We’re getting water down here.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Mrs. Pensiotti,” I said, truly unaware of where she was going with this.
“I think it must be the way you two are showering.”
We don’t shower together. Michael hogs the water.
“I’d like to have the plumber come up there,” she continued, “and watch you while you shower.”
What the frack, frack, frack?!
I stood there with the phone to my ear in utter disbelief that my landlord thought this to be a logical request.
She went on, “My sister had the same problem with her tenants and she had the girl shower in a bathing suit so the plumber could see where the water was coming out.”
Call 911. This lady probably has an old sock she wears on her hand and talks to it like it’s her dead cat. I just hope she doesn’t feed it.
And a fews day after that
Mrs. Pensiotti caught me on my way upstairs.
“You know, you vacuum very early in the morning and it wakes up my husband.”
“I didn’t realize it was so early.”
“Can you make sure you don’t vacuum before noon?”
Sure, I’ll just let the dust, skin cells, cookie crumbs, Michael’s nose hairs, and those little paper circles from my hole puncher accumulate indefinitely, so as not to disturb you both.
Now a couple of months had gone by
Michael and I had gone shopping on a Saturday afternoon. We were in Target I think when his cell phone rang.
“Oh shit, it’s the Pensiottis.”
“Oh God, why would they be calling?”
Michael answered, “Hello?…No, we’re not home…Yes, we locked it…Well, I’m sorry but we won’t be home for a while…Yes, Lindsay locks it because she feels more comfortable with the door locked at night.”
He hung up after another tight-lipped apology. Anyone who knows Michael knows that he doesn’t tolerate other people’s mania very well (which is something I lecture him about every now and then), so I thought he was pretty sweet on the phone.
“What the hell was that about?”
“They wanted to get into the apartment because they have some crap in that big closet in the hallway. Their daughter is coming over and needs something she has stored in there.”
“So, now what? We’re not running home just for that.” I’m sure at this point my hands were on my hips and my face was red.
“She doesn’t want us to lock the chain latch. Only the bottom lock, because she has a key for that one.”
“They just want to be able to snoop around whenever they feel like it. They probably want to make sure we don’t have a cat.”
Michael is allergic to cats but man! do I wish we had had a stockpile of 50 cats up there to show our landlords who they could and couldn’t manhandle.
(Realistically, I’d have died from the smell of 50 cats in one apartment long before I’d have gotten any satisfaction out of it.)
The point of no return
“You said you had a job.” Mrs. Pensiotti stood at the foot of the stairs looking up at me. I stuck my head out from behind the door.
“I beg your pardon?” Yes, I do actually use expressions like this. I like how old-fashioned-y it sounds.
“When you took the apartment you said you had a full-time job.”
I had quit my job at the local newspaper around the time we took the apartment, and I had taken a waitressing job at a pizzeria. I was still working full-time, but at night.
“You’re home all day and you said you had a job.”
I’m not sure why she was worried, considering that our rent was unfailingly on time and always in cash. Michael overheard what she said and interjected at this point, in my defense. It was not pretty. Mr. Pensiotti must have busted out of that closet because he got involved, too, hollering up at us from the foot of the stairs. It was not lost on me that these were two elderly, and probably lonely, people who didn’t have much else to do throughout the day. All that isolation is bound to stir up trouble in just about anyone. I do wonder, even now, if they had been nice people in their younger years.
Soon after that we moved into our second apartment in my grandmother’s house.
We never had landlord problems again. And the home cooking was the best I’ve ever had.