My life is getting back in order. The boxes in my apartment are about half in number of what they were last week. I know where the closest and cheapest grocery stores are. Even my plants seem to be thriving in their new home. To me that signals unabashed, glorious progress on my home front. I decided to celebrate by doing something I have been unable to in weeks - go for a run.
I picked up running earlier this year and have come to find it is very true that Chicago is a running city. On my last few bus rides home, I couldn’t help but feel pangs of jealousy with every runner I saw down by the lakeshore. I decided yesterday would be the day I’d rejoin the race.
I got home, excitedly searched for my running garb, laced my sneakers, grabbed my gold spare key to the building as well as my silver apartment key and headed outdoors. Chicago has been merciless with good weather this past week. It begs to be enjoyed in the outdoors, not cooped up in offices or apartments. Yesterday was no exception: sunny, clear, and high 70s with a slight lake breeze.
As I said, I had not run in weeks. I figured I would be a little out of shape and if I ran for about 15 minutes and then walked I would consider that ok. I was feeling pretty darn good when I returned to my starting point about 40 minutes later having barely walked at all. My good run was fueled by the beauty of my new path and the number of runners that surrounded me on it - excluding those running at speeds which would qualify for the Kenyan Olympic marathon team. You can find another path and leave us casual runners to feel good about our pace.
A rush of happiness sweep over me as I walked up to my apartment building. The run of course left me feeling good, and for one of the first times since moving, walking up to my building felt a little like coming home.
Eager to head upstairs and shower, I grabbed my gold building key, but it wouldn’t work. Figuring I got my keys mixed up, I grabbed the silver one and turned it. Nothing was clicking. I paused for a moment and tried them both again thinking this was probably just another issue I had with opening yet another door.
It was not.
Then it occurred to me. When I left the apartment, I, at first, only grabbed my spare gold building key thinking the less I have rattling on me the better. Then in a panic before I left, I decided the added weight of my apartment key was worth it for the added security of being able to lock my apartment door as well. The problem is that I didn’t try my spare key before I left. Had I, I would have noted that my spare key was a spare key to my apartment, not to my building as I had incorrectly assumed.
There I stood, outside my building, dripping in sweat, holding two useless keys.
I have yet to officially meet any of my neighbors, so I figured now was as good a time as any. I surveyed the buzzers and noticed most didn’t have names on them. J. Marchant was the exception. Her name was at least on her buzzer. I pressed it and felt a rush of relief when she answered, “Yes?”
“Hi. I live in apartment 3E and I grabbed the wrong keys. I was wondering if you could buzz me in?”
I stood there and waited for the lock to sound. It did not. "Odd," I thought. "Maybe her buzzer doesn’t work. She’s probably on her way down the stairs right now." I waited and watched the stairwell for the shadow of someone descending its steps. Um… didn’t happen. J. Merchant wasn’t coming.
I then tried all the other buzzers. No one answered. Sadly, I had no cell phone, no way of calling maintenance and no way of knowing when someone would next come or leave from my building. Also sad enough, J. Merchant was my only hope.
Now, I understand us city women need to be savvy. You never know who you are going to find wandering your halls by buzzing in unknown people. But I also know I don’t have a scary voice. I’m sure upon hearing me speak one doesn’t immediately conjure up images of hardened criminals on death row. Heck, I don’t even have the damaged vocal cords of people who have smoked for years. If anything, I have been told (on more than one occasion!) I have a very pleasant speaking voice.
“This J. Merchant is crazy,” I thought. “I’ll just try buzzing her again. Maybe this time she’ll let me explain.”
I buzzed. No answer. I buzzed again. No answer. I knew for a fact she had not left the building, so she was still there. J. Merchant was deliberately ignoring my pleas. I immediately vowed she and I would never be friends.
As I stood there pondering what to do and trying to figure out which apartment was J. Merchant’s so I could begin pelting it with rocks, a man came walking up toward me. I asked if he lived in my building but alas he was heading into the doors adjacent to mine, which unfortunately had no access to my wing.
Then he walked up to my door and said, “Well, let me see if it works.” And thankfully it did. The door opened, I called him my hero and as I stepped in to my building ironically one of the girls who actually lives there followed right behind me. Now you might wonder, after my mishap did I decide it was finally time to make nice with the neighbors and introduce myself? Well your answer would be no. I was sweaty, smelly and too busy plotting how I would ruin J. Merchant’s mail. (Her mailbox is labeled too.) Plus I reasoned this girl was probably J. Merchant’s roommate, and they would both talk badly about me once she got home, therefore negating any nice introduction she and I might share. I pretty much claimed defeat and retreated upstairs.
I unlocked my apartment door with one of my two working keys and realized I learned two things from this: One, check to make sure you have the right key before you leave the building; and two, J. Merchant may be my neighbor, but she is no friend of mine.