Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, August 21, 2006

Burning down the house

by Robison Wells

At a recent booksigning, I had the following conversation:

Store Manager: Where do you live?
Robison Wells, Acclaimed LDS Author: In scenic West Jordan, just behind the Seagull Book there.
Store Manager: Really? I used to work at that store. But right behind it? Do you mean the neighborhood, or the housing?
Robison Wells: The housing. Although I like to call it an apartment.

Yes, I have a confession to make: I live in an apartment. The reasons are myriad, and the stigma is weighty indeed.

Granted, it's better than "housing". (I've lived in housing twice before, while going to the University of Utah, and with its cinderblock walls, lack of carpet, and insufficient lighting it was like a little taste of East Germany.)

I actually tell people all the time how rad it is to live in our apartment. When a coworker recently got divorced, I did my darnedest to get him into our complex, because it's just great. Good people, etc. But, you know, I'm just so very very ready to be out of there.

Here's why:

For about six months we've had a couple college guys living below us. They've been decent neighbors except for the occassional loud TV. However, about a month ago one of them moved out and the other decided to sub-let the apartment. Since then, it's been quite the mess of crazy shenanigans.

Now, I consider myself to be a fairly easygoing, non-judgemental kind of guy. However, every time I've walked down my sidewalk in the last four weeks I've been fully prepared to get mugged. When we see these people we think: if they can find a way, they're going to burglarize our apartment.

Their two main problems are that (1) they play their music loud all day, and our apartment thumps and we go crazy, and (2) they sit outside and drink and smoke all the stinking time. I've been very polite in the past and gone down and knocked on their door and told them to turn the bass down a bit, and they've politely said they would, and nothing changes. The problem is that they hadn't really broken any of the apartment rules, and consequently we couldn't report them for anything other than looking creepy. Well, my friends, I'm happy to say that has all changed: On Friday, they left a couple cans of beer--open, but still full--out on the stairs. As those stairs are a favorite play area for kids, my wife's ire was raised, and I was just looking for a convenient excuse, so I called the manager.

Cut to the next day: I come wandering back to my apartment after a hearty day of signing books. As I trudge up the stairs, the ringleader comes storming out of the house, demanding to know if I turned him in. Well, I realize that I write LDS books and I'm an honest churchgoer and all that, but this guy is creepy, and has lots of creepy friends, and he looked really mad. So, I lied. (Sorry.) "No, creepy criminal, I don't know who would have done such a thing."

We did, however, discuss the issue. He apologized for playing his music loud, and I apologized for having a four-year-old who jumps around a lot. And then we discussed four hundred other things, because he was completely and totally drunk. One of the things we discussed, actually, was that he'd drunk half a gallon of brandy earlier that day. This man, my friends, was very very drunk.

We talked about life, and work. He asked me what I did for a living and I told him about writing books. I even gave him a copy. He leaned closer to me and, whispering, divulged the secret of the publishing industry: write about sex. I told him I'd take it under advisement.

He invited me to go with him to Brazil, to Carnivale, all-expenses paid. He also told me that he was very sad because he'd just kicked out one of his roommates, and now that roommate was in jail for drug use. He told me that he'd had to cancel a party the night before because apartment management was keeping their eyes on him, and that his girlfriend got alcohol poisoning from drinking Everclear.

But the good news: he told me his lease was expiring on August 30th, and he was moving to New York.

Then he borrowed my phone, and made long distance calls for an hour. (He told me he was trying to arrange a week-long trip to Vegas, and I was more than happy to let him use my phone if it got him out of there for a week.) (But then I couldn't get the phone back, because it's hard to reason with a drunk man.)

So that night I was very pleased with myself for being such a better tenant of the apartment. No loud music and alcohol poisoning here, thank you very much. For dinner I made some homemade french fries and the oil boiled over, and there was a big grease fire, and my wife called 911.

And you know what? When there's a fire at an apartment complex, they automatically send eight trucks, regardless of what you tell them on the phone. So, despite there being no permanent damage to anything, there I was, out in front of the building, explaining to the fire battallion chief how I started the stove on fire.

And all the nieghbors were standing out on their balconies, watching and listening, and thinking: "You and your french fries very nearly burned down my apartment and all my possessions. Crappy neighbors. I really need to move out of this housing."


At 8/21/2006 6:07 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Sorry -- I'm posting a day early because I'll be on the road tomorrow, signing books in scenic Idaho, the Gem State!

At 8/22/2006 10:24 AM, Blogger Keith Fisher said...

Very funny, I've been there.I used to manage a bar and can relate. You did very well. actually it may get worse when you get into a house. sometimes when bad neighbors are buying a house they feel they have a vested interest and therfore will not move and they feel that in their castle it's their business who they live around it. good luck.

At 8/22/2006 1:41 PM, Blogger FHL said...

And, hey, if you need a good real estate agent... (not entirely serious, she prefers to work in Utah County)

I had a very bad vision of what might happen to your drunken neighbor if 8 fire trucks pulled up, sirens screaming.

"They're here for me! I'm taking as many people with me as I can!" Then he hands you a smelly duffel bag and asks you to hold onto it for him.

At 8/22/2006 7:01 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

I feel your pain. Your stove fire pain, that is. I once had the whole fire department traipsing through my house and declare to the curious neighbors, "Just careless cooking!"

At 8/22/2006 9:25 PM, Anonymous mesolili said...

Evil HR Lady, is that the time that you burned the chicken and the smoke detector kept saying in a demented voice "Fire! Fire! Leave 'remediately'..." ? I remember that all too well.

At 8/23/2006 6:27 AM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

Oh, I forgot you were there! Yes, how embarrassing.

At 8/24/2006 2:20 PM, Blogger ssdawn2002 said...

I agree with Keith, it's much harder to get rid of a bad neighbor when you are both homeowners.

Rob, no more greasy french fries for you! They are healthier baked in the oven!

At 8/24/2006 2:52 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

I don't know... If I was presented with two food options, one listed as Greasy and one as Healthy, nine out of ten times I think I'd take the former.


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