I had a friend back in Moncton some 25 years ago who had a wicked sense of humour. Whenever you’d say something a little salacious or off-colour, he would look at you with feigned disgust and declare you “Trash! Pure White Trash!” before turning his head the other way, nose pointing up. His delightfully campy delivery made it amply clear that he was only joking, just like the time he poured himself a cup of coffee from a pot that had been on the hotplate far too long, and he looked up and asked, pretending to be puzzled, “Who made tar?”
I’m reminded of this friend because of how I’ve been feeling recently about my apartment. I LOVE it! It’s huge, and the fact the building was built in 1936 ensures it has huge rooms and tons of character. However, increasingly, part of the place’s character is the janitor and her offsprings — Irish Canadians originally from Montréal’s Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood, which until recent decades was slummy and very white trash, divided by a train track where on one side lived the Irish descendants and the other side the French Canadians.
Don’t you just hate it when a group of people live up to their group’s ethnic stereotype? You know in your heart and mind that you shouldn’t be stereotyping, but then some people come along and you simply can’t avoid it. In this case, as the sterotype goes, every member of this family is loud, combative, intolerant of other ethnicities, and indisputably alcoholic.
Shortly after I got off work yesterday, the fire alarm went off, so I put on my shoes, grabbed my wallet and my ciggies, and vacated my apartment. And sure enough, by the time I reached the main floor, smoke was billowing out of the basement apartment where the janitor’s rough and worn looking 48-year-old daughter lives — clearly smelling as if a pot had been left unattended on the stove and all the liquid had evaporated. This was the second time in as many years that such an incident was happening.
A lovely lady she is — NOT! Back in December, she bilked me by “selling” me for $15 a $25 gift card at a local grocery chain, the proceeds of which sale were supposedly going to some charity for homeless youth. I gave the card to Cleopatrick since I figured he could use it and there’s one of those grocery stores just around the corner from where he lives. But when he tried to use it, it didn’t work because it hadn’t been properly activated. Therefore, we think the goods she was “selling” may have fallen off the back of a truck.
Coincidentally, she moved out of the building in the days following this sale and I would only see her around occasionally. I never confronted her about how she bilked me, chiefly because it was for an insignificant amount and, well, I just don’t do confrontations. Then, one evening last spring as I was heading to the garage in the basement, I saw her and there were two police officers standing outside (what I’ll still refer to as) her apartment. When I came back a few hours later, there was still one cop standing vigil just outside her door. But just like the character of Sergeant Schultz in the 1960s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, I said to myself, “I know nothing! Nothing! Nothing!” — nor did I want to know.
Afterwards I noticed she was around more often, and about 3 weeks after the cops’ visit, she acosted me in the garage and gave me the whole story: that the man who remained in the apartment was in fact her husband; he was in poor health and died quite suddenly in the apartment, thus why the cops had come that night; he was a hoarder worthy of being featured on Hoarding: Buried Alive and that’s why she had moved out last December — “Because I couldn’t continue to live like that.”
My apartment is located inside the U-shape created by how the building where I live is connected to the building next door. Lately, she and her new boyfriend, who seems to have been plucked directly from the other side of the tracks of Pointe-Saint-Charles of old, have been working on (possibly planning to move into?) an apartment in the building next door. When they do, not only do they put a radio in the window; they direct the speakers towards the outside and set the volume very high, therefore causing the sound to reverberate throughout the neighbourhood and particularly all apartments facing inside the U-shape. At one point she took a break by sunning herself, t-shirt pulled up just below her tits and the legs of her short pulled up just enough to cover her vulva. By that point, I realized I was witnessing the crossing by a country mile of that line that delineates white trash from everyone else.
At any rate, back to yesterday’s fire incident: by the time the firefighters arrived, there was no fire but tons of smoke, so their job consisted of ventilating the place out. We were told we could go back inside in about 10 minutes. At that point, I struck up a conversation with a tenant who owns many dogs and who, until now, has been particularly unfriendly. We were talking as we were walking away from the building, and she certainly gave me a earfull. After living here for about 8 years and loving (as I do) her apartment per se, she is considering moving out after years of being bullied and feeling terrorized by the janitor and her brood. She even has suspicions, but can’t prove, about who may have broken into her place a while back — “very likely an inside job,” the police told her.
As for me, would I also consider moving out? That’s a good question. White trash aside, this place has other cons alongside many more pros. I love this location, including the proximity to a great bagel shop, decent restaurants, and the métro station on two lines, as well as living in a 1930s building with indoor parking in the most multinational neighbourhood in Canada. But lately I’ve been starting to think about looking into those “For Rent” signs on nearby buildings that look better maintained. The thing is that I don’t know if that would stretch my budget too thin, as I’m pretty well at the ceiling of what is reasonable on my single income.