Much like marriage, apartment living is a continual exercise in consideration and compromise.
We apparently have multi-storey living arrangements a far lot easier than the average Swiss person in that we have our own washing machine and therefore escape the dreaded laundry room timetable. Friends on much higher salaries than ours are unable to go out on Monday nights because it is when their allotted two hours are given to use the washer and dryers. The judges' decision is final and no further correspondence will be entered into, such is the difficulty in trying to nab a Saturday afternoon slot. Someone has to die and have their next-of-kin tracked down, bribed and shagged to have any chance of being able to change the time you have been given. (While we were in Spain, our house and dog-sitter said the highlight for her was being able to wash her clothes when she felt like it - such small pleasures)
For those of us with washing machines, life is relatively carefree as long as we don't use them before 8 am or after 9 pm and never on Sundays. The Sunday restriction is regularly flouted by me - surely it's OK to do something other than stay utterly still and silent from, say, 10 am to 4 pm? Doesn't that allow sufficient time for a sleep in or pre-work wind down? So far, no neighbour to the left, right, up or below has taken offence at my rest day rejection.
With our dog now fully embraced by our concierge, The Fratman, and able to leap into the lift doors and accompany elderly couples to their floor (and back down to me) with joy and safety, we figure that the block is pretty used to the noisy Australians who like to yell 'Tea is READY' instead of walk the fifteen metre dog leg to the bedroom area.
However, there is a big booger still dangling from the symbolic nostril that is upper-level etiquette: our balcony.
When it rains, the water simply gathers into small pools, eventually turning into one rather shallow swimming area when they join up. The drain may be set in the far corner but the undulating slope of the tiles means that it rarely gets wet. Instead, the water is eventually dried up by the sun or soaked up by my ugg boots; whatever happens first.
Unfortunately, it is not just worn woollen footwear and solar power that is removing the water - it is also seeping through the balcony and starting to stain the ceiling and upper walls of the apartment directly below us. The neighbours (to be referred to as the Seventh Floor Fusspots from hereon) are understandably annoyed by this and have asked the land agent to contact the owner of our apartment to fix the problem.
With Swiss efficiency meaning that the plumber rings to apologise if he's going to be ten minutes late, I assumed that the balcony repair work would be relatively easy.
But no. In the past eight weeks, I've had no less than ten separate visits of men arriving with clipboards to
a) have a smoke and fling the butt over the edge of the flower boxes down into the garden that no human is allowed to enter;
b) point to the drainage hole and hold some intense discussions about it;
c) jump up and down on the tiles; and
d) tell me 'We fix. Later. Fratman will call you.'
TEN TIMES. Unless they somehow scrape off a thick layer of cement and slope the entire balcony surface towards the drain or knock the entire edifice off and build a new one from scratch, it is not clear what quick job they can do to prevent the Seventh Floor Fusspots from continuing to complain. Put in a blue pool liner perhaps?
Mrs Fusspot has usually been friendly to me whenever we've crossed paths by the mailboxes or in the lift, but the frustration of no action and her presumably still-ugly brown-stained walls are starting to fester beyond annoyance at the owner and towards the renter. Me, in other words.
Witnessing her pretending not to see me as she struggled into the four person lift with myself as the only other person present was a little too much, so I applied my cheery 'Hello' that often gets unfriendly dog walkers to respond when we pass by every single day.
She grunted. I tried again. "Look, I'm sorry that there seems to be no improvement on the balcony for you. I've had ten lots of men come up to look at it, but not one of them has returned to do anything. Is there anything I can do to help it happen quicker for you?"
"Yes," she hissed, causing me to step back a little in surprise. Even her drop pearl earrings were swinging erratically. "You can stop scraping your chairs on the floor."
"Oh, sorry. We have those felt dot things on the bottom of the legs---"
"It's NOT ENOUGH. You scrape them all the time and we need you to stop."
We had arrived at her floor and she swept out to my, "Sure, I'll speak to my family about it...."
Arriving back upstairs, I realised that our six dining chairs are all on carpet. An IKEA job that has soaked up a few of Milly's left-inside-too-long butt nuggets, an infinity of dropped bread crumbs and more spilled wine than what had remained in the glasses they were originally poured into. The rug now had several extra layers that not only prevented the chairs from scraping, but also provided recording studio-quality sound-proofing and a large, aromatic area for the dog to ram her nose into for a lick and a sniff if the kitchen floor is too clean.
It was hard not to laugh. If this complex was in Australia (say, Flemington), housing this many people it would be a madhouse of noise. Two hundred residents would mean that simple Aussie-related maths would see at least two out-of-control parties, several domestic incidents, a visit from the ambos, stolen wheelie bins, hard rubbish put out seven months too early, hills hoists pulled over, cars being keyed and Eminem on level eleven during work hours. And we'd be pretty accepting of all that....
I saw The Chair Scraping Shrew again the following day. "Good morning Mrs Fusspot. We've had a think about what you told us and realise that it's not us who are scraping the floors. It must be people on either side or on the ninth floor, as we have carpet under our chairs."
She stopped unlocking her mailbox and gave me a skeptical look. "No, you are wrong, it is you. You have chairs in your kitchen."
"No, we don't, actually. Our kitchen has a fixed bench in it and no chairs."
The fact that I dared to question her statement and profess knowledge of my own kitchen still did not convince her. She shook her head. "I think you are mistaken. Your kitchen chairs scrape all day."
All day....? When I'm home, I'm usually in the study - with a different apartment underneath me - blobbed out in a rollerball office chair and never on the dining setting. I felt my mouth form into the universal sign of increased annoyance - the cat's arse pucker. "Look, Mrs Fusspot, you're more than welcome to come on up and see for yourself."
"That won't be necessary. All you need to do is stop the scraping."
It was then that I decided forget about visiting the bootmaker's in Petit Saconnex. Not because he doesn't do a good job in re-heeling my beloved black boots, but because I was going to ask him to apply a layer of special rubbery stuff that would stop the 'clop clop clop' sound of my brand new boots (black again, of course) when I walked across the parquetry floor boards not covered by rugs.
Sod her. Milly's nails can get longer AND the double spin cycle will be selected on Sunday.