We recently discovered what seem to be reports from an apartment block with more than its fair share of idiosyncratic characters. Is this place real, or a figment of someone’s imagination? Perhaps you know these people. Maybe it’s your building. Maybe it’s you …
Part 1: The Naked Truth
Public nudity was on the agenda at the Dardanelle Towers Executive Committee meeting last week.
It started with a note from Mrs Alexander – somewhat unkindly known around the building as “the all-seeing eye” – who claimed to the new female tenants in 304 had been sunbathing naked by the swimming pool.
Dr Macdonald whose apartment overlooks the pool confirmed as much, to tuts and mutters from the other members of the committee, but he wasn’t complaining.
“What’s the fuss?” he asked, winding up for one of his verbose observations. “We’re in greater danger of being hit by Mrs Alexander falling off her balcony as she leans over trying to get another offending glimpse than we are of any moral turpitude from catching sight of liberated female flesh.”
“No need to minute that,” Bernard, the chairman, whispered to Ms Tran, the secretary, as he looked at his watch.
“Turpentine?” said Lady Luckby, rousing from a slumber, slapping the table with the flat of her hand and shouting “Order!” for good measure. Lady Luckby, a tiny sun-dried former socialite, had lived in the building since it went up in the 1940s. She took her late father’s place on the committee, was chair for many years and thought she was still in charge. Everyone else had given up trying to prevent her from running meetings as, in any case, she invariably fell asleep shortly after “minutes of the previous meeting”.
“Moral turpitude is the least of it,” said Jonathan from 708, ignoring Mrs O. “This is a serious breach of our rules, to wit, By-law 3, section 2 – and I quote – ‘residents and their guests must be dressed appropriately at all times when on common property’.”
The worrying thing about Jonathan was that while he was quoting this rule accurately, he was doing it from memory. Jonathan was a junior paralegal with a large city law firm and, as his 35th birthday approached and his dreams of a partnership, a trophy wife and 2.5 trophy children all evaporated simultaneously, he increasingly took refuge and comfort in a detailed knowledge of our by-laws in particular and strata law in general.
“Let’s take this step by step. What exactly did you see?” he asked Dr Macdonald pompously, in an unintentional parody of cross-examination.
“Nothing I haven’t seen before,” Dr Mac winked, obviously enjoying the memory a little more than was entirely appropriate. “I can tell you one of them had had a Brazilian,” he chortled.
“What do you mean ‘had had’?” Jonathan asked, revealing instantly why his career had stalled before he was out of the mail room. “Is that ‘had had’ as in ‘had sex’? And how do you know they were Brazilian?”
“We’ve got Brazilians in the building?” Lady Luckby erupted. “We just got rid of the Colombians.”
We winced in unison at the memory. Lady Luckby had “Tasered” our Filipino cleaner, James, when he came in to empty her bin – as he did three times a week as a favour to her and (especially) her neighbours. Apparently she’d fallen asleep on her sofa watching a DVD of Scarface, woke suddenly and, as she later told police, thought he was a Colombian drug dealer who’d broken into her flat to steal her clothes.
Lady Luckby’s son had found a job for James in his office block, at higher wages for less work. He also settled a substantial sum of money on him and managed to persuade the Police not to take any further action beyond impounding his mother’s Taser (which she had bought on the Internet). Lady Luckby thought James had been deported and no one saw much point in telling her otherwise.
“The by-laws have clearly been breached,” said Bernard with a sigh as he turned to Ms Tran. “Better send them a note, tell ’em not to do it again.”
“Where’s the breach?” asked Dr Mac as Ms Tran started to write. “I’d have thought nudity was entirely appropriate clothing near a swimming pool.” He was warming to his subject. “Define nudity, anyway. Those itty-bitty bikinis aren’t swimsuits, they’re token gestures.”
Bernard looked at his watch again. It was going to be one of those nights. He raised an eyebrow inquiringly at Ms Tran, who blushed slightly and shrugged before looking for further inspiration in Mrs Alexander’s note on scalloped-edged pink unlined paper with a white rose embossed in one corner.
“Apparently they were kissing,” said Ms Tran. “That would come under inappropriate behaviour … on common property … if you were …” She hesitated as both “n” words – nude and naked – refused to pass her lips. “Unclothed,” she finally managed.
“Kissing?” Jonathan was horrified. He had met both the girls from 304 in the lift and was considering asking one of them out – he couldn’t decide which one but he thought he was in with a chance. They both giggled and shook their heads when he asked if they had boyfriends.
Jonathan always thought about asking new single female residents out. He never quite got round to it. “Kissing who?” he asked with wounded curiosity.
“The Brazilians, you fool,” said Lady Luckby as she paused from surreptitiously (she thought) slipping chocolate biscuits from a plate into her handbag. “Try to keep up.”
Ms Tran twisted the note from Mrs Alexander uneasily, unable to find a way of revealing its contents without dying of embarrassment. Bernard rescued her from impending hyperventilation by taking it from her. His eyes widened as he read.
“It says here, they were kissing each other,” Bernard revealed. Jonathan looked crushed. Dr Macdonald mumbled darkly, “Well, that casts an entirely different light on the whole tawdry business.”
Lady Luckby scoffed: “What’s the harm in that? When I was a gel, we were always kissing … hugging … romping around in our unmentionables. Harmless fun … harmless fun … just gels. What?”
The others looked at her in stunned silence.
Elena from 910 eventually said: “Are we talking … you know … I mean … in regard to the girls by the pool?”
We looked round in surprise, having forgotten she was there. Elena had spent the meeting as she always did, looking through the file of pictures from pet applications and occasionally crying quietly. She’d had her beloved Jack Russell put to sleep before she moved into her fiance’s flat, wrongly believing the building had banned pets. Her boyfriend, who hated the dog with a passion, had feigned ignorance. Now she couldn’t bring herself to ever have another dog, so lived vicariously through other owners’ animals.
“What are you talking about?” Lady Luckby asked Elena.
“L … E … S … B …?” Elena offered.
“Lebanese?” Lady Luckby spat. “Don’t tell me we’ve got Lebanese in the building. Next thing we’ll have Asians.” Everyone winced and looked first Elena, who is Lebanese, then at Ms Tran who merely shrugged and shook her head resignedly at the suggestion she represented the worst case scenario.
Lady Luckby followed the direction of our sympathetic smiles. “Oh, not you, dear,” she said with genuine warmth. “You’re one of the nice ones.”
“If everyone is agreed, we’ll send them a polite note welcoming them to the building and advising them about appropriate behaviour in public areas,” said Bernard, trying to get the meeting back under control.
There was a murmur of consensus. Dr Mac, nodded humourlessly, his moral compass having trouble locating the true north of perving on naked gay women.
“Now,” said Bernard. “The recurring issue of the gentleman in 511 and his surround sound home cinema. You’ll find the latest letter from our lawyers attached to your agenda …”
There was a general shuffling of papers as everyone tried to pretend they’d already read their notes. The owner of 511 was dragging them through every court in the state in an effort to establish his right to deafen his neighbours with Bruce Willis movies in the middle of the day.
His argument that they should be at work buttered no parsnips with the several people above, below and adjacent to his flat, who were at work, albeit often still in their pyjamas, when their floors, walls and ceilings began to vibrate with sub-woofer explosions. This dispute was about to go to the Supreme Court and the building could barely afford to win, let alone lose.
“Of course, of course!” Lady Luckby exclaimed triumphantly. “I’ve got the answer.”
We looked at her, expectantly. Maybe those 60 years of committee experience were finally going to pay off, we would get a result and save some money.
“Those Brazilians …” she said with incredulity at her own inability to spot the obvious. “They were actually Lebanese.” Our reaction was collective blankness. “They all look the same when they’re kissing,” she explained, irritated.
Bernard looked at his watch again, obviously calculating whether he had enough time or even the inclination to try to set Lady Luckby straight. Then he noticed she was already asleep.