Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Problem with Neighbors

Living in an apartment building is great. I like not having to worry about shoveling the walks or raking leaves or any of the maintenance that comes with owning a house. But lately, I've been having a real problem with my Downstairs Neighbors.

They smoke. I'm a former smoker, so I don't have an issue with this. I am not someone who feels that everyone in the world must stop smoking so that I don't have to smell their cigarette smoke. I am actually very tolerant of smoky environments. But their smoke has a way of getting into my apartment, and I do not want smoke in my home.

Last fall, when they moved in, I quickly found that if I left any of our windows open at any time of the day and most any time of the night, the smoke from their patio, where they'd leave their cigarettes burning in a big bucket, would rise and float inside our apartment. After a while of this, it began to smell like *we* were smoking. So, I trotted downstairs to have a friendly chat with my Downstairs Neighbors. The woman I spoke with was cordial and tried to be accommodating; she agreed to move the bucket o' cigs away from directly under my window, and that did, indeed help.

(Side note: I noticed that she was very visibly pregnant, obviously near her delivery date. She told me that she didn't want to smoke in the house. So I had some interesting conversations in my head about the contradictions inherent in all of that.)

But then it got cold, and my Downstairs Neighbors apparently started smoking indoors. Suddenly, even with my windows closed, my apartment began to smell like cigarette smoke all the time. I finally figured out that the smoke was getting in through the bathroom fan, which is set into a ventilating system in the wall that is connected to the apartments above and below me. So, I began turning the fan on at regular intervals, which seemed to help.

After a while, even that wasn't enough to keep the smell away. So, for the last couple of weeks, I've left the fan on continuously. Usually, this keeps the smoke away. There are some days, however, when even that does not keep the smoke smell out of the bathroom. Further, leaving the fan running continuously has had the side effect of making the apartment even more dry than usual, despite our humidifier.

Then, as I posted the other day, my kid got croup. That meant that he desperately needed a moist, humid environment. It also meant that he couldn't be exposed to cigarette smoke. Hmmm. I took a rag and stuffed it into the vent in the bathroom, plugging up any opening through which smoke could come. Then, I taped a plastic bag over the vent. Finally, for good measure, I kept the bathroom door shut.

That seemed to work well. I was able to keep the kid's room sufficiently humid, and the house (and bathroom) were free of smoke.

Until a couple of days ago, when the kid woke up at 4am with a coughing fit, and I went into the bathroom to start the shower in order to create a steam room for him. When I opened the door, I smelled smoke. I couldn't bring him in there to breathe steam because he'd also be breathing smoke. I had to rip out the rag and plastic bag and run the fan all night to get the smell out.

The final straw: The other day, I opened the dryer to pull out some blankets. Like the bathroom fans, the dryers in our building all vent into a common space. So, now my blankets smell, albeit faintly, of cigarette smoke.

A pox on you, Downstairs Neighbors, who don't like to smoke in your own apartment, but who nevertheless smoke in mine.

(By the way - in case you were wondering: the kid is fine. He seems to be over the croup, thank god.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's ridiculous that we have to put up with our neighbors assaulting us with their cancer-causing toxins. Of course, they are the ones who are protected by law. I wish apartment owners would wake up and recognize that smokers are causing more damage than burn spots on the carpet and smelly drapes. How ridiculous is it that a restaurant that you frequent for a couple of hours must adhere to no-smoking policies, but apartment buildings where you live are under no such guidelines!