Pure rage

I don’t easily get angry. I consider myself reasonably laid-back, and although I don’t hide my emotional state very well, I don’t think many people have seen me angry.

Today? I’m not just angry.

I’m furious. 100% pure rage.

Let me share a story.

About two years ago we moved out of an apartment that we had lived in for five months. We did so for two reasons, and for the first time in our lives we moved predominantly because of people. First, the neighbors, the owners of the building, did not respect any boundaries. We felt watched, pushed, and continuously disturbed by their kids. And I mean that literally. It wasn’t the noise or anything. These kids were sent to our door all the time, and for the silliest of reasons. Often, we felt like a glorified babysitting service. The only difference was that we paid to do the actual babysitting. After five months, we felt seriously uncomfortable, so we were happy when we found a new place. When we cancelled our contract, the owners treated us like absolute garbage. Their demands were insane, and the previously overly friendly pushy texts turned all-caps to DOWNRIGHT AGRESSIVE!!! This response was unlike anything we had ever experienced. We paid two months of rent after cancelling the contract, as agreed upon in the terms. We had no idea that canceling a nine month rental agreement after five (plus two) months was that unacceptable. We were glad to move out and a moving company made the move smooth and almost effortless in already stressful times of first pandemic lockdowns.

Our new apartment was nice. It had a garden part, was old, but partly renovated. The housekeeper was exceptionally friendly. The rent was more than I had hoped to pay, but at least it was close to town, close to work, and it was in a quiet neighborhood. The circumstances were great for new beginnings.

I remember the first time I entered the apartment after getting the keys. It was a Sunday morning in late April. I decided to move over a few small but fragile vivariums that I’d rather move personally than have moved by others. I had to walk up and down the stairs four times. Given that the vivariums were fragile, I was slow and steady. No running up and down or anything like that. I was on my way up with the second vivarium, when an angry woman in a bathrobe stormed out of the apartment below me and started shouting at me in angry Bavarian. What was I thinking. Sundays were rest days, and it was 8.45am. How on earth did I consider it appropriate to walk up and down stairs on a Sunday? If it were a text, it would have been in all-caps, of that I’m sure.

So much for new beginnings.

I immediately turned into panic mode. Did we just move from bad to worse?

A week or so later, the lady started talking again, and asked whether I was angry. Her tone had changed from scarily angry to almost creepy friendly. I apologized for making noise. Said that we are generally also quiet people, that we like to have good relationships with our neighborhood, as we have always had in the Netherlands. We did tell her about our son Rafa, whom she had already met before, and explained that kids can make sounds. Her reply was comforting, as she raised her finger and said: ‘Kids are no negative in my book. I adore kids. Kids should be able to express themselves.’ A sigh of relief.

Several months followed, during which she was friendly with us. Regularly giving Rafa gifts, and often offering us some of whatever food she had made or bought. It was almost like a healthy neighbor relationship. She also made a habit out of telling my son how bad examples we were as parents. I didn’t quite like that, especially coming from a person that never raised a small human being.

Everything changed drastically when Rafa started to learn how to walk. This took him some time, during which he barely made any steps. She regularly mentioned that she heard him – but it wasn’t a problem. Until one Sunday, Rafa woke up at 5.30, and about three weeks later, the neighbor complained about this. We explained that we were also not happy with it, that we were doing our best to comfort him when he wakes up crying, but that kids do cry sometimes. She replied that we should keep kids in bed at least until 8am. Soon after, she started ignoring us. She turned into a stone cold stonewalling queen. Whenever we were playing outside with other neighbors and their kids, she would tell all other kids how much she adored them, but ignored Rafa completely. She had turned herself into a friend, and then abandoned the friendship with a one year-old. We heard rumours from several neighbors that she had complained about us and about how noisy Rafa was.

To absorb some of the sound of Rafa playing, we bought 200 euros’ worth of rubber foam mats, that line our living room floor. We always tell him not to play and run in the hallway. Keep him from shouting and yelling. He is allowed to jump on the bed and the couch, but nowhere else, because of her. We walk on eggshells all the goddamn time.

When my wife Heike was seven months pregnant with our daughter, and we were without daycare for several days, she rang our doorbell. Rafa ran too much, and she could not focus. Heike was already on her way out, and quite stressed because it was a rough time. She basically asked if she should tie him up? The downstairs bitch went hysterical. And all-caps! She suggested she would kill herself so we could make all the noise we wanted. She also emphasized how happy we should be that she accepted us in this house, because no one would ever want to live with us. She screamed and cried. This was about nine months ago? After this stonewalling resumed.

In the meantime, she also had problems with the downstairs neighbors, a friendly couple who moved in around the same time we did. I should mention they recently moved out because they were continually harassed.

Since that time, we’ve been alone with her in this house.

These have been interesting times.

Since the other party left, she has developed a fondness for loud opera. She took up bongo drums, but to be honest, her rhythm sucked. Anyway. I didn’t care much. I don’t mind opera, or bongos. It seems like she did, as she gave up after several weeks, without a response from our side. It is also clear that she’s becoming more agressive in her communication, mostly in short mumbles or even better, via notes. There were always notes, everywhere. Close doors quietly!!! Turn off lights!!! Shovel snow!!! Put the garbage on the side of the road!!!

In our garden, I hung up some shelves on the backside of a weathered concrete garage box last summer. I grew tomatoes and chilies on there, and it didn’t look that bad. For this, I bolted some holders to her concrete, and some to ours. It sure as hell looked better than the dull grey wall. A normal person would not see this, or care, to be honest. Our neighbor, however, has taken great issue with the ten screws in her weathered concrete wall – facing our garden. She must have sneaked in to see it, there’s no other way she can see it. Anyway. For about a year, she has brought it up over and over again, and threatened us that ‘if we don’t do X, we have to remove the shelves.’

Today, the bomb burst. She took the effort to type a letter, put it in an envelope, put it in our mailbox. The letter stated in clear terms that we now had to remove the screws, the shelves, and fill the holes, to ensure that the back of her garage was brought back to the pristine state it was in. Of course.

I don’t know what drives her.

I don’t know what bothers her about the screws, the shelves that were there, or the chili and tomato plants I grew on them last summer.

I don’t know what we have done to hurt this troubled woman so deeply.

What I do know is that nothing was true about the ‘I adore kids’.

What I also do know is that people like this, that avoid everything, and act via indirect micro- and macro-agressions bring about some kind of primitive visceral response in me that I don’t recognize. Is it hate? I think it may be. In any case: It isn’t pretty.

I used this rage to rip off my entire shelve installation in ten minutes. Let’s hope that’ll shut the witch up, until she finds something new.

Thanks for reading the rant all the way till the end. I’m glad I got this off my chest. Today’s a great example of how writing can calm the mind.

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

6 thoughts on “Pure rage

  1. Some people are crazy. I had a neighbour like this once. One day she went too far and I yelled my head off at her in what I hoped was a very intimidating fashion. Three weeks later, she left. Sometimes you just have to read them the riot act.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish I could yell her away. I would totally do it. The problem is that she inherited her apartment layer, so is the co-owner of the building. The other layers are her brother’s. Obviously, she hates him too…


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