Monday, January 09, 2006

Stairwell Living

All I can say is UGH!

For those reading who have no clue what stairwell living is, it's living in an apartment building where you have one main entrance and all the apartments are located within one stairwell.

Living in stairwell housing as a military family has got to be one of the worst things I have experienced. We have been blessed that there are two empty apartments right now...the one across the hall from us, and the one above us. Blessed silence!

My complaints are many, starting with the noise level. Part of my problem with noise is the location of our building. Generally, housing is built away from the main gates of military posts. This provides privacy for the families that live in housing. Being that our post is in the city, there's no such least not for THIS housing area. Our building is the VERY FIRST building at the gate. While I am blessed with being able to look out over Germany every day, I have to deal with the incessant road noise of cars driving on and off post. Cars with drivers who do not respect the German laws of quiet hours (from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.) Drivers whose cars are probably paid off but they still owe 3 years on the speakers. Cars that rattle from the bass levels being emitted from the cars. THOSE kinds of cars...and soldiers.

The soldiers who don't own cars walk. The taxis are lined up outside, ready to take them to town to party. They come back at all hours, particularly on weekends, drunk, loud, obnoxious, and oblivious to the fact that they are encountering a housing area immediately upon entrance to the post. My bedroom faces the gate. I hear it...even with fans, earplugs, pillows over my head. The lack of respect is unbelievable! And the soldiers who forget that running PT formations are not allowed in housing (OR off-post). They come screaming and shouting at/for each other. They line their formations up under my bedroom window. I have been known to holler out the window. I've taken unit numbers and commander's names, and complained. I suppose the fact that I've only heard units ONCE is a good thing; that means they've been reprimanded by their commander!

Back to stairwell living. I like my neighbors...most of them. My downstairs neighbors are nice; they have a daughter that Hannah plays with from time to time. They have two dogs, a big one and little one, and while they bark, I can deal with it because they are good dogs and the kids like them. The folks across the hall from them are nice too...two young officers with a newborn son. Quiet, friendly...nice people!

But the lady upstairs is quite a different matter. To begin with, she's a German spouse. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, so don't take offense right away. But, being German, she has qualities that most Germans are raised with. She likes to "air out" the building by opening the stairwell windows and leaving the doors open. I have a big problem with the doors being open - it's a SECURITY issue. As military members, we need as much security as we can get. Leaving doors unsecured does NOT help our security. I posted signs, have fixed the door returns (that are always being disabled) and keep closing the doors. That's all I can do, as she sems to have so little respect.

But for me, the bigger issue is that my storage room is downstairs - the storage room where a good majority of my scrapping supplies are stored. Where all my "American" appliances are stored. It does not do my things good to have constant exposure to cold, heat and moisture. The humidity levels can get bad. The cold is awful. I had considered setting up a scrapping area in the storage room, but the cold (and lack of electrical outlets) made me reconsider. I had to put up a sign on the window near my room requesting the window be left shut. There's a "vent" from the hallway to my storage room...and the window faces out to the main street, meaning that a lot of dirt, dust and exhaust come in that way. I don't need my things ruined by all that junk...the Army does a good enough job destroying it all by moving it!

So...every morning, my upstairs neighbor does a load of laundry on her way out the door to work. As she heads down the stairs, she opens a window or two in the stairwell (heat rises, cold descends...the cold air comes into my apartment), starts her laundry, heads out the basement door, leaving it open behind her. By the time we realize it, the stairwell is now the same temperature as outside. Ugh, Ugh, and UGH!

I have tried to be nice to her, but it's so hard. I am helpful, she will easily come and ask us for help (sugar, extension cords, assistance with paperwork). Her husband is deployed and I feel for her...she found out she was pregnant a few weeks after he left, so she'll be alone for the baby's birth. But it's just so hard. We just keep closing doors, windows,'s irritating to say the least.

Stairwell living also means sharing things...the washers and dryers in the basement, and the cleaning duties. No one likes either aspect. Sharing appliances like washers and dryers is tough. Everyone has a different level of cleanliness. If you've left a tissue in your pocket, you need to clean out the washer - well, I know that I do this, but more than once, I've opened a washer to see it lined with dried up tissue - yuck! Same goes with dryers. Cleaning the lint screen seems to be the biggest issue. Some don't do it well...not to my standards. I don't like to see traces of lint at all...clean up after yourself, this isn't YOUR house to do with as you please!

So, we have to share cleaning duties too - stairwell and laundry room. We're supposed to have a stairwell coordinator who sets up schedules...he/she is appointed by the building coordinator (who oversees the two stairwells in the building). Of course, as luck would have it, there is no stairwell coordinator...there is no BUILDING coordinator. I did address this issue with housing back in September, but was assured it was being taken care of as we spoke. I tried to make a schedule of cleaning rotation. Some take it seriously, some don't. It's tough. I hate cleaning up other folks' mess. Pulling lint piles out from behind the dryers because someone is too lazy to put lint in the trash. Wiping the machines down, cleaning the folding table and sink...sweeping, washing and cleaning the stairwell weekly. But at least I make an effort to do it, because I have respect for where I live, and like things to be somewhat clean.

I won't ever live in this type of housing again...not if I can help it. We plan on buying a house when we head to Kansas...or renting off post. No more housing for us. It may be more convenient for post access, but in the end, it's not worth it at all.


SB said...

Girl, I feel your pain. In AK, we lived in a very large spacious apartment. I loved it! But across the parking lot was a woman who beat her kids and screamed at them CONSTANTLY, After countless reports within the military community, I reported her to Children's Protective Svcs. After the MP's went in to tour her quarters, they dicovered (shocking) THOUSANDS (as in 10's) of dollars worth of damage. Also her kids were stealing neighborhoods bikes that she in turn would sell.
Military neighbors...oh the storieswe could tell!
I chant (like a calming mantra) "It could always be worse." Thankfully, if we EVER have to go into housing again (which is unlikely) we'll have field grade quarters, baby!

Christy said...

Linda I can relate in a lot of ways...some of my neighbors have this thing about leaving the door open...our windows won't open well at least I was never able to open them up when we moved here in July! But even us on the 3rd floor when that door's open you can tell big time.
The lent thing drives me INSANE! How hard is it to clean the lint when you take your laundry out??? I do it because dang it's a fire hazard, but it's not my respobsiblity to clean up other people's lent! Ugh!
We have a stairwell coordinator, but he does nothing. He's a younger soldier, leaving in a couple months...if Chad would have been here, he'd have been the highest ranking everyone but us and another neighbor who's husband is deployed will be moving by May, and that other nieghbor is actually in the states (has a 1 yr old and pregnant with twins and her 1 yr old will not turn 2 until a few months AFTER the babies are born!)

You'd be a great neighbor! LOL I'd have someone else who cleaned and took care of their lent and wiped down the washers!

Christy said...
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