I am currently having one of those irritating little running battles with the management of my apartment building in New Haven over the matter of a “capital improvement” campaign of construction, which was originally announced to us as a simple matter of replacing the aging railings on the balconies. It seems that, along with this, there is some repointing to be done.
Repointing, I now learn, is the process of removing crumbling mortar from between certain joints, and replacing it—the better to resist moisture. This process of deterioration is due to the impact upon masonry of annual cycles of extreme heat and cold and back again.
It turns out that to do this work much aggressive drilling is required, and in my apartment building that means incessant, deafening, mind-altering noise, commencing at nine o’clock in the morning and ending at around four in the afternoon—every day, including weekends. No mention was made of loud noise or any other sort of disruption in the original, soothing message alerting us to the impending job of work, and in the update delivered to each apartment this week I see that once again no direct reference is made to the amount and volume of the noise.
So this week, having prudently (I thought) taken some time off work to catch my breath before going to London tomorrow, I found that my apartment was completely uninhabitable. Something about the concrete superstructure of our building acts as a kind of echo chamber, no matter how far away from me they are drilling, and the result is a ceaselessly rabid, migraine-level din.
Later on Monday morning, therefore, in a mild fit of pique, I sought reliable information as to how long we could expect this project to continue—at first addressing this not unreasonable question to the doorman, who had no idea, the rental agents (likewise), and finally to two darling little Hobbit-like workmen with whom I happened to share the elevator, going down. One of them pretended to speak no English at all, and with breathtaking mendacity the other flatly denied being in any way involved in it. Their hard-hats, tool-boxes, and matching red shirts, rather fetching, each emblazoned with the name of the pertinent firm of construction subcontractors, told a rather different story. However, on reflection I suppose this was the most sensible approach on their part: Deny everything, and let management handle testy, no ropeable tenants.
I didn’t get much further with our manager. Dear Sholom is much given to using the phrase “not a problem,” which I confess drives me mad. “Nodda-problem,” he says to me, even when the problem is acute. This time, inspired by Barry Humphries, I ventured to say, “But, Sholom, it is a problem, and the mood among many residents of this building is one of gradually increasing frustration”—especially, I added, among those unfortunate persons currently studying for the New York bar examination, or else young people dealing with distressed infants and toddlers.
However what tipped me over the edge of irritation into the chasm of despair was the discovery at our monthly senior staff meeting on Tuesday morning—I attended it to escape the noise—that construction is shortly due to commence right below my office window as well—the steps down into the lower court of our Kahn building need to be taken up and put back again. Over the years they have developed Borobudur-level subsidence, perky bumps, and potentially dangerous fissures.
Therefore for at least several weeks, possibly months, henceforth I will ricochet from one noisy construction site at home to another at work—and this photograph shows you how close each one is to the other. (I live in the background quite high up, at the east end, which you cannot see, and my office window is on the top floor facing this way, just out of frame in the foreground.)
Hard to know how in these unpromising circumstances my already jangling nerves will hold up, but let us make every effort to be gay.