Hello, my name is Mary, and I’m not an alcoholic (I don’t think). But if I am one thing, I am categorically unable to keep wine glasses from shattering into tiny pieces on my rental apartment’s marble floors. It happens loudly, and often, and with impressively vigorous resolve on the part of the stemware.
Strange, not easily identifiable noises from strange, easily identifiable neighbors are part of the deal when you sign up for condominium living. They’re just as common as the crying babies, barking dogs and bumbling party guests we all expect will be part of the lineup at some point or another. A noise, for me, is “strange”—distinct from the more standard Florentine symphony—only when inscrutable. Was that the snort of a sleep apnea-afflicted nonno? The coo of a pigeon or the muffled voice of Maria De Filippi trickling down from a fourth floor TV?
These mysteries are far more perplexing than those connected to concretely nameable sounds (case in point: a deadened doorbell rings faintly each time I close my palazzo’s portone. Nobody is ever buzzing, but the door-belody plays out each time, unfailingly, over the percussion-like click of the latch. The sound is unmistakably a doorbell, even if deadened, and therefore cannot qualify as strange).
What I cannot know for sure, especially given the weird insulation of our building, is how the operatic glass smashing sounds from outside my four walls—whether it is now considered my irritating but predictable contribution to the palazzo philharmonic. Alternatively, perhaps these ear-grating noises are untraceable, and therefore strange; a welcome fuel, in other words, for the condominium’s collective imagination.
I suppose I could ask my neighbors about it (just the ones whose noises I can squarely identify, to give me ammunition against potential complaints. “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” and all that). But maybe they’ll clap back and say that people who live on marble floors shouldn’t throw glasses.
This edition of Rental Diaries appeared in TF’s annual Wine Issue.
Read all the Rental Diaries here.