Saturday, June 9, 2012

Meeting the Neighbors

Would you like to meet your neighbors, but you don't quite know how to make it happen?  It's true that we are beyond the days of bringing house plants, and sometimes banana bread seems too pushy, not to mention the possibilities of nut allergies.  Well.  I have just the thing for you.  Flood the bathroom.  It is just as effective as bringing a casserole, with no worries about gluten sensitivities or getting your pan back.

Didn't get enough of a feel for them, or just craving more human interaction?  Simply flood the bathroom again.

It takes almost zero effort, especially if your washing machine is like ours -- shitty.


Back in January, our bathroom flooded.  Kathryn was the first to discover it.

In our apartment, we have what I fondly call Bathroom Part 1 and Bathroom Part 2.  

Part 1 is a "water closet" which houses this funky toilet that was probably installed during the Communist era.  

Part 2 is home to our shower, peeling paint (from said shower, because the head is shifty, like a ninja, or a hyperactive child, and wildly sprays water pretty much everywhere but on your body), and a washing machine.  

The washing machine drains into the tub.  Or, it is supposed to.  On this night, an inch of water covered the floor, sloshing around like a living, breathing liquid lint monster. 

"There is probably a drain in the floor," Kathryn says to me.  "Knowing our apartment, there is probably a hole..." we are cackling madly at this point.


No one is laughing at 11 p.m.when the doorbell rings.  I am mildly terrified, thinking of Worst Case Scenarios (one of which includes an Eötvös gimnazium student alumni/stalker at our door to deliver more drawings of cats, but that's another story) as I peek out through the chain latch.

"Szia?" (Hello)  I ask into the dark hallway.

Three guys our age stand outside in pajama bottoms and sweatshirts.  Hair is ruffled and eyes look tired.  "Hallo," someone says to me, "Angolul?"

"Igen," I say, sliding the chain lock off the door and opening it wider.  "Sziasztok," I say to all of them.

"We live... downstairs."

"Oh!  Visz!!  (water)  Sajnálom, sajnálom, sajnálom!"  I say with a hand over my mouth -- sorry, sorry, sorry.

The boys seem mildly concerned.  They are the definition of mildly concerned.  With gentle English and soft voices, we talk about the water that is dripping from our bathroom to theirs.

The boy with stubble and a black Szeged University sweatshirt that fits tightly over his chubby belly asks, "Can you fix it?"  His eyes dart from me to the bathroom.  "When can you fix it?"

"I will fix it now," I assure them.

With leggings rolled up above my knees, and I am hoping this gives me handywoman street cred.  

I am so relieved these three sweet and disheveled boys are at our door, and not the other possibilities.  An angry old Hungarian incapable of smiling and speaking English but capable of yelling in Hungarian?  Our cat-obsessed stalker?  The rendőrség (police)?

I go back to the flood, and try my hand at different un-flooding techniques.  Sweeping the water into a dustpan with a hand-held broom is more successful than mopping.  

You know.  Just in case you would like to use this great neighbor-meeting strategy.


So.  Fast-forward to today, June 9th.

There is another ring at the door, and you guessed it, the washer flooded again.  Unbeknownst to me, as I was sleeping.

This time the downstairs neighbor spoke zero English.  This is the gist of our conversation, thanks to

szerelő hivni már -- mechanic hivni already
ask -- kérdez
talk to -- beszélgetés
before laundryhose in tub.  -- mosoda előtt, harisnya kádban.
after, hose falls out of tub? -- a tömlő kiesik kádból?
lakótárs -- housemate
nincsek itt -- she's not here
waterfall -- vízesés

After many sajnáloms from me, and many clicking noises from him, he leaves, and I get out mop and dustpan and get to work.

When the bathroom is back to normal, I take a shower and crawl back into bed.  


Not an hour later, I hear a doorbell, but it sounds faint, and I figure it's not ours.  When I hear keys in the door, I am sure Kathryn is home.  I get out of bed and find a pair of pants.

This is the moment that I see an older man peeking through the crack of my door.  

"Pardon, pardon!"  

Who is this French dude in my apartment?

He keeps saying "Pardon" but he doesn't move.  

"Egy perc!" One minute! I say, pulling my pants on and shaking my head.

I go into the hallway and an older man with white hair is standing with his son, who is about 15 years old.    He looks relatively unscarred, considering.  Who knows what he saw.

"Pardon, pardon!"  the older man keeps saying.  Is this all he says?

"Semmi.. mindégy.." I stumble.  It's nothing, don't worry about it...

He thrusts an identity card at me.  "Hadju Géza," he says.

Oh.  Not a Frenchman.  My landlord.  


And now I've met everyone. I hope.


  1. Jessica, I love your stories!!!!!! Your blog is wonderful :)

    1. Thank you, Heather!! I love writing them, and it means a lot that you enjoy reading. :]