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She Doesn’t Smell What The Rock Is Cooking, Either

, , , , , | Working | January 31, 2021

One afternoon, I smell smoke as I am cleaning around my apartment. I spend a few minutes searching around to see if it is coming from anywhere in my apartment, and I poke my head out the window to see if someone is barbecuing outside, but I can’t find a source. So, I decide to call up the apartment office and let them know, at least.

Receptionist: “Hello, this is [Apartment]. How may I help you?”

Me: “Hi, this is [My Name] in apartment [number]. I just wanted to say that I smell a strong smell of smoke in my apartment, though I can’t actually see anything.”

Receptionist: “Hmm… Well, I don’t smell anything.”

There is a long pause after this, as I try to work out if she is joking and how I should respond. The apartment office is in an entirely separate building from any of the actual units in this complex, so her comment makes absolutely no sense.

Receptionist: “Well, bye!” *Click*

I considered calling back, but less than a minute later, the fire alarms in the building started going off, so I ended up evacuating. It turns out that there was a kitchen fire in the level below mine, though luckily it was contained enough that it didn’t spread before the fire department could arrive and put it out. The smell lingered for weeks, however.

But at least they couldn’t smell it in the office!

Stranger Danger!

, , , , | Legal | January 17, 2021

My husband and I live in an apartment. It is a nice building with an onsite residential manager (the equivalent of a super), and some facilities like a small gym, communal courtyard, and bicycle lock-up. In short, it is not the kind of place you would expect the following story to happen in.

We have lived there for about six months when the neighbours report stuff being moved while they were out, cupboards being left open when they were sure they had shut them, and so on. I have come home to the television being left on when I was sure I had turned it off, but I just assumed I was mistaken. We joke about a ghost.

I never really think much about it until I come home early from work one day so I can prepare for our holiday the following week. As I approach the door, I hear that the television is on. I am certain I turned it off when I left, but I shrug it off, assuming I was just being absent-minded. However, when I open the door and make my way into the living room, I see somebody sitting on the sofa.

At first, I think it is my husband. Perhaps he planned to surprise me by finishing work early, as well. But as I walk over to the sofa, I realise to my horror that the man sitting there is not my husband; it is a stranger.

When the man realises I am there, he becomes startled, spinning around to face me, clearly not expecting me to be there.

Me: “I… Who are you and why are you in my apartment?”

The man scowls at me at first but then shrugs.

Man: “Oh, it’s okay. The building owner is my dad. I’m allowed to be here.”

Me: “I… I wasn’t notified of any work that needed doing.”

Man: “My dad owns this place. I’m allowed to be in here. It’s basically my place.”

Me: “This is my apartment. You can’t just come in and make yourself at home. It’s a breach of—”

The man stands and steps around the sofa as if to approach me but thankfully doesn’t come any closer. I am suddenly terrified. The man is at least six feet tall and easily twice my weight.

Man: “My dad owns this place. I have every right to be here.”

Unsure of what else to do, I flee to my neighbour’s, where I call the police. I have no idea whether the guy really is the owner’s son, or if he is a burglar making up stories. Either way, I want him out of my home.

The police soon arrive, and I let them into my apartment.

Surprisingly, the man is still there! The police tell him he is under arrest for breaking and entering.

Man: “I didn’t break in. I had the key. My dad owns the building. I can be in here if I want.”

The police weren’t having any of it and arrested him. After everything had been settled, I went back to my neighbour’s, too terrified to go back to my place alone. Even though I knew they had taken him away, I just couldn’t shake that a stranger had let themselves in like that.

It turned out that the man was, indeed, the building owner’s son; however, the building owner had explicitly told the managers not to let him in, let alone give him any keys. However, for whatever reason, the manager had been giving him the keys to various apartments because the son claimed his dad had asked him to perform some maintenance, even though no maintenance or repairs were scheduled.

The “ghost” which had been plaguing the complex was actually the owner’s son letting himself into the apartments. Luckily, as far as I know, nothing had been stolen. He’d just been letting himself in and watching TV, using their showers, eating some of their food, and otherwise just making himself at home while they were out. To this day, I have no idea why.

The manager was immediately fired and a more upstanding one replaced him. Our landlord couldn’t apologise enough. He even offered to reduce our rent for a few months as an apology, even though it wasn’t his fault. The building owner also gave us and the other residents generous financial compensation. As much as I appreciated these gestures, my husband and I found another place to live a few months later because I just couldn’t relax in the apartment anymore and was still terrified to be alone there.

This story is part of our Best Of January 2021 roundup!

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Thank You For Being A (Furry) Friend

, , , , , , , | Friendly | January 1, 2021

My husband and I are in the car with our dog, driving back home. We get into our apartment complex and we’re nearly to our building when I see a dog I vaguely recognize wandering aimlessly through the parking lot without a leash, collar, or person nearby. I immediately put the car in park and get out to slowly approach the dog. I recognize that I have met this dog and his owner before; he’s a huge, strong breed but sweet and gentle as a lamb. I cautiously reach out to him and he happily ambles over and lets me pet him.

I still don’t see anyone around or hear anyone calling for him, so I ask my husband to take our dog’s leash and harness off of our dog so I can use it to help the lost dog get home. All the while, this absolutely massive dog is calmly letting me pet him and sniffing around gently, showing no signs that he’s stressed or thinks it at all weird that a stranger stopped in the middle of the parking lot to pet him.

I show him my dog’s leash and slowly bring it up to his face, asking if he’s okay with me putting it on him. He seems perfectly content with the leash, but the harness is too small to fit around his gigantic neck! I loop it around as best I can, and we set off, leaving my very confused dog in the car with my husband, wondering what’s going on.

I walk the dog over to the apartment building where I’ve seen him before, but I have no idea which unit he lives in. So, feeling a bit crazy, I ask him where he lives! This enormous, bulky dog seems to understand me perfectly, and he gently leads me straight up to the door of a unit on the ground floor! Now I really feel crazy, but seeing no other option, I knock.

After a minute, a confused man answers and stares at me. 

Me: “So, um, is this your dog?”

Man: “What? How? Yeah, that’s Lightning!”

Lightning looks super happy to see the man and immediately trots inside.

Me: “I found him over by [my building].”

Man: “Woah, thank you! He must have gotten away from my girlfriend while she was walking him and Thunder. I didn’t even know he was lost!”

Me: “I get it; my dog has escaped before, too. I’m just glad he knew the way back home! But, um, that was actually my dog’s leash and harness he was wearing.”

Man: “Oh, yeah.”

He still seems super confused as to how his dog could have gotten away and back home again without him even realizing what was happening. He takes the leash off Lightning and gives it back to me.

Man: “Okay, then… Bye.”

Me: “Have a good night.”

As I’m walking back to my apartment, I see the man’s girlfriend with their other dog, Thunder. She’s calling for Lightning and looking super stressed.

Me: “Don’t worry, I found him! He showed me the way to your place so I just dropped him off!”

Woman: “Wow, no way! Thank you so much! I can’t believe it!”

She laughed with relief.

I headed home, laughing at how the huge and powerful dog Lightning knew the way back to his house the whole time but, for some reason, decided he needed a human buddy to walk him home! I guess sometimes we all just need a friend.

This story is part of our Feel Good roundup for January 2021!

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The Joys Of Renting

, , , , , | Working | December 28, 2020

I moved out on my own when I was twenty-one, scoring a fantastic little new build flat in the city centre. In nine years, I only moved to a different block so I could have a bigger place. Eventually, though, the area got worse: there was vandalism, my car was broken into twice — in the underground “secure” car park that had easily broken gates — a pub on my road was closed after a guy was killed there, drugs, gangs, you name it.

I decided enough was enough; I wanted out of the city and to somewhere quieter. I was delighted to find a ground floor flat that looked great on the visit, close to my parents. The rent was the same as I was currently paying and the lease was for twelve months. Perfect.

Yeah. You know where this is going.

When I move in I actually have to wonder if it is the same place I saw three weeks ago. With the previous tenants’ stuff gone, it is easy to see the chronic damp. Oh, and the kitchen window has dropped so there is a wide, open gap to the outside — not great in the winter… or for security. I have problems with the en suite toilet and shower, as well, during which time the landlord and I have a chat when he is fixing the issues.

Me: “I’m really looking forward to living here. In a year or two, I think I’ll have it redecorated.”

Imagine my surprise when, barely four months later, he tells me I have to leave!

Landlord: “You’ll have to find somewhere else. I can’t afford the flat—”

This is despite me paying rent on it.

Landlord: “—and if you don’t leave, I’ll have to go bankrupt and the bank will take the flat and evict you.”

I should mention here two things. First, in the UK, you cannot breach a rental agreement for that reason. In fact, it is notoriously difficult to evict a renter from a property. Point two, I know this because I work in the real estate industry. I know how this stuff works, I know my rights, and I know I can make his life h***.

But still, it was stressful to have this man message me at least twice a week demanding I find another place, telling me I didn’t need to find somewhere perfect, just to leave his place, that he’d pay me to leave, that he wouldn’t give me a good reference if I was not gone by a certain date, etc.

But I ignored him. I consulted with colleagues who agreed that he had no legal standing, and I talked with the estate agents who had some very choice names for him, but I didn’t stop looking for the perfect place. Moving is expensive and stressful and I hate doing it, so if I was moving now it was to a place to stay a long time… like this was supposed to be.

In the end he came clean. Kind of. He hadn’t realised it was a twelve-month lease, despite the conversations we’d had. He did try and blame the estate agents — they are liars, they tricked him, blah. I figured he screwed the pooch and had someone else lined up to move in.

Thankfully, this has a good ending. I found a house, rather than a flat, still in my ideal area and price, with everything I could want: a garden, a driveway, three bedrooms, and an amazing landlord that I can laugh and joke with.

I don’t hate my ex-landlord any more, and I write this now from my garden, sipping a coffee and reflecting on how lucky I was that my ex-landlord broke the law and kicked me out, how I dodged a bullet, and how fun it was to see him a little while ago when I was visiting the friends I had made at that building… watching him bring his groceries into his — my — flat.

Yeah, he kicked me out so he and his girlfriend could move in. He saw me, I saw him, and I just grinned, with the other residents smiling with me.

I think I won.

The Boxes Are Empty But Their Hearts Are Full

, , , , , , | Related | December 23, 2020

I have a large extended family with many aunts, uncles, and cousins. Back in the mid- to late 1980s, when I am in my early twenties, we have large family gatherings around Christmastime. It usually takes place in a relative’s home. One particular year, my aunt moves into a condominium building. The condo building has a public room available for use and she reserves it for our gathering. Since Christmas is approaching, the condo association has decorated the room with a lovely Christmas tree.

As part of our traditions, we have a “grab bag.” Each relative attending brings a gift with a twenty-dollar limit on it. During the gathering, we draw numbers from a hat. There are around forty to forty-five of us participating. The relative who has number one chooses a gift and opens it. The person with number two does the same, but if they like gift number one better, they can exchange it. This continues until the lucky last person opens their gift and then has the choice of exchanging with any of the previously opened gifts. It makes for a lot of fun, as there is usually one gift that becomes a favorite and is chosen and then lost by many participants.

On the day of the condo gathering, we start the grab bag. Several of my relatives open their gifts after choosing one from what is under the tree. It comes to my cousin’s turn. She opens her gift and looks disappointed.

Cousin: “My box is empty.”

Me: *Chuckling* “Nice gag, someone. No problem, [Cousin]. Go ahead and exchange with someone who has already opened their gift.”

She does, and we go on with the grab bag. Several more empty boxes make their appearance, and I begin to get a bit annoyed. One empty box is funny. Four or five just does not seem fair.

In the middle of the process, the condo association president stops by to check on our gathering.

President: “How is it going? Are you having fun? Do you have all the supplies and utensils that you need? There are more in the back closet if you need them.”

Aunt: “Everything is just fine, thanks. We are only having an issue with our grab bag. It seems as though several people have decided it would be funny to give empty boxes instead of an actual gift.”

President: “That’s a shame.” *Pauses* “Wait, where are you getting your gifts from?”

Aunt: “Everyone put them under the tree as they arrived. That’s where we are choosing from.”

President: *Laughing* “Let me explain. We wrapped some empty boxes to put under the tree as decorations. I think that’s what you have been opening!”

We all had a good laugh. Sure enough, by the time we got to the end of the grab bag, there was one gift for every relative!