The lady next door wants to make friends with me. She said she often thinks she should offer me some of their meal when she cooks too much and she really wanted to invite me to the festival they had the other day. She said she hesitates to intrude on me because I work such odd hours.
I smiled and thanked her for her consideration and agreed that I do work odd hours and am often asleep when others would not expect me to be. I did not say I would not mind being woken to be fed or offer her any opportunity to get closer to me.
They seem to be a nice enough couple but I am fussy about who I let into my life. I look for people who will enrich my life not deplete it. Most people don’t get listened to very well because most people don’t have good listening skills. When I make friends with such people I end up doing all the listening, all the supporting, all the giving and that is something I do for a living. I don’t want to do it all the time in my private life too.
I already know quite a bit about this couple. I know they jump to conclusions, hold grudges, make innocent people suffer for what others have done to them and get into petty fights with others. Such qualities can, and often do, cause trouble between friends and I don’t need, or want, people like that in my personal life.
How do I know this couple is like that when I have never spent any time with them? From the way they behaved when I first moved in to this unit.
There is a problem with water pressure in these flats. If you are in the shower and someone in another unit turns on a cold tap your shower goes scalding hot. When I first moved in this was happening to me all the time. Water pressure would drop to nothing at times and it was very annoying.
At first I assumed it was a fault in the design and capacity of the plumbing but, as the months passed, I began to realise it was more than that. If my neighbors were both out I could have a pretty decent shower with no water pressure problems.
Gradually I began to suspect them of turning on their taps deliberately whenever I got into the shower. I also noticed they rarely took showers – they ran baths. I tested my suspicions a few times by turning on the shower then listening at the wall. They never failed to turn on taps or flush the toilet within 60 seconds of me turning on the shower.
I could always hear when they turned their water on so I knew they must be able to hear me turn mine on and I got irritated. My first impulse was to start turning taps on when they were using water but I resisted that.
They continued their campaign to ensure I never had a decent shower. Even if their lights were off and they were, presumably, in bed it was not safe to shower. The toilet would flush and taps would run as soon as I tried.
One night I turned off the taps in the middle of my shower. I was hoping turning them off then on again would return the pressure to normal. In the silence I heard water gushing into next door’s bath. A few seconds later they turned the taps off. I turned mine back on and began to finish my shower. Seconds later the water flow dropped to a trickle. I turned the taps off again and heard, again, the sound of water gushing into their bath. Again the water was turned off almost immediately.
That did it for me. I lost my temper. Two could play that game, I thought, and vowed to make sure they never got to use their water without interference from me ever again.
Anger is an uncomfortable emotion for me these days. It rarely happens and when it does it reminds me of when I used to get angry all the time for any reason. I don’t like to feel that way any more so, when the anger struck, I took deep breaths and tried to think my way through this.
It could be a coincidence I told myself. It was unlikely but possible. Even if it was deliberate on their part there was no way to know why they were doing it. I had never said or done anything to upset them so they could not be angry with me.
If they were not angry with me there must be some other reason they were doing this. I know people usually have reasons, however twisted or strange, for what they do. I tried to imagine what reason these people might have for harassing me this way.
My first thought was, if I have been provoked into wanting to enter into a water pressure war with them, maybe they had been in such a war with the previous tenant? Maybe they started it and maybe the old tenant did but it was clear there was a war going on from their side at least. Maybe their behaviour had been going on for so long it had become a habit they were not even thinking about.
I decided to test the theory by trying to break them of the habit if that was what was behind this. To do that I would have to find a way to make them notice the war was over.
I began a systematic campaign of my own. If I heard them using their water I would wait until they turned their taps off then immediately flush my toilet.
It seemed to work. Over a period of some months my showers gradually ceased being as bad and I noticed they stopped running baths and started taking showers. This gave me the opportunity to flush the toilet after they had finished their showers too.
One night, after a particularly nice shower, I turned off the taps and stepped out. As I picked up a towel I heard their toilet flush and I did a little dance of pleasure – the war was over from the sound of it.
The water pressure in the flats is still not great but I can have decent showers now and the war has been over for some time. I am glad I did not give in to the urge to fight water with water but it has left me with no desire to get to know them any better.
They assumed I would be just like the last tenant and they treated me badly. I bear them no grudges but I like friends who think before they act particularly before they act as badly as that!
I’m glad I did not jump to conclusions myself. I did not assume they hated me for some unknown reason or that their war was as personal as it felt like at the time. If I had done that and counter-attacked I would still be suffering really horrid showers all the time and there would certainly have been other bad blood between us by now.
That sort of thing tends to go from bad to worse if you get into it. Their car is a mass of dents and scratches and I can’t help wondering if the previous tenant of this flat put some of them there.
If I had bought into negative assumptions there would certainly have been no offer to invite me to the next festival they have that’s for sure!
It pays to think before jumping to conclusions. You can be offered new friendships if you do. On the other hand – it can cost to jump to conclusions. You can lose the chance to make a new friend if you are too quick to assume the worst.