Earlier this week I placed an order for a number of yoga props I need before going on a seven-day retreat that will conclude my yoga teacher training. I have spent the last two days panicking that this package would not arrive on time because I not only procrastinated, but I ordered from an online company that ships out of Tennessee. Thankfully, my buzzer went of around 7:00PM, just two days after I placed the order, revealing a strapping young FedEx man on the steps of my building. As I am signing for my coveted box of yoga props the FedEx guy asks, “Did she die of natural causes?” He is tilting his head toward the door at the end of the hall. The door with the eviction notice, neon green sticker proclaiming no unauthorized authorities may enter, and huge padlock along the side of the door made necessary by the blowing out of the actual lock during the “break-in.” Yeah…now I’ve got your attention.
This scene has become my new normal, as I have been staring at that door every time I exit my apartment for the past three months. I suppose I should start at the beginning…brace yourself, if you have fears of dying alone in your apartment and becoming cat food before anyone finds you I suggest you stop reading now.
May 26, 2011, a warm Thursday in late spring. I come home from a walk along the East River to find police at the front door of my apartment building. I ask if it is safe to go in and they say yes. I climb the four flights of stairs to my floor to find police milling about my hallway. Awesome. Not only are there police in my building, on my floor, but they are also on my side of the floor, in my hallway. I notice the super and one of the maintenance guys sitting on the floor in front of the door at the end of the hallway. I look at them and the super asks, “Have you smelled anything lately?” Uh, no. There has been a permanent dirty cat litter smell permeating from that apartment for the last two years. The air has had a slightly different twang to it lately, but nothing to make note of. Apparently someone on the sixth floor smelled something from the balcony that was worth not only taking note of, but also calling the super about. Very, long traumatizing story, short, the old, housebound, barely mobile woman at the end of the hall died alone in her apartment and became cat food for her two cats. (If you want full details of this horrific day email me for your own private and traumatizing story, but bear in mind body bags, cockroaches, and the ASAPA are included in the unedited version.)
No one is really sure why the apartment is still sealed up. First the family was waiting for the autopsy results because they were not allowed to enter the apartment before determining the exact cause of death. Then a mysterious brother was supposed to come claim her stuff. Now, no one really knows what the hell is going on. About a month ago the crazy neighbors directly across from me, neither of whom speak English so well and get visibly agitated when anyone on this freakishly friendly, un-New York floor tries to say hello, started scattering coffee grounds all over the hall and in front of their door and the deceased’s door. It smelled like Starbucks invaded the building. I was awoken to the sounds of excessive vacuuming the morning after the Starbucks invasion. The landlords clearly felt coffee grounds did not belong scattered throughout the hallway. The following day it smelled like Starbucks had decided upon a slightly less aggressive takeover. Upon closer inspection, I discovered the crazy neighbors had taken a slightly subtler route by discretely scattering coffee grounds along the floor directly in front of the deceased’s door. Apparently police told these neighbors that coffee grounds absorb the smell of the dead. (Note, it does not work and your neighbors will just think you are nuts and/or be pissed at you for wasting so much perfectly good coffee.) After several attempts from multiple tenants on the fourth floor to get rent reductions due to the smell and emotional trauma the landlords have placed an air purifier in the hallway facing the door of the deceased. White noise, faint smells that make me wonder if Starbucks set up shop in my apartment building, and a slightly reduced pungent smell of death now greet me every time I exit or enter my apartment.
And now…back to FedEx guy! If you have fears of people being gunned down in their own homes within a twenty-block radius of your current home I suggest you stop reading now.
While the FedEx guy is fleeing toward the elevator as fast as he can he says, “Last week I was making a delivery on 110th and there were police all over the floor I was supposed to stop at. I could see a guy lying on the floor through the open door. He had been gunned down in his own apartment. I was supposed to be making a delivery to that guy!” I guess they didn’t go over that job hazard during his training.