Over the course of my life, I have only lived in a couple of apartment-building settings — the time in my apartment here is by far the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I reached adulthood. For almost ten years, I learned the important points of sharing living space — even though we each have our own apartment, we share a large common room, the laundry facilities, the lobby with the mailboxes, and a smaller common area on the second and the third floors. I’ve been walking a careful path, alongside others, but still under inspection much of the time.
One part of this building we all share is the elevator. Our elevator is thirty years old, works on a piston lift, and is overwhelmingly slow. When I ride the elevator from the third floor, where I live, to the first floor, it reaches the bottom, but doesn’t open up for fifteen seconds, while it settles on its piston. Fifteen seconds are not a terribly long time to wait, unless I am in a hurry; if a taxi is waiting for me, or if I’m trying to catch a bus, that span of time seems to take forever.
And in this building, I know of four or five different people who like to stop and hold the door open while chatting with other residents. This is not a big deal, either, unless I am in a hurry. The only time I’ve had a problem with this, my blood sugar was dreadfully low, and I hadn’t brought juice downstairs. I hit the button for the elevator, and nothing happened. And for five minutes, nothing happened. I finally banged on the elevator door until the door closed and the elevator came down. I don’t come out of the apartment without juice, now.
I am not riding the elevator as I have for so many years — I started a couple of weeks ago climbing the stairs to the third floor. At first, I could only walk 8 or so steps without stopping to rest. Tonight, I walked the stairs, and down the hall to my apartment, without stopping. I am getting stronger by the day.
in one facet of our lives together, we must all bend a little — we often have suppers, or ice cream socials, or games in the common room on the first floor. Lately, I have joined the jigsaw puzzle gang — we always have one going, and as soon as one is finished, someone shoots a picture, and then we break it down and start the next one. I don’t know if any of you have worked on jigsaw puzzles as part of a group, but in doing so, I am taught daily new lessons about getting along.
See, we have one fellow who feels like he is in charge of the puzzles. He chooses one from the closet, sets up the entire boundary, and then always says something about letting everyone else finish the puzzle. He still sits right there at the table — and he expects us to work on the puzzle in his way, which is to draw one piece at a time from the box, and then look and look, until he finds where that piece is supposed to be. I prefer to lay all the pieces of one section of the puzzle on the table, so that I can see them. He and I have clashed over this far more often than two adults ever should; we have yet to achieve a happy medium, though I know we will someday.
The puzzle we are working on now is a picnic scene, with twelve people, a giant American flag with 13 stars and the number 76 in the blue field. I took advantage today of an hour when my managing partner was elsewhere — I started digging through the box, and pulled every piece of a face I could find. When I had them all laid out in front of me, I began trying to put them together. A couple of the faces were obvious, and easily composed, but most of them have the same expressions, and the same color cheeks and eyes. Hair color and facial hair are helpful clues, though the ladies, as far as I can tell, all had their lips waxed before posing for the painting.
As I picked up pieces and tried to fit them together, I noticed that with each attempt that failed, I was creating a new Picasso-esque face. I decided to stop putting the puzzle together, and just played with those faces. I came up with some very unusual combinations, all with too many eyes, or not enough; too many teeth, or none; noses growing out of foreheads, and all kinds of opportunities to create alien-looking faces. A friend came over, and saw what I was doing — I invited him to sit down and join me; after doing so, he immediately found combinations I hadn’t even thought of. I enjoyed that forty-five minutes very much, and then I got serious and put faces together correctly. By the time I broke for lunch, my friend and I had added 35 or 40 pieces to the main puzzle, and matched most of the faces outside the edge, ready to go in when the spots came up.
What a lovely way to spend time in the morning — this got me out of the house, away from the laptop, and allowed me to sit in a folding chair, in which I couldn’t slouch without great discomfort.
Living among these people has become more comfortable with each passing year, and I am learning lessons for living in harmony that I could have used three decades ago. I am happy that I have this opportunity now. Happy is very good — I’ll take it!