Volume 16 • Issue 21 | October 21 - 27, 2003


Is Tribeca becoming like the Upper East Side?

By Wickham Boyle

When my shower burst open my neighbors were drenched and still they wouldn’t allow the plumbers into their loft to facilitate repair work. So the plumbers worked long and hard cutting through encumbrances, zigging and zagging through to fix the leaky shower and install a new one.

Two days later I was luxuriating in my new shower, the last one had literally been a plastic box installed in 1976 right when I moved down to Tribeca. My husband burst into the room screaming that the water is leaking again and the neighbor was at the door. Such short-lived luxury.

The next day I had to call the building manager because in modern Tribeca neighbors don’t talk to each other like we used to when we had trouble, a party, sadness or news; now we use an intermediary. Our elevator, the old pull cable open box that had to be brought to the neighbor who calls day, night or drunken stupor is also in the process of being converted to a regular mechanical elevator. You will be able to stand in your loft, push the button and the elevator will come to you, EMPTY. No neighbor will stand disheveled, grinning or cocktail in hand with a diatribe or jokes. Now in Modern Tribeca we are finding ways to never interact one with the other. Very Upper East Side. So if there is a problem in the building, you must call the folks who manage the building.

Our manager once described the job of managing my building as akin to being a kindergarten monitor, a monitor mind you not even a teacher. The kids in our building really act up. Oh I am one of them. I am as hot headed, narrow minded, trenchant, bone headed, foul mouthed. . . does that cover it? But despite all my bad traits, at base I really do want what Rodney King espoused, I want us all to get along. So this shower thing has been a saga too long for television, sort of a Lawrence of Arabia with water, no sand.

The manager sends the plumbers, who call me to say they will indubitably require access to the neighbors’ apartment for this second sojourn and that if they had been given neighborly admittance in the first place this new leak wouldn’t have happened. Now they may have to open the ceiling more, undo the shower, a host of other concatenations caused by the initial recalcitrance of neighbors. I sigh, sort of a lamb to the plumbing slaughter.

Paul, the plumbing boss, and a man who has considerable world wisdom that comes out in the guise of pipe dreams says, “ You know Wicki, sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. That’s what happened downstairs. See you tomorrow early.” He hung up and I scribbled his apparent wisdom on a piece of paper. I held it like a talisman; the plumber who plumbs your soul.

The plumbers have been back and forth, the air is icy between neighbors, much more than I would like, but I have no magic bullet to restore whatever modicum of calm there was. I am stymied by my lack of desire to apologize and try to forge a union of congeniality. In some way I am finished with taking the first step, being the bigger person, forgiving first; all the things my mother taught me that in the end seemed to make her miserable and assume an unwanted victim role.

But my adamant, pugnacious stand gives me no solace. I see myself as Paul the plumber says, as my own worst enemy. I am the one who wants to be correct, or to have taken the high road, but I am also unwilling to do the really difficult work of mending fences, or in this case plastering ceilings.

Is some of this tension the price we pay for living cheek to jowl, a proximity that exacerbates the simple into major battles? For now my shower is finally working and I have not heard another complaint of water seepage. I am sure my drier will be too hot, or my flower boxes too full or if I attempt to use my mini grill on the window sill that the scent of meat will offend a vegetarian.

But for now I am trying to bask in a day that seems to be unmitigatingly sunny.

I’m using the day to contemplate the wisdom gleaned from a plumbing of the soul.


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