I went out to lunch today with a friend I used to work with, about 10 years ago. I hadn’t seen him since falling ill, and it was good to catch up again… even though my story wasn’t as enlightened as I would have liked.
After getting home, I was tidying up when I heard water splashing outside on my balcony. Bit odd that, considering that it’s a bright sunny day here today. I’ve had problems with dirty water running down onto my balcony from the balcony of the unit above before, and had asked the guy who lives there if he could put something under their potplants to catch the excess water. Yet still it kept happening, and I’ve sort of been avoiding dealing with the problem. So I wandered upstairs to knock on my neighbour’s door. Just standing there I felt a rush of fear and my heart starting to race; yet what did I have to lose in this social interaction? My planned speech went something like:
“Hi, I’m Graham from downstairs. I’m wondering if you could help me with a problem I’m having. I’ve just noticed dirty water flowing down onto my balcony from above, and I’d like to find out where it’s coming from so I can stop it”.
Fairly non-threatening kinda stuff. By the time the door opened, my heart was racing. When the woman finally opened the door, she looked frazzled and I think what actually came out of my mouth was more like:
“Hi, I’m Graham from downstairs. I’ve got this dirty water running down onto my balcony, and I’m wondering where it’s coming from”.
Not exactly what I intended to say, but still not too bad. She said she’d been inside working, and hadn’t done anything on the balcony so it must have come from above. She suggested I check upstairs. Hmmm… weird, I thought. Maybe she feels guilty and is lying to cover it up, or maybe there’s some other explanation. I was pretty sure the water was coming from the plants on her balcony.
Anyway, I wandered upstairs to the unit above and knocked on their door. Heart racing again. I got the spiel more accurate this time, and they seemed friendly: a young couple with their son. They invited me in and suggested the problem was coming from the balcony below. We stuck our heads down, and there is a polystyrene box filled with dirty water on the wall surrounding the balcony, next to the plants. I wandered back downstairs feeling a bit disempowered. I hate the way I get so nervous in conflict situations; I’ve had problem neighbours before, and I really don’t like having to deal with it. I wish I did though!
I decided I’d better face the fear, and go back to tell my immediate neighbour that the water is coming from her balcony, and ask her to do something about it. As I knocked on the door, my hands were shaking. I had to knock twice before she answered, and I told her that it looked like the water was coming from the box on her balcony. She said she hadn’t been out there, and I invited her to come down and have a look at my balcony (in case she thought I was making it up, or lying or something). She suggested perhaps a bird had got in the box, and that they like having the lorikeets come up there.
“Well is there something we can do about this, because it’s causing me a problem”, I said.
“I guess I could move it, or take some of the water out”, she said.
“Yeah, that might solve the problem. Thank you”. End of interaction.
Oh man, what a petty, minor little thing to get so stressed out about. But I can’t seem to help my body responding that way. So fearful, so annoying. It took about half an hour to calm down again; I suspect it would have been much longer if my neighbour had been more difficult to deal with and just refused to do anything about the problem. Somehow when people disregard my well-being, I get fearful instead of angry. I hate that! Stop-stop-stop!