Monday, July 27, 2009

so, the Chinese super of my apartment building...

...doesn't speak English. And that's totally fine with me since I've hardly really needed him for anything crucial other than the two times I stupidly locked myself out of my apartment. In one case, he called the landlord, who translated, and then allowed me to climb out of his bedroom window, up the fire escape, into my bedroom window. (If anyone is reading this now and thinking it's easy to climb into my bedroom window, be warned--it's now locked.) In the second case, he wasn't home.

I run into him 3 or 4 times a week, and he always greets me with a "hello," and a nod, and I do the same. Then we share 15 to 30 seconds of awkward silence. If not for the language barrier, I'd say things like "So, how's it going?" and "Love the paint job in the hallway. The gray was a lovely choice." Or even, "What's with your love of boiled cabbage? You're a nice single guy--but the smell HAS to be just a little off-putting to the ladies." And I'm sure he'd say things like "Why do you keep locking yourself out of your apartment?" and "Why does your neighbor insist on smoking in the hallway even though there are 'no smoking' signs all over the walls?" Or maybe even, "Look, you seem like a nice, respectful girl. But would you and your lover mind toning it down at 3 in the morning? It sounds like you're gonna fall through my ceiling and I really need to get some rest."

But alas, those conversations will never happen. OR WILL THEY? Well, I have a mustard seed of hope.

On Saturday, I ran into him as I was walking up the stairs to my apartment, and he paused, as if calculating something life-altering in his head. And then, like a child with a slight--almost undetectable--speech impediment, but with remarkable eye contact--he blurts out "Hi. How are you?" I responded in my usual sweet manner, "I'm well, thank you." I didn't realize until I stuck the key in my front door that the super and I had just had a conversation. Yes, "Hi. How are you?" is a casual phrase that people pass around so frivolously that it's rather meaningless in most cases. And he could very well have had the ability to say it all along, and maybe felt that I hadn't yet--until now--earned the right to the "how are you" portion of his day-to-day greeting. I say all this to say, it was more verbal communication than I'd had with him in the whole year and change I've lived there--and a sign of respect, I suppose.

Anyway, it gave me great pleasure, so I figured I'd share. When I see him again, I'm going to stop him and say "lei ho ma?"--the Catonese version, of course. Let's hope he doesn't speak Mandarin...or get offended...or think i'm trying to flirt with him. Uh oh, I think, I mean...I hope, I mean I'm almost certain I locked my bedroom window...

10 comments:

sidereal74 said...

are you and your lover that loud??? poor jen

Chubbs said...

hannah?? is that you?

sidereal74 said...

hahaha, that's an old gmail account - i didn't realize i was signed onto it...am i the only person who knows jen's name, who also reads your blog?

sidereal74 said...

you're too funny

Chubbs said...

yes, you are.

etoilee8 said...

This was so beautifully written. I've missed you. Please continue you writing. You're too good at it.

cheekynomad said...

what a pretty story, gotta love nyc

sidereal74 said...

yes, i agree, what's happened? it's been months! don't tell me nothing's gone on that's blog-worthy.

tickets! xoxo

£ said...

chubbs come back!! i miss you!

Jules said...

haha! i was kind of smiling while reading this. :) I was on a similar situation with a person who speaks a different language nextdoor :D

- Jules -
Soloden.Com
The Brown Mestizo