What It’s Like to Live in a Condo

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life 10
A teddy bear. It's cuter than a picture of a condo. Image: Wikipedia, who else?
Teddy. Image: Wikipedia, who else?


That picture of a teddy bear has nothing to do with this post. It’s just that there’s pretty much one decent picture of a condominium on Wikipedia and I used it the other day, so why not go with an affable-looking stuffed bear, instead? That’s what I said.

On Thursday, they shut off the water in my building from floors 9 through 21, starting at 9:00 in the morning and going till 5:00 or so. This wasn’t arbitrary. It’s not like the management got pushed too far and said, “We’ve had it! No water today!” or anything like that. No, it was just that maintenance needed to be done on the pipes or something and that’s how it goes in a mid-rise condo building.

I took a shower real fast (it was 8:44 a.m. when I remembered this was happening) and filled up two bowls of water so that I’d have it if I needed it later, which I absolutely did because I ate chips and had chippy stuff on my fingers. When I rinsed my hands in the sink with my water reserves I felt very Boxcar Children and congratulated myself for probably being the kind of person who could survive against all odds.

The whole temporary-water-shut-off thing got me thinking about how some people who live in a house or in a smaller apartment building might not know what it’s like to live in a condo building like mine, smack dab in a big city. After all, I don’t know what it’s like to own a whole house in the country. I have questions about that, like, “What’s it like to have a basement?” and “How often do you need a new roof?” and “Is it illegal to not cut the grass if you just don’t feel like it for 20 years?”

Therefore, just in case you’ve always wanted to know, here’s a list that maybe gives you some idea of what it’s like to live in a mid-rise condo building (mine = 20 floors) in downtown Chicago. This is not a complete list and I’m going off my own experience in this building, of course.*

1. You have to wait for the elevators, sometimes.
2. There’s a rooftop patio or deck, usually, and you can go up there and hang out and look at the sky and the city.
3. If you have doormen, they are your friends, hopefully. (I have doormen and they are my friends and their names are Stanley, JC, Roosevelt, William, and Victor.)
4. There’s a receiving room. And a smaller room with all the mailboxes. If you’re really, really lucky, there’s a mail chute.
5. It’s really stinky in the alley behind the building where all the dumpsters are from your building, the ones next to your building, and the pizza place and the 7-Eleven.
6. You have a programmed fob on your keychain that opens a series of security doors. The fob looks like a disk and it makes the locks go from red to green when you wave it over the thingy and then you can open the door.
7. Sometimes the water gets shut off for maintenance. (See above.)
8. There is a maintenance staff and they are usually men but not always. (All the maintenance staff here are men and they are all my friends, too, just like my doormen, and their names are Leo, Miguel, John, Richard, and one guy whose name I can never, ever remember, ever.)
9. There’s a garbage chute on every floor. Honest, I still get a thrill when I take out the garbage because I get to use the garbage chute. It’s magic.
10. I pay an “assessment”, which is on top of a mortgage. An assessment is a fee that covers the doormen, the maintenance guys, the on-site management stuff, the whirlpool cleaning, the elevators, etc., etc. The assessment in my building is really high. I can’t talk about it.
11. There are bike rooms. My bike is down there, safe and sound, and Claus has a bike down there, too, because he moved back to Germany and couldn’t take his bike. Anyone wanna buy Claus’s bike?
12. You don’t meet the vast majority of your neighbors, but if you live in a building long enough, you meet a few of them.
13. There’s a vending machine in the basement!
14. There’s a fitness center down there, too, but it’s scary so I don’t go in.


15. It’s wonderful to live in a condo building, if you’re into that sort of thing — and I absolutely am.


**I don’t write about things that don’t interest me, but I’ll admit I was surprised just how fun it was to write this. It was simple. Simple and physical. Perhaps what’s surprising is that no matter how many times I learn and relearn that “simple” and “physical” is the best kind of writing, I have to learn it some more. 

10 Responses

  1. Bette Vogel
    | Reply

    My son used to live in the Amli building with the dog floor. He would frequently remind me to take the fob when I took the dog down. If I forgot it, I could NOt get back to his floor but would have to go down to the lobby, explain myself and ask for help.

  2. Kathryn Darnell
    | Reply

    Good column but honestly uou had me at “Boxcar Children”. Whoa! Escape back to Torrance Public library and run my fingers over all those wonderful books. Thank you dear lady, first thing in the morning you started my day with a smile and TODAY I got a sweet glimpse of something that was such a treasure when I was a little girl.

  3. Emilio
    | Reply

    I miss garbage chutes.

    I don’t miss assessments.

  4. Anne
    | Reply

    By the way, whatever happened with the hot guy from the Receiving Room?

    • Ann Bailey
      | Reply

      I was just thinking about him the other day – what happened to him, Mary?

      • Christina
        | Reply

        The world wants to know!

  5. susan
    | Reply

    A dog floor, Miss Bette, how cool is that! Did they have a size restriction on the dogs? Was it a lower numbered floor? I love the idea of a dog floor.

    Thanks for sharing condo life Miss Mary. I/m not sure I could do it except that now I know about a dog floor.

  6. Wanda Rains
    | Reply

    I live in a farm house in the country. The house was built in 1920. There are huge trees surrounding the house. It has big porches, a basement and a third floor. Door mans name is Bob. Maintenance is an on going problem. Maintenance guys name is Bob. Bob has held these positions for 40 years. Good employee.
    Loved the walk thru of your condo living.

  7. Doug Geyer
    | Reply

    Hi. Nice blog segment. Our condo is 8 stories, with no doormen, but many similar experiences. Didn’t know you were back in Chitown. I signed up again to your blog . . . I first heard you poetry on . . . . Indiefeed. I listened while commuting on the Metra. I was so into on poem, I forgot my stop. That’s a while ago.

    • Mary
      | Reply

      Wow! That’s really cool, Doug. Thanks for coming by. 🙂 Mary [say hi to Mongo!]

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