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.