COVID lockdown has been extended again and we are all cooped up in our apartments. Suddenly very mundane things become highly interesting. Like our neighbors for example. Usually I just say hello in the courtyard or have a small chat about the weather when picking up a package. But with lockdown and the accompanying limits on social contacts the neighbor’s comings and goings are what motivates me to get up in the morning. I have become what we Germans call a „Fenstergucker“, someone who stares out of the window all day. Here are my observations about strange boxes and garbage bin mysteries.
The eager package collector
There is one neighbor who tries to collect all packages. Usually the delivery driver deposits packages for the other tenants with me because I am still on parental leave and mostly at home when he rings the door. But lately I packages deliveries for neighbors have dropped off. Before I can even get up and buzz the delivery driver in he is already in the courtyard. Someone must literally sit next to the intercom buzzing him in the instant the door bell rings. Maybe he watches from the windows to see the truck first.
Next time I went straight to the balcony to get a clearer picture of what was happening. The package collector actually leaves the apartment to catch the driver outside before he can deliver any packages and so pounces on the chance to grab all the wonderful boxes from Amazon and Co just so that other people have to go to him to get their deliveries. This is certainly one way to have a social circle and some small talk when all you do is remote work alone at home. Thing is I want to be the center of our blocks social package circle but because he lives on the ground floor he has got me beat to it.
The paper trash mystery
Because all shopping is now online people produce lots of paper trash from cardboard boxes and filler. The paper bin is chronically full. Every fortnight the garbage truck comes and empties the bin. A few hours later it is filled up halfway again. I had to solve this mystery so I woke up early on bin day and sat down next to the window overlooking the courtyard. And lo and behold the package collector from before came out very early in the morning with a huge stack of cardboard boxes which he began to methodically cut down and fold flat before depositing them into the bin. What is he ordering all day long to collect that many boxes? I need to find out.
The secret garbage police
I am so bored that I am taking a real interest in other people’s trash. I always try to decipher the addresses on empty boxes to see where and maybe what people have ordered. Someone always throws away pizza cartons, others get groceries delivered from a certain company and another person throws away invoices and letters without shredding them.
It is very wrong but with ongoing lockdowns the temptation to grab and read those letters grows. It is probably just ads, bills and other such trivialities but still much more riveting than television nowadays. The biggest question though is this: Who threw away the box of „long lasting“ condoms (i.e. condoms with a numbing agent). Which neighbor suffers from premature ejaculation? I have to know. My wife and I regularly spend time discussing the issue and formulating theories on who it might be.
The BIG box
A few days ago someone ordered a very big box. I already had a suspect made out but her alibi was impeccable. Someone living on the top floor ordered the big box and with big I mean big enough to store a small adult upright. The poor delivery guy who had to carry this box upstairs. I enlisted the help of another neighbor to find out what was in the box. Because there is only one thing more exciting in a pandemic than snooping on your neighbors it is snooping with someone else. I think the big box culprit has ordered herself another human being.
What better way to smuggle someone through quarantine, social distancing and contact restrictions than having someone delivered by DHL. People nowadays do call the police when they see their neighbors having a fun time with visitors. So maybe it is good idea to slip the delivery driver some money to help out. The friend in question boards the truck a few blocks away and hides in said box. The delivery driver wheels the box through the courtyard into the stairwell where our visitor emerges out of sight from witnesses to meet with the invitee. No one is the wiser. Or maybe someone got a good deal on face masks with a minimum order of 10.000 pieces?
A trip to the basement
My little daughter is just ever so slightly bored right now. So I have invented a new adventure for her. A trip to the basement. Our basement has two entrances so we can enter one stairwell and exit another. It is a wonderful adventure for her. It is dark, it smells funny, there are crooked corridors and dead ends, the room that makes weird noises (i.e. the heater) and other exciting objects.
For me the basement is the closest I can get to visiting a mall. It is a long corridor with small compartments on either side that I pretend are retail outlets. There is this one store with vintage furniture, a hardware store with garden section, several electronics outlets (with proudly displayed TV packaging), a sporting goods store and a small food court that serves a nuclear war compliment of bottled water and tinned foods. There is even a store where someone sells handmade concrete sculptures. How wonderful. I do miss other shoppers though. But on the other hand no one cares if I buy without paying.