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The horror upstairs



I once lived in a crowded split-level house in downtown Toronto that was overrun by 10 university students. There was a jam space in the basement suite next to ours that housed a rotating list of maladroit punk rockers annihilating their instruments every single day. The tenants must have been vampires. They'd mill about until the wee morning hours, banging stuff and carrying on, their voices floating through the thin walls of the house and into my room.

The worst of them was the tenant living directly above me. She was 20 or so, with a Susan Boyle haircut, the snout/build of an English bulldog and, I can only assume, rubber mallets for legs. At all hours of the night, she'd pace back and forth and it seemed that the floor - my ceiling - was going to cave in. She kept me up most nights, dragging chairs, playing music, walking around - just, y'know, living . She was ruining my life.

It wasn't entirely her fault - the house was a structural nightmare - but from this, I developed an acute irritation to even the slightest household noise, especially at night, and especially that of footsteps above me. I left that dump in March, moved to Vancouver and vowed to never, ever, ever live with roommates again.

And then I moved to Whistler. Finding the right spot at an affordable price is like a rite of passage in this town, usually discovered through word of mouth and only if one has the right connections. I do not. Nor do I have $1,200 to spend on the one-bedroom suites advertised in this paper. I viewed a dozen or so places before settling in a master bedroom with a view of Alpha Lake in a Twin Lakes Village townhouse inhabited by two Grateful Dead fans. Life is great - except there's a third roommate. And he lives directly above me.

I hadn't met him before my first night in my new room but, based on the heavy thumping at 2 a.m., I gathered he must be some kind of ogre. The house was built in the 1970s and the floorboards creak with every step. Naturally, I spent the night cursing this stranger, sweaty and irritated, vowing to one day (and soon) live alone in a shack in the woods and never get married, never have kids. Never mind companionship, a man needs sleep.

The next day, I played over in my head how I would tell this stranger that his mere existence above me was driving me absolutely insane. I would approach him with a cold 12-pack of Old Milwaukee, offer him one and say, "Hey, once midnight rolls around, would you mind just meditating or something?"