The Existential Expert on apartment block awkwardness … and a lazy strata manager

The Existential Expert responds to your questions. Photo: Pixabay/LEEROY Agency.

Our beloved life guru covers some of the perils of apartment living, including the awkwardness of constantly running into the same neighbour.

Q: Dear EE, 

I live in a busy block – and for some reason, I’m constantly bumping into a chick about three floors down, by accident. One of us is always heading out to work and the other will be going to put the washing on the common line or heading to the shops. Neither of us enjoy this too much – actually we both find it really awkward. But we just keep meeting each other. At the beginning we could sort of acknowledge it by saying stuff like “we’ve got to stop meeting like this” – but it’s getting to the point where I make an embarrassed “tsking” sound with my mouth and she kind of looks at me with resentment like it’s my fault. Like, back off. Do you have any advice on how to break this awkward voodoo? 


Via email

Dear Pamela, 

This is a pervasive issue when it comes to communal living. Despite what romantic comedies would have us believe, opposites typically don’t attract in these confined spaces – mild awkwardness and a vague antipathy does. 

There’s no telling why or how this works. Perhaps, in your case, you share some sort of deeper spiritual connection – the spirit in question being that of a grumpy introvert. 

Short of abseiling down the side of the building to avoid this person, probably the best way to break the curse is to actually will yourself to really want to meet them. Therefore, as the perverse cosmic order goes, you won’t. You may actually cheat fate – or at least confuse it a little – and meet someone a bit more convivial. 

This will take a certain degree of concentration and persistence.

In the meantime, there may be some merit in practicing things you can say and do in readiness for meetings. Clearly making strange noises with your mouth – like going “huh!” or “tsk!” as if to indicate broadly the vicissitudes of an amoral universe – is only going to work for so long.

It can also be misinterpreted. Is it possible they think your discomfort is being blamed on them – not the universe? People can take these things so personally.

Why not alleviate a little awkwardness through distraction? Consider stunt-falling down the stairs, recreating a classic sketch from the Two Ronnies or a boisterous rendition of a tune from the Gilbert and Sullivan songbook.

All the best!

Living together in close proximity can be bleating annoying. Image: Pixabay.

Dear EE, 

I have recently started renting in an apartment block with two laundries housed in the basement. 

One laundry is used by the so-called strata manager who seems to only manage to take the bins out once a week. 

The other laundry is shared between the other 8 apartments. 

Everyone has their own washing machine and one apartment has a dryer. 

It is an electrical disaster waiting to happen with wires and hoses criss-crossing every which way. 

Not to mention an environmental nightmare with all those 1.5 star appliances. 

I wake up at night anxious about it. 

What should I do? 

Annie from Ashfield 

Via email

Hi Annie,

In all seriousness, it seems like a situation which – if you hadn’t already done so – you should raise with your landlord, estate agent and/or the strata committee. 

Uh duh, we can hear you say – “what else ya got?”

And, yes, let’s be honest – when it comes to things like strata committees, people who rent are typically granted all the consideration and respect of an errant pubic hair in the building’s communal area toilet. 

If you’ve got a lazy strata manager, that’s really annoying – but on the flip-side these people are often anal obsessives, so at least you don’t have to put up with their power-tripping.

It might help your cause to inveigle your way into the heart and mind of a sympathetic committee member or at least an owner with a bit of heft. What sort of influence that involves is up to you. You may simply want remind them that with great power comes great responsibility. Or – our favourite – you may want to seduce them with the power of dance. 

Ultimately, if they don’t do anything – and you still feel unsafe – we recommend contacting the Tenant’s Union of NSW. Aside from the right to a good night’s sleep, you are entitled to live in something that’s not more likely to catch fire than a wicker man.

We hope you get a good resolution for this! 

A panacea for uncertain times, The Existential Expert is a forum where the Sentinel addresses the essential questions, you – our readers – have posed. After solving all manner of quandaries, our beloved EE is now taking a well-earned break, with plans to return early in the new year. In the meantime, a very merry silly season to you all!

Disclaimer: The advice provided in this column is no substitute for professional advice and should not be treated as such.