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Hardship allowances for the ground-floorers: The pain of living on the ground floor

Lady Speak

If you live in a storeyed building, or if you have lived in one, then you know that the people who occupy the house directly above you delight in dragging furniture endlessly, especially when you are just settling down to watch the 7 or 9 o’clock news bulletin. Or your favourite show.

The heavy furniture is dragged across the smooth concrete floor, making horrible screeching sounds that permeate through your ceiling, and causing discomfort to your teeth; that uncomfortable feeling in your teeth that comes when you hear certain unpleasant sounds.

There, with your tongue slowly running over your teeth and jaw angrily clenched, you cluck your tongue, a long, drawn-out cluck, and you glare at the ceiling for a long time with your legs stretched and crossed atop a table, toes twiddling, your back leaning on your sofa, and one hand holding the remote, asking God if your peace and happiness really matter.

The children enjoy banging pans and sufurias and iron sheets on the floor using hammers, and dropping big padlocks every nanosecond.

They’ll pause to run around, and you’ll hear every step they make as they run, “Du! Du! Du!” Then every seven minutes, a loud thud will be heard.

Someone has fallen down and probably fractured their skull. Again. Or someone has dropped an empty, plastic water tank. Again. Or a full mtungi of gas has, very mysteriously, just fallen down and rolled from the kitchen to the living room. Again. You can actually follow the sound of the gas cylinder as it takes that leisurely (st)roll to different rooms in the house.

And you stare at your ceiling for a long time, with tears springing from the corners of your eyes, and you tell Jesus that this weapon formed against you is really prospering, and ask him, again, if your feelings matter at all.

The occupants of the house directly above mine do carpentry and metalwork as a side hustle in their houses, where they construct coffins in what usually seems to be a last minute rush to beat a deadline because the deceased is being buried tomorrow.

They lumber timber, saw wood, and hammer nails into planks of wood as if they are building Noah’s ark. They weld iron, smelt metal, and make gates and window grills in their bedrooms at 10pm. They even have that machine ya kunoa kisu, which they use to sharpen their many, many knives, whenever I need some peace and quiet.

They split rocks with giant mallets and drill boreholes in their living rooms, as though they are preparing a farm for planting season. I will hear a tractor tilling and cultivating their sitting room floor so that they can plant maize. Or sweet potatoes. At times, I can swear that my upstairs neighbours are constructing a six-lane mega-highway to ease traffic in that house, because I can hear a bulldozer bulldozing around, shovelling marbles and rubble and whatever other construction material.

This is beginning to make me age drastically and be grumpy, like some of the civil servants I see in Government offices whenever I go there to find someone who's willing to listen to me complain about my life.

Some of them are old people; weak, tired, and frail, who should be resting and enjoying their pension at home while bonding with their great grandchildren. These geriatrics will take forever to notice that I’m there, because they have poor eyesight and their spectacles aren’t helpful, and so I have to announce my presence like villains in movies. But, because of their advanced ages, they have developed aural impairments, and are, therefore, hard of hearing.

So I have to really shout that announcement. They nod off while I’m explaining to them the purpose of my visit, and I’ll have a difficult time guessing whether they have fallen asleep or peacefully died in their seat, making me resort to looking around for another civil servant who is awake, or, at least, alive. They will wheeze and cough violently when they reach for the bottom drawer to get some forms and the physical strain caused by that action will trigger a bad cough, and they will need some time to recover, hence the words, “rudi kesho”. And the queues at their desks are the longest. For obvious reasons.

If you (have) live(d) on the ground floor, you know that the people who live in the house above yours, after doing their laundry, will pour two or three karais of water at their balconies to clean them. Hygiene is good. Cleanliness, I've heard, is next to godliness. But then, there is that ka little pipe that drains water from their balconies. This ka pipe will always be strategically located just above your door such that when the person in the house above sweeps off the water from their balconies, your doormat and slippers get wet.

And because you use a paraffin stove which, after cooking, you have to put off using a  handful of water, then quickly take it outside ikatolee moshi na huko, it will also be soaked in water. And as if that is not enough torture for a ground-floorer, this dirty water from that ka-pipe usually has large deposits of rice or sukuma wiki or spaghetti or ugali, which land on our doorsteps. And traces of grated carrots too.

There should be hardship allowances, provided by the landlord, for the ground-floorers.

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