Columnist Eleonore af Schaumburg-Lippe writes in her weekly column about life as an expat in Romania. This week she writes about the administrator Mr. Dinosaur and saying goodbye to the Guard of the building Mr. Nightwatchman.
Living in a block here in Bucharest, you can meet Mr. Dinosaur, kind of looking and behaving like an extinct species, always a bit slow in his movement but with a fierce look in his eyes.
Mr. Administrator, whose job is… well I actually never found out what he was there for, he was only there a few hours a day, and then he would ask for a monthly administration fee. When I asked him to fix a light on the stairs etc, nothing happened, so I told him I wouldn’t pay the fee until the light worked – one month without paying and there was light on my floor again. Otherwise he would just sit in his box, looking at me, but not saying anything as I passed by.
One evening as I came home, this older greyish man came out of the administrator box, and tried to stop me, he asked in Romanian in a strict tone, what I was doing, my name and which apartment number I was living in. I got a bit surprised, because who was this man, that appeared out of the blue, and asked me these questions, I didn’t see why I should tell him anything so I responded in English: I will not tell, buna seara! (Romanian for Good evening) My answer seemed to upset him, but I repeated my answer and walked up the stairs.
The days passed by and the greyish man was there every evening, so I guessed he must be Mr. Nightwatchman, he actually seemed quite harmless and often bored. He reminded me a bit of my father, since they seemed to be around the same age (72). After a while Mr. Nightwatchman turned into a true gentleman and would run to open the main door for me and always be helpful. So I began to say hello when I saw him, he didn’t speak a word English and I hardly understood his Romanian, so not much small talk was possible.
But once Mr. Nightwatchman “saved” me from a “Killer pigeon”. Next to my bathroom window there was a shaft, where there would be pigeons. I have a sort of pigeon phobia, not of all pigeons, only the scary “Killer pigeons” living in this shaft, since they look mutated, maybe from eating dustbin food and who knows what.
One evening I was at home taking a shower, suddenly I heard a strange sound behind me, and as I turned around I saw a pigeon with yellow eyes. Yes it had yellow eyes !!! Sitting ON the window sill in my bathroom. I had forgotten to close the window, and it was actually in my bathroom and just looking at me like a psycho pigeon from the Hitchcook movie.
I screamed and ran in fear out of the bathroom, I listened at the door heard pigeon-esque noises, so I began to flick the light on and off, thinking that it would scare the pigeon away. I called some friends, but they laughed and told me to go in and ‘fight’ the pigeon. Wild horses wouldn’t have dragged me into the room. “What to do?” I wondered, and eventually decided to get dressed, and run downstairs, find Mr. Nightwatchman and try in my best Romanian to explain that I had a pigeon in my bathroom, and if he could please get it out. I was not sure he really understood, so I did a sort of pigeon dance for him, saying pip pip pip. He got that something was wrong, well maybe he thought I had gone slightly mad, anyway he went up to my apartment, into the bathroom, and luckily the pigeon had gone. It had flown away again, what he was thinking I will never know, but I said thank you, and he left again.
Life carried on, now with a closed bathroom window. I would still see Mr. Nightwatchman once in a while in the evenings, and the usual hello hello greeting continued.
Then a week ago something funny happened. I came home in the evening and as I entered the building Mr. Nightwatchman looked surprised, woke up and said, “Hello Eleonore.” I didn’t know that he knew my name, so I just said Hello, and as I walked up the stairs to my apartment, I could hear him singing my name Eleonore, Eleonore, over and over again. It was kind of odd, but on the other hand kind of funny. I was thinking that I should tell him that I would be moving out of the apartment in the coming days, but how to say that in Romanian?
Some days later I was in the middle of my moving process, late in the evening, and my Romanian friend, who was helping me move, and I were walking down the stairs carrying boxes, when suddenly I heard a voice – it was Mr. Nightwatchman. I didn’t understand what he said, maybe he thought we were thieves. I turned around, so he could see it was me and I asked my friend to tell Mr. Nightwatchman that I was moving out. Mr. Nightwatchman didn’t seem happy, and he said something about me being special, he also tried to say something to me on the stairs but I didn’t understand. So I and told him that I would return the following evening and say goodbye.
The next evening, we were back again to move the last things, and Mr. Nightwatchman asked if we needed any help, at a point he said pip pip pip – I had no idea what he meant, then suddenly I remembered the pigeon story, which clearly he hadn’t forgotten. I think both my friend and I signaled that we wanted to focus on the moving project and as we drove off with the last boxes, he stood in front of the door, waved goodbye and I must admit I almost felt sad, as I hadn’t said a proper goodbye and thanked him for his help. So I have resolved to go by the old apartment one evening and give him a box of chocolate or maybe a food basket and say goodbye and thank you.
By Eleonore af Schaumburg-Lippe, columnist
Eleonore is Danish, she holds a BA in Organization and Management and specializes in Corporate Communication & Strategic Development. She is also a Market Economist and a Multimedia Designer. She is currently working in Bucharest as the Executive Director of UAPR the Romanian Advertising Association. As a Danish Viking in Romania, with a great passion for ’covrigi’, she has a burning desire to find out more about Romania especially Bucharest, and enlighten the small differences in the culture between Denmark and Romania.. Her weekly columns will give you insights into an expats life in Bucharest written with humor and a big Danish smile.
(photo source: sxc.hu)