As a virtuous, young man—newly-married, not ready yet for children, and still naïve about worldly pleasures of the flesh—I had occasion to consult a pharmacist about the purchase of a certain safe-sex item for use at home. Sheepishly, in a voice so low the white-coated gentleman had to lean over the counter to hear me, I asked him for a box of what I needed.
“Condos?” he repeated, much too loudly for my comfort. “I think you mean condoms, sir!”
Embarrassed by the amused attention his declaration drew from nearby customers, I was forced to endure a short tutorial on the difference between condos (profitable investments) and condoms (prophylactic vestments). I never forgot the distinction, a lesson that served me well when my wife and I eventually purchased a condominium apartment.
No longer young now, nor nearly so naïve, I am living high over our shoreline neighbourhood, looking out on Lake Ontario, one of 328 suites in two towers that comprise our community within the larger community. To the east of us, the city’s glass-plated skyscrapers gleam like coppery fire at sundown each day, a testament to the vibrant metropolis we border.
We, too, are a vibrant community, with so much to offer those who care to emerge from their cliff-dwellings to engage with their neighbours. The towers share a club facility with amenities including: an exercise wing, featuring separate gyms for women and men, separate saunas, a yoga studio, a squash court, an indoor golf range, a large swimming pool under massive skylights, a communal hot tub, and a tennis court; a sizable art room for painters of all persuasions; a woodworking facility, complete with enough power tools to make a carpenter envious; a large lounge, enclosed along one entire side with outsized windows affording a magnificent view of the lake, with a massive fieldstone fireplace at one end; a billiards room; and magnificent grounds, shaded by mature trees, with gardens and ponds galore.
Gatherings in the lounge are frequent for many club activities, including bridge and euchre clubs, book clubs, a choral group, coffee klatches, knitting groups, readers in the library—and lots more besides. In many ways, the club is a social centre for the two towers. At least, it is for those who choose to take part.
One of our favourite activities is the Friday late-afternoon gathering, where residents and guests congregate for an informal cocktail party before dinner. It used to be called Happy Hour, but is known now as After Five, and everyone brings their own libations downstairs. In the winter, a roaring fire crackles in the hearth; in summer, doors are thrown open to the lake breezes. We find it a happy time, my wife and I, a lovely way to keep in touch with friends and neighbours. And nobody has to drive home!
Apparently, however, not everyone agrees with us. On our way to the lounge one day we encountered a couple in the corridor, obviously returning from grocery shopping. We didn’t know them, but it’s our habit here to offer a polite hello to all and sundry. The man merely nodded curtly in reply. His wife, pulling a laden bundle-buggy several paces behind him, must have seen the wine bottle case hanging from my shoulder.
“Oh, right,” she sniffed, “it’s the drinking night again!”
We were too nonplussed to reply and carried on to our destination, struck by the tone of disapproval in her voice. I’ve since thought of many a response I might have made, but I know the opportunity is gone. And I’ve wondered what it is that makes some people so judgmental.
On another occasion, not too long ago, we were returning from After Five, and were joined in the elevator by neighbours from our floor, people we rarely run into. They keep pretty much to themselves, but we see them out walking from time to time.
“Greetings, neighbour,” the man said, pointedly checking to make sure I’d pressed the right button for the elevator.
“Hello,” I replied.
“I see you’ve been downstairs drinking,” he continued. “We’ve been out for a long walk, our second of the day, I might add.” His wife stared at the floor.
“Wow!” I replied, feigning admiration. “We were out earlier, too. But I don’t try to walk when I’m drinking. Afraid of falling down.” It was the first retort that sprang to mind.
Silence accompanied us to the twentieth floor where we went our separate ways.
“That was childish,” my wife chided gently as we entered our suite. “But I loved it!”
It mystifies me as to why people are like that. And I can never understand why they don’t take part in the myriad activities and events offered here.
“It was childish,” I conceded. “But people like that bug me. Instead of being con-do’s, like we are, they’re con-don’ts. Where’s the fun in that? And why do they condemn us for taking advantage of what’s here?”
For some reason, these incidents reminded me of my long-ago confusion about condoms and condos, and the linguistic lesson I suffered through.
“You know what?” I said to my wife. “People like that aren’t living in a condo, or a condominium. They’re living in a condo-minimum!
And on that note, we had another glass of wine with dinner.