Are You a Peeping Tom on Your Balcony or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

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It took two weeks for Ryan and me to realize that our neighbor across the street was looking at bodies, not birds, with his binoculars. It took another week to realize that a private part of his body was waving out in public while he was doing it. And another week to realize that among the high-rise apartments into which he was aiming his binoculars with his left hand from his 14th-floor balcony, while his right hand was busy, was ours.

Now I’m no prude. I don’t care what you drink, or what you smoke, or who you fuck—as long as said fucking is mutually consented, of course. But when I’m in my own apartment, there are only two people whose private parts I should ever see, and one of them sure as hell isn’t our pervy peeping Tom. No, the 1980s dance moves flapped out by his right hand, when it was free, like a deranged Disney tiki room bird trying out for a remake of Stevie Nicks’ Stand Back video did not sweeten the pot.

As we would watch him gaze and stroke and flap for all his might, night after night at every peeping Tom’s favorite viewing hours—just before and just after prime time TV—we had no doubt why anyone would be so brazen. It isn’t as if ours are the only two condo towers on the far north side of Chicago. Other buildings in the forest of high-rises in which we live along Sheridan Road had an equally good if not better view of his nightly performances. But when you live in a 45-story apartment building, chances are no one across the street will have any idea which apartment number out of hundreds of apartment numbers is associated with your personal peep-show balcony.

And that’s a reasonable thing to assume. Unless the neighbors you’re peeping at used to live in your building—as Ryan and I lived across the street in our peppy peeper’s building until six weeks ago—and know your building’s floor plan by heart.

And especially unless one of those neighbors is me.

When I was still living at home with my mother (of blessed memory) in my early twenties, I got the shock of my I life the evening I found a toilet full of trash set at the curb in front of our house on garbage day. In 1990s New York City, you got fined for putting out large items for collection without advance notice. That’s probably why the last-minute toilet wasn’t out in front of our next-door neighbor’s house. It was obviously theirs. Not only were they renovating, but they had a stove sitting in their front yard, for God’s sake.

Using my urban planning skill set for all it was worth, I knew clearly what to do next. I opened the toilet, dug through the trash inside, and found a discarded stack of my neighbor’s mail. Then I marched next door. The conversation went like this:

—“Is that your toilet in front of my house?”
—“No, of course not.”
—“Here’s your mail. I found it in the toilet.”
—“…I’m sorry, I’ll move the toilet immediately.”

So honestly, peeping Tom never had a chance. It took 60 seconds to match his apartment number with a name, face, Facebook page—including photos taken from his balcony back at our building (creepily some including his mother), binoculars and all, Linkedin account, you name it. After another 60 seconds of pause to wonder why anyone jerking off in mid-air wouldn’t have their social accounts on lockdown, I called the police.

Of course, in Chicago our police are too busy killing unarmed black men to bother to uphold the law, so of course no one came. Not the first time we called the police, and not the second time we called a week later when the nightly performances continued. So, very tired of feeling like a prisoner behind all-day drawn curtains in my own home, I upped my game.

I called his work and left a message asking them to ask him to stop gazing and stroking and most of all flapping. (Especially the flapping. It was just bizarre.) And I told our building manager—who knows his building manager because both of our buildings are managed by the same company, and who didn’t take the news well.

We haven’t seen him out on his balcony since. This morning I found out why. On my way to the mail room, our building manager let me know our peeper’s condo board didn’t take the news well, either. “They’re gonna fine the hell out of him,” he told me.

Good. Because there’s no excuse at all for violating the privacy of peoples’ homes for sexual sport. That’s just creepy and disgusting. Calling his work and his management company doesn’t even begin to address the sense of violation he caused Ryan and me, and I’m sure some of our neighbors as well. As far as I’m concerned, that’s getting off easy. How easy?

He’s lucky I didn’t call his mother.

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