A look from the outside
The tall many storied window shaded brick building stood silently, silhouetted in the sunset, providing motherly shelter for hundreds of her cubs, yawning for attention. The common domicile occasionally brought together divergent personalities, either in a cacophony of arguments or the sweet symphony of harmonious togetherness, unlike their counterparts who are fortunate enough to enjoy home ownership.
That is not to degrade many of the benefits of apartment living. For example, no taxes, oil heating bills, and free maintenance of appliances and stuffed plumbing are some advantages. However, tolerance of certain lifestyles and their excesses must be treated as pluses and minuses. The judgment of King Solomon is management’s top intriguing challenge. Behind those shaded windows and locked doors, tranquility or internal family strife may prevail; or sounds of boisterous partying can tax a neighbor’s patience. Most tenants though, lived quietly and comfortably, their cooperative lifestyles being respected. A sense of humor blended with strength and empathy confront the few who stray.
One morning, the door to the Acme Realty office suddenly burst open and an over excited disheveled old man ran past the receptionist and came to a sudden halt before our manger’s office.
“What kind of a person would send me a letter like this?” he shouted, throwing a wrinkled note on her desk; his eyes blazing.
Carlotta, a veteran buffer between tenant and management, easily had the skill of a boxing referee and was psychologically prepared to separate truth from fiction, or anything in between.
“A soft answer turneth away wrath.” She would rebuff her critics; whether it would work this time, she wasn’t sure.
“Please have a seat, Mr. Bender.”
“I’m mad as hell,” was his answer to her several attempts.
“It can’t be all that bad. Why don’t you tell me all about it?”
Her compassionate manner soothed him more than she expected, and much to her surprise.
“Excuse my language,” he said squinting angrily, “but that insulting bitch upstairs has no pity on my old bones. I’m partly deaf, and have got to play my T.V. loud, while she bangs on the ceiling with her broom. She has wild loud parties, but that’s okay with her. In her own words, ‘she wants that old bastard thrown out’,” he said pointing to the letter.
“Mr. Bender,” answered Carlotta, “we are aware of past complaints from both parties. We have threatened her with non-renewal of her next lease. The only suggestion I have is for you to use an earphone attachment to your T.V. Try it and let me know, it may solve your problem.”
“I don’t like wearing earphones, but I’ll try. She doesn’t deserve my cooperation.”
Carlotta became serious, “Please remember, that when there’s trouble between two tenants with no solution, our policy is not to renew the leases of either party. It is the only practical way to promote peace and quite among close neighbors. We take no pleasure in asking a tenant to leave. It is regrettable, but necessary. We will continue to monitor the situation and hope you first try my suggestion. Mr. Bender, I hope you don’t find it necessary to come up here again. But if you do, please announce yourself first to the receptionist.”
He apologized and left, still grumbling.
Eddie, the superintendent, was busy early that day. An unusual number of leaky faucets and running toilets hit him all at once, and was driving him and his helper crazy.
“Harry go up to 3G and 4F, I’ll take 1A, in the other building.” Eddie was very handy and liked his work. The lady in 1A opened the door and stood there like a posing model. Her peek-a-boo negligee and neatly coiffed hairdo added to the picture. Most tenants that early in the morning usually wore hair curlers, frumpy bed clothes and hidden sleepy faces.
“Where is the problem Ms. Castro?” asked Eddie, wearily, but business like, trying to ignore her appearance. “Oh, it’ right in the bathroom,” she answered coyly.
Eddie walked through her neatly appointed rooms as she followed behind. He entered the bathroom and searched everywhere all around. “No leak or running toilet here, Ma’am.”
“Oh, it was leaking before,” she whimpered. “I’m so sorry, can I offer you a cup of coffee for your trouble?”
Eddie hesitated, “If that’s all you have in mind, I accept.”
She faked a pouting expression; angered at his rebuff. “I’m sorry I bothered you,” she said, “just get out of here.”
“I’ll leave, but first hear me out. Ms. Castro, there are about a hundred young women in this complex. They easily make a cadre of volunteers to form an in-house harem. I need this job, but in no time I would be out of work because work and this kind of play don’t mix. It could easily destroy me. It is one of the hidden drawbacks of this kind of job; not what most people might suspect. I hope you understand.”
“Get lost.” She was furious over her rejection and smirked. She was a girl who burned her bridges behind her.
The following day, things were quieter, until a tenant called the office, and spoke to Sally, the receptionist.
“I don’t know where it’s coming from lassie, but there is a strong smell o’ gas in me apartment,” Mrs. Branaghan spoke with a thick Irish brogue and held her nose for emphasis.
Sally leaned back in her executive chair and rolled her eyes before answering slowly, “Mrs. Branaghan, this building is all electric. There is no gas in any part of it.”
“Well begorra, I don’t care what you say, sure as God made little green apples I smell it all the time.”
“I’ll send Eddie over to check it out,” she said in a comforting tone.
“Mrs. Branaghan, don’t be afraid, it must be something else.”
Carlotta thought Sally handled it very well and refrained from butting in.
After Eddie’s retreat from Ms. Castro’s grasp, he returned to the office for another assignment.
“That Castro woman is a piece of work.” Carlotta interrupted, “I just got a call from her, Eddie, “she says you forced yourself on her and fondled her and, ‘what kind of people do you have working here.’ She wants you fired.”
“Ms. Castro,” I said, ”these are very serious charges.”
“Were there any witnesses?, I asked her.”
“Of course not,” she said. “I live alone and he knows it.”
Eddie’s jaw dropped, “Carlotta, when I got into her apartment there was no leak or running toilet. The only thing that needed fixing was her brain. I never touched her. That is really her only complaint. You know I have been here several years and have seen tenants prettier that Castro . . . ever had any complaints about me before?”
Carlotta didn’t answer right away. “I believe you. But the owner’s want full details of serious charges like this one. They want to protect themselves and you, if they feel you are innocent.”
“That’s okay with me. I’ll stand up to any investigation.”
“You have my vote, Eddie,” said Carlotta encouragingly.
The matter was swept under the carpet for the time being.
Eddie’s next stop was to calm the fears of Mrs. Branaghan. He met her as she sat on one of the low brick retaining walls that protect her ground floor apartment entrance. Aware of her basic good nature, he ribbed her with “sure and begorra me fine lady, and what would be on that pretty mind today. Mrs. Branaghan couldn’t resist his shenanigans.
“The very ‘divil’ you are me laddie boy,” she replied in kind. “But would you mind steppin’ inside and tellin’ me what yer nose tells ya?”
This time she stretched her full four foot ten inches up to her full height, her arms clamped on her challenging hips, daring anyone to doubt her.
“Of course, my lady,” he answered, captivated by her lilting brogue. He knew he would smell nothing, but kidded her.
“I think I know what it is. It’s the hip switch on the rotating bi-focal in the boiler room, he reported seriously. “I’ll have it fixed in a few minutes. Off he went; problem solved.
On to the next tenant. This one of a serious nature. He approached Mr. Cadullo after a knock on his door. Cadullo himself, only partly dressed responded, and bade Eddie enter.
“What can you do for me? I don’t remember calling.”
“It isn’t so much what I can do for you as much as what you can do for me, Sir.”
“What do you mean; what can I do for you?”
Eddie couldn’t believe that Mr. Cadullo was not aware of a major deviation in his conduct.
“Mr. Cadullo, this is a very personal matter, which embarrasses me no end. I am receiving complaints from your neighbors across the courtyard.”
“What about?” asked Cadullo, innocently unaware of anything he might have done.
“Frankly, Mrs. Pescatore says you have been mooning out of your kitchen window, directly into her living room window.”
“Eddie, I feel I have a right to express myself. It’s guaranteed in the bill of rights in our constitution. It gives me great satisfaction.”
“Can’t you find better ways to express yourself,” asked Eddie, holding his temper down, hoping his ears were playing tricks on his senses. “If you are a student of constitution, so am I. I just re-wrote it. It now says “mooning is prohibited. Why don’t you put the Mona Lisa up in your window so everybody can enjoy it. That might give your ego a greater trip.”
“Let’s stop kidding. Mr. Cadullo, cut it out or not only will your ass be out the window, but it will follow you right out of the door with the rest of your stuff, By order of the Supreme Court of the United States. Does that sound legal enough?”
Mr. Cadullo reared back and grimaced fearfully. “You think you’re so smart. Before I finish with you, I’ll have your job.”
Eddie knew he was dealing with a sick man, and left. On his way back to the office he stopped at Mrs. Pescatore.
“He’s not sick,” she laughed. “He said ‘I’m going to take Eddie’s job.’ I can do much better.” Eddie knew he had a sick contender.
Carlotta had a new project ready for Eddie.
“You know the man in #365? He’s been fine up until now. It seems he has a dog in his apartment. People hear it yapping. Drop over there and see what it’s all about.”
Eddie first refreshed his memory of the lease and met the tenant, Mr. Hardy who was out front on the steps sunning himself and keeping him company was a puppy sized dachshund, also sitting beside him.
“You know you’re not supposed to be sitting on the steps, Mr. Hardy. What’s that sitting beside you?”
“Oh, that’s my married daughter’s dog. She and her husband are on vacation, and they asked me to babysit him.”
“You know we don’t allow dogs under any condition. Why did you agree to do this?”
“Well, it’s only one week, and anyway, it’s not my dog.”
“Sorry, but even King Tut’s dog wouldn’t be allowed here. Get rid of it. I don’t want to see it here tomorrow; and don’t try to hide it. That will make it worse for you.”
“That’s not fair. What harm can a little puppy do?”
“That’s not the point. I know how you feel, but the rules are for all of us. If we allowed that, the place would be swarming with dogs and cats, and maybe worse. Many people like it here because we don’t allow pets. Management is very strict about this. I’ll check with you in the next couple of days.”
Ms. Wiffle, in #305, a comely librarian furtively knocked on the Acme Realty door before entering, “May I come in?”
“Of course,” replied Sally, surprised at her temerity.
“May I speak to the manager, if she is not busy?”
“Maybe I can help, you?” offered Sally.
“I’m sorry, but no thank you.” she replied. She seemed repentant about having to bother anybody.
Sally called Carlotta, “Go right in Ms. Wiffle.”
“Ms. Carlotta,” she said, seating herself nearby. “This is a very delicate matter. I’m very embarrassed.”
“I assure you, Ms. Wiffle,” confessed Carlotta, “There isn’t much I haven’t heard in my position. You can speak freely.”
“Oh, I have nothing to hide. It’s about Ms. LaPancha upstairs over me, and her visitors.”
“Do you mean they make a lot of noise?”
“No, it’s the kind of noise,” answered Ms. Wiffle, afraid to explain further.
“Ms. Wiffle, If you want me to help you, please remember I’ve hard about everything in my work, so speak freely please. What kind of sounds are you talking about?”
Ms. Wiffle chose her words carefully. “They seem to be engaged in conjugal bliss, If you know what I mean - they can’t control themselves.”
“I’ve heard those words before,” said Carlotta. “You mean their activities disturb you?”
“It’s not so much the rocking bed;” said Ms. Wiffle, “it’s their obscene language.” She leaned forward and whispered, “You see, just between us two, I’m a virgin.”
Carlotta guessed that. She could not resist a whimsical suggestion “The language of love is intended for lovers; abrasive to some, but conducive to others. Have you knocked on her door? She might invite you in for a drink. I’m just kidding,” said Carlotta. “Just because you’re a virgin doesn’t mean you can’t have a sense of humor. Do you have any suggestions, Ms. Wiffle?”
“I don’t see what I can do,” said Carlotta without waiting for an answer. “As you say, it’s a very personal matter. You might try ear plugs.” Ms. Wiffle left, perhaps doubtful as to the value of her virginity.
Carlotta hoped she had put the germ of an idea into her head.
And so, we dealt with life, beleaguered at times, embellished more often than not. I have spent many years as an observer. I am still bewildered by the unending variety of pressure points that should guarantee failure of the helter skelter of the unplanned mayhem we call living. Any set of pre-planned hopes for such may be broken at the outset, better left that way, perhaps. Bending our beloved Ten Commandments when you think of it, provides most of the eager gossip that keeps the world turning in spite of all of the half hearted efforts to restrain ourselves.
As an experienced property manager of a large group of high-rise apartment complexes; and as an amateur psychologist, I have long a go given up forming an analysis of the many facets of everyday living that motivate a person’s drive beyond his work.
I must admit that I remain hardly any the wiser after so many years, in that respect. But, it has held my fascination like nothing else.
It may be that in the futile search I have found my own raison-d’etre and that the truth of God’s wisdom has always been, and still is, man’s guiding light from the very beginning.