“…Und zat is vay we need to have a biometric panel for ze stairwell doors to ze hallway for ze penthouse units.”
Brian emphatically rolled his eyes. “On top of the special button with a keylock in the elevator? What else do you want for the penthouses’ protection, Helga? Turrets? Maybe some sharks with laser beams attached to their heads? How about some beautiful fountains for the sharks to swim in?!?”
Several weeks later, I had discovered Yanis was more right about being a board member than he even knew. As recommended by our property manager Raymond, we had scheduled this condo meeting in the same garage where the previous debacle had occurred months ago. Luckily, summer was nearly here, and at least the garage floor wasn’t sapping every drop of warmth from my body. The main intention of this rendezvous was to simply introduce the owners to the new board: me, Babbu, and Brian. The majority of the building was present (along with Raymond), but we were missing the presence of a few owners. More than likely, they were frightened from the previous counter, and as it turned out, their concerns of a repeated event were well founded. There had been the general expectation of a few questions or proposals popping up, but in the immediate aftermath of Raymond’s introduction to our new building super Miguel, things immediately began to take a turn for the worse. If there was any question as to the mental instability and/or lack of common sense in our miniscule community, it was dispelled as it became evident that yet another catastrophe in the garage was heartbeats away. I would have turned to Rhonda for support, but she was helping with a charity event in the city. Consequently, I had to endure this chaos alone.
“Fuck that noise about panels,” shouted Mike in his XXL sports jersey, that performed a double duty of harnessing his belly. His girlfriend/mistress Lisa was notably absent. “What about my broken dishwasher? I’m not gonna pay my maintenance fee until that shit gets fixed.”
“Listen, shit for brains,” began Babbu, “the maintenance fee goes to the common parts of the building: the hallways lights, the garage door, the elevator repairs. You’re responsible for your own dishwasher. The building isn’t responsible for it. This isn’t an hotel, moron!” Following the last encounter, I had heard that the relationship between Babbu and the capricious cop Vinny had thawed somewhat…but clearly Babbu and Mike were destined to never be friends.
“Fuck you, Guju! I’m sick of hearing your voice. Don’t make me cover over there and give you a wedgie in your wizard panties!”
“I’m Punjabi, you idiot! Why don’t you just pull out your gat and cap me, wigga?!?”
“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” interjected Raymond. “Let’s stop this nonsense please. God only helps those who help themselves, and we are certainly not doing so right now. Helga, I would recommend that you put down your proposal in an email, and the board and I will look at it later. For now, though, let’s get to the important matter at hand. Now, a number of you have encountered some issues with leaks, yes?” Along with those of us on the board, a smattering of other affirmations could be heard from the crowd that surrounded us. “Now, Captain Richie apologizes for not being here, but as you would suspect, he’s also very curious about the matter. Being a good Christian, he wants to help you just as much as I do. In order for us to help you folks, we need to start digging into the walls so that we can figure out the root of the problem. Now, how does that sound to the board?”
All of the board members nodded in response, and Brian verbally proclaimed our collective assessment. “Sounds fine to us.”
In the same manner that a judge would hit his gavel, Raymond clapped his hands in conclusion. “Well, then! At least we’ve taken care of the important part. Moving on…”
“No! That is certainly not fine with me,” commented a small, fragile voice that struggled to reach a decibel level high enough for human consumption.
Along with the others, I was struggling to find the origin of this dissenting remark when I noticed an older couple engaged in debate and the wife attempting some kind of retreat. Finally, the older gentlemen nudged his miniature wife, and finally accepting the situation that her mouth had instigated, she stepped forward halfheartedly. She looked dainty and fragile as much as she looked formally dapper, but her eyes reflected something a little more fierce. “I said,” she spoke, raising her voice incrementally, “That it’s not fair. My name is Bertha, and we should have a say in this. We should put it to a vote!”
Raymond, who probably envisioned himself as Otto von Bismarck in another lifetime, attempted to keep the peace. “Madam, I appreciate your sentiment, but these gentlemen are your board. And according to your condo bylaws, they can make such decisions. God bless you if you have a different opinion, and you’re welcome to it…but I’m afraid that’s the way of things. Okay?”
“No, I don’t like dis eizer! Dis is not right!” Helga raised her fist above her head like a Black Power salute of the ‘68 Olympics, except without any melanin or muscle. Her older Arab husband copied her every action, so closely that I could have sworn that it was done in mockery.
“Listen, guys,” offered Brian, getting more irritated at the rising volume, “I’m not clear what you’re mad about. What exactly is the problem here? Do you want to fix the building or not?!?”
“It’s not that,” explained Bertha, with her taciturn husband looking into space. He clearly made up in apathy for what she lacked. “We just don’t like that we can’t have a say in the matter.”
“So what exactly are you asking for, ma’am?” I asked.
Caught off guard, the elderly Norma Rae paused as she tried to put together a more coherent request. After a few heartbeats, she collected herself and offered her terms. “We want a new set of bylaws, and then we want to have a new vote for a new board!”
Mike also raised a closed fist, bobbing his head up and down to some sort of beat. Maybe it was the beat of his favorite McDonald’s commercial. I couldn’t tell. “Props to you, Grandma! Hell yeah! I’m with her! Down with the system!”
“And we should have quotas that mandate at least one woman should be on the board, and…” continued Bertha.
“This is all ridiculous!” interrupted Babbu. “You’re all idiots! We’re not going to get another set of bylaws. If you don’t like it, move out of the building!”
Growing more confident by the minute, Bertha waved a gnarled, liver-spotted finger at Babbu. “This is injustice, sir! I strongly protest against such fascism. And if you don’t respond to our demands, we’ll seek justice!” Along with approving shouts from Helga and Mike, a small contingency from others echoed the same sentiments in chorus. It appeared that Bertha had quickly won over some in the crowd. As she looked around, her broad smile evinced her pleasure in so suddenly acquiring a small army.
“And with that, I say that this meeting is adjourned!” proclaimed Raymond with another intense clap. “It’s getting late, and obviously everyone is getting a bit cranky. I, for one, am starving since 8:00 P.M. is well past my normal dinner time. So, we’ll continue this argument soon enough. Okay? For now, Richie and I will look into your issue with leaks, and I’ll see all of you in a few weeks. Good night, and get home safely!”
How in the hell would we not get home safely? We’re in the condo building…are we going to die by falling into the elevator shaft? I wondered sometimes if Raymond realized half of the words that poured forth from his mouth, but I supposed that all property managers were part salesman. Nonetheless, he did know how to adroitly defuse an impending bomb, and even though people were pondering manslaughter only moments before, Raymond’s influence diffused through the crowd and converted all the wolves into sheep. It was an arcane touch that I had actually come to envy to some degree. I had planned to consort with my new board members in the aftermath of our rally, but observing that my comrades had already fled the battlefield, I decided to engage in my own rout. I had only taken a few steps when I noticed our new super Miguel approaching me. He was a small, wiry man in his fifties with blotched skin. He had the look of someone who had endured a rough life, but his benevolent countenance showed that it had never altered his kind disposition.
“Peter? That is your name, right?”
“Yes, Miguel, that’s right. Glad to meet you. Raymond speaks highly of you. So, what’s up? Need anything from me?”
Miguel nodded while scratching the back of his neck. “Yes. I need you to come with me. I need to show you something.”
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.