Condo Survival : Part 4

Remember, these are just the events as I recall them. They are my own interpretations of events. My memory is not perfect and I don't want to be sued.

A New Life

The night of the Annual General Meeting passed and, I began to feel less icky about the deal I had made.  I also began to distance myself from Alex and Dee Dee, not because I didn't like them, but because I didn't WANT to like them.  I didn't want to know my neighbours or hear about their problems or have to rehash all the stress of the past several months. 

I am very sorry to both of them for abandoning them back in 2010.  I have never even told them how sorry I am... but they will read it here on my blog... and they will understand... because they eventually did become my friends.

I just wanted to live my life in peace.  I let myself forget that their battle with the condo was far from over... I even began to forget that our building was broke!  I'm not proud of any of this, but I figure that if I'm selling everyone else out, I should be honest about my own shortcomings. 

I distanced myself from all the people who were having secret meetings... especially the ring leader.  I told myself she was just cuckoo... although, I knew in the back of my mind that many things she said were likely true.

... And this is the danger of complacency.  My problem was solved (forget the larger problems created by our depleted reserve fund) and I just didn't have the energy to hear about other people's issues. 

Slowly, we completed the final repairs from the flood, and we began to live in and even like our home.  Complacency.  One day, we decided it was time to add to our family. 

Our New Addition

We brought Barkley home from the rescue kennel during the first snow storm of the year.  We knew we were permitted to get a dog, according to the building bylaws... and yet, somehow we also had a funny feeling he would not be well-received by many of our neighbours.  We decided to pretend that we had adopted him a few weeks earlier, because people tend to react better to things that are not brand new.  Little did we know that the majority of our neighbours would fall into three categories: 1- Our enemies, who would use Barkley to intimidate us; 2- Nosey neighbours who felt they should have been consulted before we got a dog; and 3- plain old run-of-the-mill animal haters.

As we grew more and more attached to Barkley, we began to notice the snide looks and whispers from our neighbours.  Some people would exit the elevator as we got on... Some would close the elevator door in our faces so we couldn't get on... Some would back away screaming... I'm not joking.  Our shy, well-behaved dog (who was growing healthy and handsome in our care) didn't seem to notice that he was the talk of the town, but it was beginning to bother his owners.

The Complaint

One day, we received our first official complaint from our Super. Remember him?

For all his faults, I do think he liked animals.  Unfortunately, that didn't stop the witches errr, board members, from manipulating him. 

He said there had been some complaints about our dog barking while we were at work.  Apparently, one unit owner was "concerned" that our dog was being abused.  We were shocked, horrified, upset, worried... you name it!  Was Barkley really upset all day while we were at work?  How could someone think we were abusing our dog?  Could the building try to force us to get rid of our dog???

We told the super that we would be happy to speak with the unit owner(s) who had complained and that we would do everything possible to get the situation under control.  He gave us a name we had heard many times...  It was the Kingpin!

Our Introduction to the Kingpin

The Kingpin lived several floors above us and, according to building lore, she was a puppet master who controlled the entire building.  I had head many rumours about the elusive woman.  Some said that she was related to the property manager...  Some said she was 9 feet tall.  Others said she knew all the board members from outside the building and brought them all here one by one.  I even heard whispers that she didn't really need that cane (think Verbal Kint from The Usual Suspects) and had faked a stroke (after bankrupting the building to wallpaper the hallways) so that she could threaten to sue the condo corp for the stress caused by the angry residents who disagreed with her decision.  These are the things people said... At the time, I didn't know what to believe. 

Until then, I had never seen her.  My friend "Alex" once saw a delivery truck stop at the building in the middle of the night with hundreds of boxes full of empty jars, but we weren't sure what this meant.  At this point, she was still a mythical building being... A mythical building being who apparently liked to make jam... A LOT!  At least, we hoped it was jam she was putting in those jars.

When Corey and I first stepped into her unit, we were almost knocked over by the fussy decor.  There were drills and doilies on every surface, and The Kingpin sat on a couch and beckoned us to sit down.

We looked at each other, gulped and took a step inside.

"Welcome" she purred.  "I'm disappointed that you didn't bring your puppy."   Despite the fact that she was expecting us, she seemed to be dressed in a nightie.  She was nearly as tall as the rumours claimed and she seemed to ooze confidence authority from every pore.  We immediately became aware that she also believed that she owned the building.  We weren't sure what to believe... so we played along.

She quizzed us about our dog and kept implying that she was worried about abuse.  Somehow, her "concern" sounded more like threats.  She kept pressuring us to give her a key to our unit so she could watch him during the day while we were at work.

We were polite to her but we didn't have the patience to bring Barkley to visit her several times a week as she had requested.  Somehow, we had been sucked into some sort of weird universe where we were also somehow under her thumb...

I remember once, running into a board member in the parking lot.  She looked down her nose at me and then glanced at Barkley and said "So this is the dog who's been causing so much trouble...  Bring him here!" and she actually ordered me to bring my dog over for her inspection.  I obeyed and actually tried to explain that he was actually very well-behaved and happy.

When I think back to how easily I was bullied, I'm not proud of how I reacted.  Perhaps I was too naive or just too polite... Perhaps I just thought things would blow over if I was nice.  While I wish I had been strong right from the start, I think it's important to see that most of us aren't.  I needed to be pushed toward... and maybe past, my breaking point before I began to wake up.  I didn't know it at the time, but the last straw was just around the corner...

Waking Up

Then the phone calls began and I would receive calls from her while I was at work pressuring me to come home because Barkley was crying.  This caused me constant stress and I still couldn't really understand exactly why this woman intimidated me, or why I was putting up with her.  I suppose we were worried that she would report us as animal abusers or lobby to get Barkley kicked out of the building... she had sort of threatened both.

Corey and I still weren't convinced that Barkley was actually a problem.  We knew he whined a little... but we weren't sure we believed he was crying all day.  We thought about installing a Nanny-Cam... be we decided that was crazy.

Finally one day, we gave in to one of her constant requests and let her watch Barkley for a couple of hours while we attended a nephew's birthday party.  She insisted on coming to our unit to watch him as opposed to letting us drop him off to her.  "Do you think she just wants to snoop around our unit?" Corey asked me.  "Probably," I sighed.  We had nothing to hide so we locked our private files and put our valuables in our safe and just resigned ourselves to the inevitable snooping as we let her in to watch Barkley.

I'm going to pause for a second to acknowledge that YES I know how crazy this sounds.  We were bullied into letting some crazy women we didn't like come into our home and stay there unsupervised with our dog and all of our stuff.  INSANE!  I can see this now, but we couldn't at the time.  Neither of us would ever be thought of as weak-minded by anyone who knows us but it just demonstrates how much that building changed us.  We were really living in a different reality in the condo and, after being harassed constantly, you kind of just want to be on good terms with the people who have the power. 

The condo was like a study in human nature and social interactions... Trust me, if I were a psychologist, I would write a thesis on that building!  Okay, that's the end of my rant.  To summarize, I know letting her in was a crazy thing to do but she pressured and harassed us for so long and our privacy had been violated in so many other ways that we just sort of stopped caring.... When you're under stress and you feel threatened, your mind can play tricks on you.  Don't worry though- It wasn't long before we started fighting back.

Where was I?  Oh yes... so we let her babysit Barkley one afternoon... Obviously, he didn't need a babysitter, but she insisted.  I'm sure she went through our drawers, our files were locked, and I didn't really care if she wanted to sort through our socks and underwear. 

We arrived home to find her in the living room and Barkley looked pretty relaxed.  We breathed a sigh of relief and chatted politely while we waited for her to leave.  While we were out, I had begun to realize the gravity of the situation and it scared me to see that my perspective had shifted so much that I no longer felt that I could choose who was welcome in our home and who was not.  Upon realizing that I was actually relieved to discover Barkley unharmed, I became very angry... at myself and at the Kingpin.  I knew then that I would never let her in our home again.

After some small talk, she finally decided it was time to leave.  As she was walking out, she sort of implied that Barkley bit her.  Another threat to hold over our heads.  At that moment, I saw red.  I knew my dog and saw his calm demeanour and I heard the hesitation in her voice.  I knew very well that she was lying.  Corey and I said (almost in unison) "No he didn't!" and we practically shut the door in her face.  Thank goodness my protective instincts (Barkley's my baby... even if he isn't a person.) took over.  They forced me to wake up.  I believe that is the last time I spoke with her in person.
A Decision

The calls from the Kingpin kept coming but we had decided not to entertain any more threats.  I was abrupt when she called and even on the verge of being impolite.  Still, I towed the line and made sure not to burn that bridge... something told me I would need it.

Instead of a massive complaint and battle to kick Barkley out of the building (which is what we were expecting) the calls began to become less frequent. 

One of the last calls was probably the creepiest... I saved it on my iPad because I found it upsetting.  In her message, the Kinpin mentions that she hasn't heard Barkley cry for a long time and she questions whether something dreadful might have happened to him... It upset me because I was concerned that it could be a threat but Barkley is alive and well and still hogging our bed to this day so I think we're safe.  Here's a recent picture:

The summer waned and we began to think about the AGM (anual general meeting) on the horizon.  There were going to be four board positions up for election and I hadn't forgotten about our depleted reserve fund.  While I hadn't attended a secret meeting since I made the deal with "Dan", I knew which side I was on.
In the past months, while I had been focused on my own life and issues with Barkley, "Alex" and "Dee Dee" had still been fighting to get rid of our property management company.  I had distanced myself from them selfishly because I had thought my own battle was over... this actually ended up helping me though because, in order to guarantee a place on the board, (Keep in mind, I was young and people in the building hated my dog and thought I was a troublemaker!) I was going to need votes from both sides.
As in most condos, the elections are won primarily with proxy votes, since it's hard to get people to show up for meetings to vote in person.  I knew "Alex and Dee Dee" would collect proxy votes for me because they knew I was not a fan of our property management company.  I knew they would do this without my even asking.  I didn't ask them... I needed total distance if I were to gain the trust of the other side...
Befriending the Enemy
And so I became friendly with the incumbent president (who was also up for election) and her cronies.  I knew these were the women responsible for the current state of the building... but I also knew that they had many residents (including many who were elderly or couldn't understand what was happening) in their pockets. 
Believe it or not, I struck up a friendship of sorts with these "ladies" that would eventually win me a seat on the board.  They came over for tea and confided which men in the building they were attracted to.  They were lonely and it was difficult for me not to feel pity for them.  I had to remind myself that they were making decisions that were dishonest and causing financial ruin to the other building residents.  Sometimes it's difficult to remember that bad people are people too and some of them even have sad lives.  A challenging life does not excuse selfish actions.
By now there were even rumours that the property management company was deliberately keeping property values low and gearing up to cause a special assessment of such magnitude that every owner would be forced to sell for peanuts.  This theory was sounding more and more plausible considering the prices in the rest of the neighbourhood.  I pushed onward... not because I'm mean or enjoyed pretending to befriend these women, but because I had no other choice. 
Finally one day, the president of the board (let's call her "Myrtle") and her friend and fellow board member "Grizabella" approached me and suggested that I consider running for the board.  Jackpot!  they had done the math (as I had hoped) and realized that that if  "Alex" and "Dee Dee" were elected... and they joined forces with "Crazy Robert" (below) who was already on the board, they would have three votes out of seven. 
"Myrtle" and "Grizabella" had an ally who was not up for reelection (I call her "Irene")...
But they still needed one more person they trusted to maintain a majority.  Kingpin liked to maintain a low profile and preferred to have her minions do her dirty work... That left one person to be their fourth and help complete their evil plan...

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