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.
In the last instalment, I wrote about the harassment we faced regarding Barkley and we met the Kingpin.
I also made the decision that I needed to run for the board to help solve our financial crisis and I knew I could only guarantee my seat by trying to get votes from both sides.
I had barely had a chance to announce my candidacy, when I was faced with another string of letters from property management claiming that I owed thousands of dollars because of the flood (which was proven to be the building's fault) in my unit. In case you don't remember, my own insurance covered the damage to my own unit, but they wanted me to pay for vague miscellaneous repairs to the common elements, for which they had no receipts.
It was at this time that I remembered that I had made a deal nearly a year before that I had not felt very good about. I had promised to sell my unit and quietly leave the building (which had been our plan from day 1) as long as they stopped harassing me about the flood. I suppose that by running for the board, I was actually breaking my end of this icky bargain.
Now things were different though. Instead of feeling harassed and scared, I was angry. Angry that the board and property management had emptied our bank accounts and angrier still that they misrepresented the financial situation on my status certificate. At this point, Corey and I would not even be able to sell our upgraded unit for what we originally paid for it. By now, I was in real estate and it upset me to see property values increasing all over the city while they slid backwards in our building.
As far as I was concerned, they could bring it on!
A DIFFICULT CAMPAIGN
Okay, I didn't actually campaign. I couldn't risk opening my mouth and offending either side, so my "strategy" was to smile and be polite to... well, basically everyone. It was challenging, to say the least, and I learned to smile and grit my teeth when my neighbours made ignorant and even bigoted remarks. With my eye on my goal, I reminded myself that this was necessary, not just for our financial safety, but for the well-being of the entire building.
Anyway, the days passed and the letters "reminding" me that I "owed" money kept coming. Then came "reminders" that unit owners in arrears would not be eligible to serve on the board of directors. For once, I tried something new and just ignored them. I didn't acknowledge them at all and basically called property management's bluff. This turned out to be the right move because they didn't stop me from running in the end.
Then, strange things began to happen. A couple of times we arrived home and found that we had a funny feeling that someone may have been in our unit. Once, the door to our bedroom (where Barkley stayed during the day) was open and Barkley was running loose in the unit. I should note that Barkley is of average dog intelligence and is by no stretch able to open doors.
To this day, we will never know if anyone entered our unit. We knew our super (below) had a key and we did catch him entering our unit without permission when he thought we were at work one day... But I'm not making accusations since we really do not know for sure. I will say that Barkley was sick for days after that incident and that we were really anxious for a long time afterwards.
I know someone will ask so I'm going to go ahead and mention that yes, we considered buying a NannyCam. We considered it very seriously, actually. We ended up deciding that we did not want to live in paranoia and I was fairly certain that we would be looking for a new property management company in the coming months. That was my plan, anyway...
These days, when Corey and I think back to life in the condo, the word I most commonly use to describe that chapter in our lives is "strange". Those were some very strange times and, at this point in the story, we are just beginning to scratch the surface...
One evening, Corey and I decided to conduct a massive purge and cleaning of our unit. I was feeling liberated since I had decided to take control and run for the board and I wanted to clean our home and clear my head. We arranged our unwanted things in bags for donation and trash... You know, like normal people do. What we hadn't expected was our first encounter with The Raccoon!
The Raccoon was actually a unit owner in our building. She earned her nickname by going through the trash behind our building and collecting other people's junk. Now, I like a good bargain as much as the next gal, but I draw the line well before dumpster diving!
In case you're wondering, The Raccoon is also known for pouring the contents of giant pots in the bushes surrounding the building in the middle of the night... You're probably wondering if it was actually a cauldron instead of a pot... I don't think I'll ever know, but nothing would surprise me about that building. I REALLY wish I were joking about this, but I'm afraid it's all true.
On this particular evening, we didn't actually see The Raccoon. We were quite alarmed to find some of our garbage bags missing entirely and others opened and sorted through just a few minutes after we left them INSIDE the large garbage bin. We were pretty upset to think that one of our neighbours had actually climbed into the bin to retrieve our garbage and was likely at that very moment sitting in their unit, sorting through our trash. I tried to recall whether I had thrown out anything personal or embarrassing. It gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. After that night, I did two things consistently: I always shredded my mail and I waited to toss our garbage until I could add a dose of Barkley droppings to the mix... for good measure!
We learned later that it was likely just The Raccoon stealing our garbage. Apparently the rest of the building accepts that she sorts through people's trash. I say "just The Raccoon" because I believe she is a strange, sour woman who is likely a witch but probably not an identity thief. This discovery was actually quite a relief. Looking back, the fact that the building was full of so many weirdos that people just accepted that one of their neighbours would routinely crawl into a trash bin to steal their waste, is really unsettling.
Finally, the evening of the AGM was upon us and I gave my speech and awaited the vote. I didn't dare look at either side, although I was acutely aware that they were both staring at me.
On one side, there were Alex and Dee Dee.
I had essentially abandoned this side, but I hoped they still believed that I would do the right thing and fight to remove our property management company. I needed their proxy votes to win.
On the other side, I could see the pinched faces of Myrtle, Grizabella and Irene either smiling or snarling at me (I couldn't tell which). Kingpin was absent once again. She preferred to hand in a proxy and let her cronies do her dirty work.
I hoped they trusted me enough to gather proxies with my name. They thought I was one of them and, in my defence, my intention had not been to take sides. I knew I would do what was fair and what was right.
The property manager I called "Luca" left the room with two scrutineers. This was good, since I wasn't convinced he could count and, even if he could, I didn't trust him.
He looked upset when he reentered the room. This was a good sign. He read the names slowly:
Myrtle - This wasn't a surprise since she was an incumbent.
Dee Dee - Luca clearly wasn't happy.
Alex - This was good news... there were other people running but now it appeared that it would likely be either me or Grizabella. She was an incumbent but I hoped I had an edge.
He almost spat my name. I knew right away that he had deliberately left me until last. The sheer hatred in his eyes told me that I'd won a seat on the board... and I suspect he was still confused by the sheer number of votes I had received, which I learned later.
Both sides had voted for me. I was in!
Over the next few days I received a call from Kingpin offering to have a talk with me to explain the history of the building politics. She made it clear that she wanted to take me under her wing and explain why we should keep our current property management company.
I politely told her that I planned to form my own opinions and would learn the politics myself. She was shocked, and I thought I detected a hint of a threat in her response. I no longer cared.
I waited for her cronies to begin threatening Barkley again...
... But the threats never came.
I began to think my transition to board member may actually be easy. I had a few hiccups, but nothing as bad as I had expected. One such "hiccup" was my first talk with a former board member who had not been reelected. This is how I remember her:
I'm going to go ahead and call her "Dentures" because once, she was yelling at me and threatening to sue me and everyone else in the room and her dentures almost fell out, causing her to look more like this:
Anyway, "Dentures" is one of the few people who truly scared the stuffing out of me. This is mainly because I was pretty convinced she had tried to put some sort of curse on me.
She wasn't the only person in the building who seriously gave me the creeps (more on that later) but let's just say, a large reason I stopped using our underground garage is because I feared that this scene from Drag Me to Hell might actually happen to me. In case you're wondering, I am not the only person who thought this.
I remember Alex expressing sheer relief when I told her that I fully intended to terminate our property management company. I assumed she had known how I felt, but I suppose I had been a bit of a wild card in their minds.
We began to form a plan. We wanted to fire them, but we didn't want them to have enough notice to do any real damage to our building. We would need to be particularly careful with our bank accounts. It felt good to finally have allies.
We knew it would be an uphill battle, but finally we were three strong!
... Which was good, because we knew what we would be up against.