Condo Survival : Part 8

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 our last instalment, our Super (and neighbour) had just died rather tragically and suddenly.  It was a very sad time, although we admittedly were happy to have found the source of the smoke and rancid cooking oil smells which wafted into our unit on occasion.

The Aftermath

Some of the "ladies" who had served on the former board (and kept the Super in the proverbial pocket of their out-of-date cardigans) took up a collection for a gift for our former late Super's son... although many people questioned whether any of the money would actually reach him.  Keep in mind, these ladies were rumoured to have used building funds (before my time) to rent zip cars to go shopping at Yorkdale and pick up some holiday decorations for themselves the lobby, so the skepticism was justified.

Meanwhile, "Crazy Robert" (Remember the guy who was obsessed with the building keys and was discovered passed out in his underwear in the gym while it was locked for repairs?) saw an opportunity to get his hands on the master keys for the building.  We (my fellow board members and property management) gave the Super's girlfriend time to find other living arrangements but Corey and I caught Crazy Robert banging on the door to this Super's unit to try (we assume) to gain access to the keys.  Other owners overheard him mumbling about the keys and wondering whether I might have them since I was the board president.  Creepy.

Actually, I did anticipate a situation like this and I made a snap decision to take the keys on the evening that Corey and I called the ambulance.  What Crazy Robert didn't know is that I knew he would start looking for them, so I handed them to our property manager the very next day.

It was around this time that Corey and I noticed that he would wait for us in the underground garage.  I always worried that he was hoping to encounter me on my own.  He seemed to know our schedules, but I would never park underground without Corey, so I never gave him the opportunity.  We remember walking into the garage at about 6:15 one morning and seeing him speed away on his bicycle leaving a hot cup of coffee on the hood of his car.  He had clearly been waiting for something... Or someone.

I began to feel more and more paranoid and I often remarked to Corey that I couldn't believe how unsafe I felt in my own home.  I often wished that I had never joined the board and had retained a low profile, but I also knew I was working towards something good.

Luckily, there was still work to be done, so I was pretty distracted.  After scrutinizing the budget, it was clear that it would be much more cost effective to hire a company on contract, rather than a live-in Super.  Not only would we not be responsible for insurance, benefits or making arrangements during extended illnesses, if we could rent (or better yet, sell) the unit which had been designated for a live-in, we could deposit the proceeds in our reserve fund!

I knew it would be a difficult pill for the former board to swallow, since they had enjoyed many perks when we had a live-in super and I'm certain he spent plenty of his time repairing and updating their units and harassing people they didn't like... but it was time for a change.  Alex and Dee Dee stood by me as we explained the necessity to the other owners.

Of course, the former board members were up in arms, trying to rally the other owners into protesting.  They used fear to try to convince the seniors that we were somehow safer with a live-in super.  They ignored the numerous reports of our former super being off-site or intoxicated during business hours.

Still, numbers are numbers and we just couldn't justify the expense of another live-in super... especially after our research showed us that buildings our size rarely employed  live-in staff.  They threw tantrums and screamed that things would break and we'd all be robbed, but it only made me feel a smug sense of satisfaction that I was able to help the building and take away a toy they seemed to love so much!

It's important to note that after the Super died, I don't recall anything major breaking again during my time in the building.  I hope it's coincidence, but I can't be certain.  While he was alive, and our former property management company was in power, expensive things seemed to "break" all the time...

Finally, we hired a new super.  He seemed really keen to learn and he took a real interest in our building.  I
knew that I didn't really want to be involved, so I introduced myself to him and made it clear that he should take instructions directly from the property manager and not from individuals...even me.  I wanted him to have a fair chance to just do his job without being forced to take sides.

I hoped that by keeping our Super neutral, neither side would object to him as long as he did a good job... And I knew it was important for building morale that we try for a little consistency.  Of course, the former board members quickly tried to take him under their wing and explain "how things worked" in our building.  They also used his eagerness to try to convince him that part of his job included doing favours for them and getting involved in petty disputes between neighbours.

The Clock and the Questionable Painting

Our new Super seemed naive and perhaps a little... clueless... but he was pleasant and always seemed to be working hard so I supported him.  He did seem to have trouble understanding that I was not his boss.  I suppose I had given him a number to contact me once when he had some questions but he began calling and texting me several times a day to check his work.  I assumed that he was just someone who likes direction and praise, so I just kept reminding him that it was not my job to check his work... At the time, it was a bit  of a nuisance, but not a huge concern.  After dealing with all the weirdos in the building for so long, it was just refreshing to have someone nice around.

I do recall several instances of the Kingpin (remember the Jabba the Hutt lady who "ran" the building like a mob boss before I moved in?) and her cronies trying to take advantage of him, but my favourite is the story of the clock for the lobby:

One day on my way to work, I walked past one of the former board members (Kingpin's cronies) trying to convince the Super that we needed a clock in the lobby.  This group was constantly "redecorating" and trying to add things to our common areas without permission and it was one of my biggest pet peeves.  "A building cannot function in such a communal manner," I tried to explain to them one day.  "If everyone added just one small thing to the lobby, it would soon look like a rummage sale!"

Of course, my reasoning fell on deaf ears and it wasn't even really about decorating anymore, this was just one of their many power trips.  Anyway, the cronie saw me walking by and asked very sweetly about the clock.  As much as I would have loved to have said something cutting and harsh...

I wanted to try to set an example by being diplomatic and reasonable.  I told her that I didn't think it would be a problem, and I would send a quick email to the board for approval so that one could be purchased.

"No need" she purred.  The Kingpin had already purchased one to donate to the building.  Knowing the Kingpin's style could be described as "geriatric chic", I asked her cronie to bring it down for the Super to place in the management office so we could see it first.

She could barely contain her contempt for me, but she agreed.

Of course, the Super texted me a couple of minutes later to tell me that after I had left, she had insisted that he hang it right away.

As fate would have it, I had forgotten something that day and I had to run back to my unit.  I met the cronie on the elevator back down and she was holding a clock in a box with an envelope taped to it.

Seeing the envelope reminded me that the Kingpin was notorious for "donating" items to the condo and then asking demanding to be reimbursed.  "What's in the envelope?" I brazenly asked.  She barely looked me in the eye as she admitted that it was a receipt.  I was so appalled by her sneakiness over something so trivial that I just glared at her and told her to take it back upstairs to the KP and to tell her that our condo would not require any more of her donations

The questionable painting incident happened months later, but I'll tell you the story here.  Basically, there was a fugly canvas painting in the lobby that looked like some sort of modern art version of a gun.  Modern art is very personal... but it looked out of place and sort of violent and malevolent and, well I suppose it was completely appropriate for the lobby of our building.  I hated it but didn't care to change it.  

This all happened just before we moved out.  I had resigned from the board by then and the new president decided she would get property management to remove the ugly painting.  Not only did it leave a giant rectangle on the wall it had covered for years, but building residents started going CRAZY!  

Our property manager told me that the closest comparison she could make would be if you had walked into an old-timey asylum for the criminally insane and switched all the furniture around.  She said building residents were literally lined up at the door to scream at her!  More than one claimed it had been a family heirloom and wanted it back (including, you guessed it, KP) and many others didn't particularly like the painting but wanted it back nonetheless.  She confided to me that it was the craziest reaction she had ever seen and looked horrified and a little frightened when I jokingly suggested we just toss it in the trash.

Too Close for Comfort

Anyway, the painting incident is a little off topic because it happened so much later.  Let's get back to the Super who was quickly starting to bother me.  I began to ignore his calls and address his texts more firmly.  More than once I found myself with him in the creepy basement when he had some sort of question (What shade should I paint the gym?) or emergency (Do you know where the shut-offs are?) and I vowed that I would not be in a room alone with him again... since he was starting to make me uncomfortable.

He seemed to know when I was home and I felt like I would run into him every single time I left my unit.  Perhaps it was just the feeling of unease I already had in the condo, but I began to feel really unsafe.

One day, Alex mentioned to me that she had come to visit me on my floor and had seen the Super down the hall vacuuming the same square of carpet over and over and just staring at my unit.  I was torn between wanting to say something and questioning my own sanity.

Eventually, he was fired after he tried to lie to his own boss (he was an employee of the company we contracted) in an effort to renegotiate his contract.  I had nothing to do with his employment (and I hadn't even been informed yet of his termination) when I began receiving a series of text messages from him.  

He was pleading for his job and telling me he was going to be homeless without it.  I ignored the messages, but he kept sending them.  A part of me was sad and worried for him but I was also a little frightened by the tone of his messages.  He seemed to think that this was my responsibility and I was worried about a scenario like this:

I hoped the messages would stop but one day, Dee Dee called me to her unit to play a voicemail.  Apparently the Super had called her as well and in his message, he explained that he was waiting outside our building.  We reported the incident to her former employers with the request that he not contact us again.  I like to think that he was just a regular guy with temporary insanity caused by whatever was infecting the rest of our building.  Luckily, we never heard from him again.

Prepping for Another AGM

Eventually, it was nearly time for another AGM, with more board positions up for election.  My own position was safe, but there were three members with expiring terms and I was fearful that if the other side gained a majority, all our work would be undone.

KP and her cronies mumbled thinly veiled threats at me in the hallway, and I knew they had already been campaigning.  They had done the math too and knew that with some good fear tactics and a smear campaign, they could once again run the building.  I feared their first order of business would be to bring back our former property manager, who would continue their plan of bankrupting the building so they could purchase the valuable land.

For once, I felt real hatred for them.  I'm not proud of it but I just wanted to beat them more than anything.  The building felt like a bubble... so far away from real life and real priorities.  My world inside felt small and I became obsessed with not letting them win.

I knew they would be lying about our side and I hated the idea of campaigning, because it meant interacting with people in our building.  

At this point, I basically ignored everyone whenever possible.  I (along with Alex and Dee Dee) had saved the building from bankruptcy, what more did they want from me?  I walked around on my cell phone so that I would never be forced to make conversation in the common areas.  I know it was obnoxious of me, but I was also sick of hearing everyone complaining all the time.  No matter how much we did for the building, some people would never be satisfied.

Dee Dee and Alex campaigned within the building.  We found some candidates who were at least neutral parties... Which is all we really wanted.  Any normal person capable of making a reasonable decision would fit the bill.

I offered to call non-resident owners, since I felt like they may be more willing to hear my logical arguments.  Some of them were articulate and receptive, which encouraged me.  Others were bat-s&#t crazy and accused me of stealing their money.  I wish I had been blogging then because I've forgotten some of the crazier conversations by now...

We collected as many proxy votes as we could, but we knew the other side had done the same.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) with everything that had happened, many people refused to sign away their votes and decided to attend the meeting themselves to hear what we had to say.

I decided to write an introduction and recap of the past year of board business.  I figured, if people were coming to hear the truth, I wouldn't hold back!  I was (of course) afraid of being sued for slander after so many threats from the other side and former property management company... But at this point, I was more concerned that should the meeting go poorly, my work may have all been in vain.

I crafted a speech carefully and was surprised to learn that even the "short" version spanned five pages.

The Annual General Meeting

As the meeting drew near, I grew more and more nervous.  Not only would the outcome determine whether all my work had been in vain, it could also mean that our condo investment would quickly tank.  We knew the other side had planned to levy a HUGE (think 30K per unit) but unnecessary special assessment.  Keep in mind, that this would mean that we not only owed 30K, our property value would likely plummet and we would lose all equity in our condo.  We had assumed that this would be a good opportunity for the former property management company to swoop in and purchase every unit in the building for next to nothing.

On the evening of the meeting, Corey gave me a pep talk.  I was acutely aware that the outcome of the vote would likely be determined by what I had to say.  I knew the other side would lie through their teeth and had already been spreading rumours about my dishonesty and motives... I had the truth on my side, but my experience with many residents in our building told me it may not be enough...

As I walked into the room, I looked for friendly faces.  There weren't many, but those who were there were loyal.  Most of the room was more curious.  I noticed KP's cronies grinning smugly.  They seemed confident.
I looked directly at Corey and Alex who, although a board member, had chosen to sit with Corey so that she could support me from the "audience" if they became hostile.  I took a deep breath and began a little shakily.  One of KP's cronies interrupted me right away and I looked to Corey and Alex... There was so much riding on this and I was truly frightened that the wrong outcome would bring us financial ruin.  They smiled and nodded for me to go ahead.

I took a deep breath and began again... Stronger and more confident this time.

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