A lot can happen in the world when you are inside looking out , and your view from inside will
be distorted .
Hi there Fellow Ostomates and Slainte ( sla - n - te ) Galelic for Health .
I've had quite a few challenges which showed me the power of the human survival instinct . even when we think we have had enough and want it to end there is an instinct for survival which often keeps the fight going .
After getting my J-Pouch I needed to do something that would minimize my stress levels .. I got raised eyebrows when I mentioned
my reasoning on this subject . Many people would think your stress levels would be increased to an intolerable level by babysitting
60 or 70 people as an apartment Manager .
In New York the manager is called The Super(intendant) . . This species is an angry , stressed branch of the family tree , simply because they have to deal with a lot of careless people and children who never follow any rules - " the Super will clean it up " .
In Manhattan , the Manager has a whole crew to supervise , the money is great but the stress would be intolerable . Deferential behavior
is a requirement and the kissing ass aspect of the position would be a step too far for me .
In San Francisco I had a place in Pacific Heights . Pacific Heights is the pinnacle of " Old Money " in San Francisco , well one of the
pinnacles along with Nob Hill , Sea Cliff ( BIG Bucks ) and several other wealthy enclaves which seem to be insulated from the everyday existance of the City . Pacific avenue or Broadway ( next Street ) is like a different world compared to any other street in the vicinity .
If you live and work on that street you never have to encounter City Life , no tourists , no homeless people , no street people , no liquor stores with noisy stoned people outside and I might add , very few people who are not some shade of white in skin colour . I have never been able to fully and convincingly explain the last statement but that is a dfifferent conversation . One thing I will say is that I gave out no more than five or six applications to non-white American people out of thousands of applications . I simply had a sign hanging outside the door for anyone to see .
Anyway . This was a relatively young building , maybe constructed the 60's so in relatively good shape . The Plumbing was modern , the Electrical system was modern , appliances etc . There was no central boiler for heating , or system for Air Conditioning . All these factors meant that the building almost ran itself with very little intervention required . The achilles heel of this type of the situation is the Tenants , they can destroy your life and make life not worth living if you allow it .. Control has to be established from the beginning , for your sanity .
People in this type of area , whether they have money or not , may think they are special - strictly because the are residents of this neighbourhood . Many do not " have a pot to piss in " but they have some nice clothes , maybe even a nice car . Every penny they make goes for the car and the rent and the few " special " outfits . They might live on beans and toast , if they can afford the beans , but they play at being special . The point is that no-one is special, even if they do have money , this is the required attitude in this atmosphere . People are generally nice and quite pleasent if that is what they are confronted with , People will generally be as nice to you as you are towards them but I did develop great patience .
Repairs or jobs could be done by me or I could call someone in to do it , often I would do it myself to make some extra money .
There were a few tenants who would never be seen , except by the manager .when some repair was required . I shared the duties with my brother who was finishing lawschool . . I liked this whole situation because the most important thing to me - at the time - was time for myself and I had plenty of it in this job . I rode my Mountain Bike for many hours every day . I enjoyed every day in this beautiful city . Often getting a whole cooked crab at Fisherman's wharf and eating it under the Golden Gate bridge and watching the surfers and sailboarders dodging the ships , riding on the wake waves and even the Bow Waves , almost certain death if the person falls !!
I was staying healthy and feeling really good crossing the Golden Gate into the Marin Headlands almost every day .
There were a few older tenants wo we would have to keep an eye on to make sure they were OK and didn't burn the building down while baking cookies . One of the older ladies set her stove on fire while making cookies , I got it in time . We had smoke detectors and heat( flame detectors ) so we were safe enough . We never had trouble getting the rent on time , 58 out of the 60 named tenants were never a problem so life was pretty nice , all things considered .
One of the two questionable tenants was on older lady , maybe in her late 70's . The previous Manager said she would throw her Christmas tree out the third floor window when Christmas was over !!!! By my time she was too fragile to continue this practice , relief !! The strange thing was that I never saw her . I never had a problem which would bring me into the apt and she would only open it on the chain to speak to me . I would make up a reason to knock on her door just to make sure she was OK .
One time we were having a problem with cockroaches and we never had bugs of any kind before . We had a pest control company who sprayed and inspected every month for rodents or bugs . With the pest control guy we pinned down the problem slowly . There was one apt that appeared to be at the centre of the problem and all the apts around had various degrees of problems with roaches . The problem appeared to emanate from apartment of the old lady with the Christmas tree problem . To get into the apartment I had to threaten to call the city health authorities and they would not be very polite about the whole thing . She relented eventually and opened the chain on the door . I wanted to see the apt with my brother first before the pest control guy , I recoiled in horror as the door opened . . The Manager cannot enter a tenants apt without permission so if something bad is happening in there it may take quite some time for it to come to light . People have a right to their privacy and we knew the lady had a nephew wh visited sometimes .
The apartment was black as night with Blackout Curtains . I walked to the window to open the drapes and I heard crunching under my feet . From the door being opened I knew there were bugs , I saw them in the light from the door . When I opened the drapes and let the light in I just froze . This little old lady was sitting in her chair looking skeletal and pale . Cockroaches were everywhere , on the bed , on the floor, the stove and they were not running away as they normally would . . My brother and I knew we had a problem but we knew the lady had a nephew who visited sometimes. If people do not wish to interact or ask for help then they cannot be forced , only if their problem becomes a problem for the other tenants or the safety of the building can the manager insist on a face to face conversation about the problem or the authorities will be called .
We knew we had to tackle this problem ourselves once we got inside the apartment . The owners would want to evict the old lady from her home of 35 years and to be honest our image of control in the building might be severely compromised and the respect the tenants have for you is what allows you to have some authority when discussing probelms with other tenants and getting their cooperation in addressing various problems .
The solution was to move the lady into another apartment and strip her apartment of everything in it , including carpet and drapes .
We bought disposable work suits and Bug Bombs ( many) . We got rid of the bugs first and then got our cleaning lady to come in and do a major top-to-bottom cleanup of the apartment. we had all her clothes washed and cleaned . About two weeks later we got the poor old lady moved back into her own apartment and she cried with relief. She had been terrified that if she asked for help then she would lose her home and end up in a nursing home at the mercy of strangers . . Her nephew really had little interest in her and she had no other relatives . I guess our motivation in helping her get through this as easily as possible was the thought of our own mother and how we would like her to be treated by others and how scared she would be in this situation .
The lady was home but she would not cook and she would probably starve if we could not figure out some way to help her . The answer was Meals On Wheels . She said she did not want it , she protested loudly at the suggestion . Once again we told her she could wind up in a nursing home if she did not cooperate and eat regularly , she was still dangerously thin . The cleaning lady , a real gem, saw her every week and did some cleaning in her apt . This was part of the agreement that would keep her at home . She had to eat and the apt had to be cleaned .
This lady used to be a nurse at a nearby hospital and probably had a pretty good pension and good health care . The only thing she lacked was human contact with someone who cared . Before the roach incident she would open the door just a crack and give monosyllabic answers to any question and the answer to everything was usually NO - a very vehement NO followed by GO AWAY .
There was no way to get through to her and through whatever bitterness was making her act this way . She always struck me as a very bitter woman who resented deeply getting old and weak and losing control . As long as that door remained closed she maintained control as she percieved it , even if it was choas inside that apartment she felt that it was HER chaos , as her chaos she had control over it . She could choose to get someone in to clean up the mess and she could choose Not to so I guess in her own mind she thought this was control . The only thing that got through to her was the mention of a nursing home . This represents a total loss of what little control she had .
She was ashamed and embarrassed at how she looked and how physically broken she had become and these feelings had made her feel huge bitterness towards the whole world and prompted her refusal to interact with the world , at any level . She smoked virtually non-stop and our fear was that she would cause a fire .
There were several other ladies similar in age to Helen and neither knew the other existed although they had lived down the hall from each other for 20 - 25 years !!! Tenants would often ask me if anyone actually lived in that apartment .
We had a few very eccentric tenants , some quite strange and the strange ones were not always old , certainly not as old as Helen .
Helen's story got better for a couple of years and the apartment remained bug-free and clean and she ate just enough to stay alive but not enough to thrive . She did Not get any friendlier or any less bitter . She had thanked us for our help and for allowing her to remain in her home without informing the owners . None of our work efforts or the replacement of the unusable fixtures etc( stove , curtains , carpet ) was charged to Helen , she got no bills . She smoked non-stop so the white walls had turned a dirty brown colour and had to be painted three times . We recovered some money- most actually - form thebuilding repair fund but Helen never contributed anything . We only wanted the problem solved and it was and we figured out a way that the building would pay for it . We had no idea of the state of Helen's finances but we assumed that she had very little .
After her passing the nephew did show up once at the apt .
The circumstances of her passing was a really an emotional and enlightening experience for me . When you are in the daily lives of at least sixty people you inevitably have interesting experiences , some of these inevitably involve the death of those tenants when they have no one else , nobody who will knock on their door to see if they are alive or dead , or even to call them on the phione .
It is too much to include here but Helen's last few days and nights in that apartment was a lesson in the human instinct to go on , even in the face of total despair .
Later , Magoo.