Gloria and Walter came into my place today to "fix the bathroom." I figured this meant more plaster. I was wrong.
Within five minutes of her arrival, a hideous crashing sound came out of the bathroom. I ran into the kitchen to find drywall all over the floor. "Are you OK?" I asked.
"Oh yes, darling," said Gloria. "We are just taking wall down."
I think I did a really admirable job of not losing my shit. Calmly, I asked what happened to Keith, the workman she'd promised to bring in. Wasn't he going to do the job? And either way, what happened after the drywall was all taken down? When would it be put back up? Would we be able to use our bathroom in the meantime, or were they planning on literally removing the entire wall?
"Is not your problem," said Gloria.
"It sort of is," I said. "I pay the rent. It's my bathroom. I have a right to --"
And the shouting started. "Miss! Is not your problem! Why are you always giving me so much trouble? I drop dead right now!"
I was good; I didn't even reply, "Please do." Instead, I went back to my questions. "When will it be repaired? That's all I want to know." In the middle of this, the phone rang. It was LP. "Great timing," I told Gloria. "It's my roommate. You can tell both of us when the wall will be fixed."
"Who?" said Gloria.
This set me off. I don't shout much; I'm too attached to the sense of superiority that goes along with keeping cool in the face of someone sweating and growling. But some things are too much to bear, and one of them is Gloria Trembicky.
(Oops. I outed her. Finally. Future Park Slope renters wise enough to Google before signing a lease, be forewarned.)
I yelled about how it was her job to tell me when the wall would be repaired. Gloria yelled about how I'm an idiot who is trying to give her a heart attack, and then yelled about how she wasn't going to speak to me ever again. On the phone, LP yelled, but I was too busy yelling myself to notice what she was saying.
Finally I announced that I was going to call 911. According to the housing authority, calling 911 is the proper recourse to take if your landlord becomes verbally abusive. I've never done it because it seems so insane and petty, but it was 2 PM on a Wednesday, so surely I wouldn't be pre-empting too many robberies from getting reported. I dialed. There was a long moment of dead air. And then, faintly, under a horrible screeching fax-moden noise, I could hear a recording say, "You have reached 911..." Faulty connection or flaw in the system? I'll never know -- I went back to yelling.
"Get out!" Gloria finally shouted at me. "Get out! You go!"
"This is my apartment," I pointed out.
"Fine! Then I leave! I pack up and go!"
While she ranted, Walter stood atop the ladder calmly depositing chunks of my wall onto my floor. I wasn't about to clean up the mess myself, so I slunk out into the living room, shaking with anger and figuring I'd have it out with them once they swept the floor. I called 311, but reporting them didn't make me feel much better. I even tried the local precinct, figuring I could talk to Officer de Jesus, who had a crush on my subletter this summer. Maybe seeing his uniform would have some effect (maybe it would scare the dejesus out of them!). But he didn't pick up.
As I was seething, I heard Gloria's doorbell ring. She was still destroying my bathroom, so I went downstairs and got the door. A girl about my age with gorgeous dark hair was standing in the hallway. "Are you looking at an apartment here?" I asked.
"Actually, I'm a realtor. I'm showing one."
So I gave her lowdown. I'm not sure it will have any effect -- if the renter likes the place, the realtor will get her cut no matter how bad the landlady is. But she looked fairly ethical, and she seemed sympathetic. I finished my speech by bringing her into my place to see the landlords. Walter sniped at her; Gloria called her "sweetie."
Finally, after the realtor was packed off with the keys to Apartment 7 and the majority of the wall was swept off the floor, I asked Gloria if I could speak to her. "It's not OK for you to talk to me the way you just did," I said as politely as I could manage. "I have a right to know what you're doing to my bathroom. You can't yell at me for asking questions. And if you do, every time someone comes to look at an apartment in this building, I will tell them what a terrible landlady you are."
"Fine!" she said. "Then I am cancelling your lease!" And we both slammed our doors.