I think I've got your number

Our apartment is falling down. I'm choosing to find it funny.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I think I just became the one millionth blogger to use "This joke isn't funny anymore" as a headline. I wonder what I win.

That joke isn't funny anymore

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.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Cheap and Chic

STERI-FAB: Bactericide - Sanitizer - Fungicide - Mildewcide - Insecticide - Deodorant - Germicide - Viricide


PERMACIDE P-1P: For Homeowner Use Both Indoors and Outdoors To Control Fleas, Brown Dog Ticks and Lice On Premises

The inside of my closet is a complicated ecosystem. Gloria long ago forbid me from using my over-door hanger, claiming that it was damaging my bedroom door, so I've been keeping all manner of bags and hats and scarves in a thick layer on the closet floor. The closet is tiny while my wardrobe is large, and so the bag/hat layer tends to be draped in cotton dresses and pleated skirts that have flung themselves from their wire hangers in despair. Shooting up through the fertile mix is one kitten-heeled pair of boots that seemed like a good idea when I spotted them priced at $5 in the Salvation Army in Williamsburg shortly after moving to New York, but that subsequently revealed themselves to both hurt and retain a disturbing amount of moisture whenever it was wet outside.

On Friday, I opened my closet to find two spray-bottles containing the formidable-sounding substances listed above, nestled in among the accessories. They were under a black skirt, on top of a green leather hobo bag. LP is the most responsible roommate a girl could ever have: she'd ask before touching anything in my closet, let alone storing liquids that end in "-cide" there. And these bottles looked industrial-grade, like the sort of thing only someone who was planning to clean a shitload of apartments would own. I grabbed each one by its gooseneck and marched next door.

"Gloria, why were these in my closet?" I asked when she answered my ring. She looked different: she'd had her hair done. It was cut close to the head and heavily styled, like a pixie cut -- very mod, and very bizarre on the head of an eighty-five-year-old slumlord, but somehow also insanely chic by any unbiased haircut standard.

"I do not know, dear," she said, examining them. "Perhaps the other girl put them there."

"I'm pretty sure she would tell me if she were storing industrial-grade insect killer in my closet," I replied. "Maybe they're Walter's?"

"No, no. But maybe somebody else's." She retreated back into her own apartment as she spoke, but then, as the door was shutting, she popped out again. "Miss! I like your shirt. Is very pretty."

I liked my shirt too. If there weren't sixty years and the unbridgable gulf between good and evil separating us, perhaps we could have been shopping buddies.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Two eagle-eyed readers have pointed out that I confused Ruth Gordon with Bea Arthur in a previous entry. I'm worried that Gloria might be turning me into an ageist, someone so opposed to little old white-haired women that I think they all look the same. I do find myself narrowing my eyes at anyone on the subway platform in orthopedic shoes. Sometimes I suspect that the Walter-shaped men ambling up the local sidewalks are being that slow on purpose.

But the worst was a dinner I had two weeks ago with an elderly relative, a rabbi who was born in Hungary. He's as wise and kind as a very old religious figure ought to be, but every time he opened his mouth, I expected him to deprive me of half my monthly salary and then deny me my right to a hot shower. He explained the Talmudic interpretation of the Terry Schiavo case, and all I heard was "Is fine temperature! If shower is hot, you burn yourself! You are so young, you do not know: is better like this."

Finally: a federal offense

Our mailbox hasn't locked for months; neither my roommate nor I has the key. Last week, on my way out the door to run some errands, I flipped open the mailbox lid. There was one piece of mail inside, a letter from the housing department for LP. When you call 311 to complain, they send you a letter acknowledging the complaint and letting you know that it has been catalogued. This winter we called 311 about the heat constantly. We have complaint letters all over our apartment, falling out of our purses and sticking to the floor. At this point, I'm a little sick of them, so I figured I'd leave this one and grab it my trip back upstairs once the errands were done.

When I returned to my foyer and opened the mailbox, the letter was gone. It was mid-afternoon; LP wasn't due home for another three or four hours. I suppose one of my neighbors might have gone through my mail, but why? It's not like they don't all have their own acknowledgements of complaint from the housing department. Really, there's only one explanation for the letter's disappearance.

I wonder if Gloria and Walter know how illegal it is to commit mail fraud. I wonder if I should say something.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The name is an anagram

I went on vacation and when I got back my roommate told me a story. Our bathroom ceiling, the one that leaks, leaked all over the floor one night. The predictable uproar commenced, and Gloria called in the plumber. He did exactly what he did the last time she called him: he poked at our pipes and the pipes of our upstairs neighbor, and then he said he couldn't find a thing. My roommate suggested that maybe Gloria should get a new plumber.

"Oh no, miss," she said, her eyes shining in the dim light of the hallway. "There is something special about this plumber."

"She said it like she had a big trump card," explained my roommate later, "like there was something she was about to say that would change everything I felt about the plumber, something so obviously important that I couldn't possibly argue with it."

"This plumber," said Gloria, "he is also a priest!"

When we moved in, I made lots of Rosemary's Baby jokes. It's still the scariest movie I've ever seen (though perhaps because the last time I saw it was on a date with a guy who chose the "congress with the devil" scene as a good time to try to unzip my pants). If nothing else, comparing our place to the movie allowed me to romanticize New York; look at us in our Brooklyn Dakota! And Gloria does look a bit like Bea Arthur in the movie. But my roommate got creeped out and asked me to please stop, and then I managed to scare myself thinking about our long hallway in the middle of the night, and now I try to reference our apartment as the scene of a horror movie as rarely as possible.

So I guess it's good that the power of god is on our side. I'll try not to wonder about what sort of priest makes a living as a mediocre plumber, and next time the pipes break, I'll see if he can exorcise them.

As for my roommate, she wins the snappy response award. "The plumber is priest!" said Gloria.

"Yeah, well, I'm an atheist," said LP.