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Tuesday, 22 May
Please Help! (Oh God, Please Stop Helping!)

This weekend we got a call from our building manager W, except we didn't. He wanted to come over with a handyman to take a look at the place for some minor fixups and repairs, but then he had to cancel, except he didn't.

We have an odd relationship.

He's actually a decent enough manager, W. is, except for the rather odd (and occasionally inconvenient) fact that he has no phone; no landline, no cell. When we need to leave him a message--which, happily, has been infrequently--we leave a message with a woman who is, from what we can tell, a shut-in friend of his with nothing better to do than to sit near her phone in an attitude of anticipatory pouncing, waiting for her phone to ring, even if that phone call consists of some phrases like "We're being attacked by Swamp Thing, and he's really fucking up our carpet."

He initially called this weekend on Saturday in his inimitable way--he was wandering by our place (he lives a few blocks away, apparently) and so he simply buzzed our apartment. "Sorry to bother you! Can I come in?" We're used to this. So he called--sort of--but he really didn't. He just showed up. Whatever. We let him in. "I'm not taking anything from these handymen any more," he said mildly as he wandered in. "They keep canceling on me. But I've got this guy now, his name is Larry, and he's worked in your building . . . " At this point, I fell into a narcotized haze and tuned him out. He took some notes. "I'm going to get cracking on this dishwasher thing!" he reportedly said, studying the ancient machine clinically while I zombied behind him. "I'll call you when I set things up with Larry." Fine. The decrepit dishwasher stared back at us impassively, as if to say, "I'm not worried. I've been here since 1968."

Later that afternoon, W. called us from an unfamiliar number, presumably a friend, since as I mentioned, he has no phone of his own. "Larry bailed on me," he said. "I'm not messing with this guy either. You guys are free for the weekend."

"All right," I said. Good to know!

On Sunday at about 2:00 in the afternoon, our buzzer sounded.

"Hi, it's me, W. I thought I had this other fellow named Greg, but he got called away for an emergency. I won't be using him anymore. Anyway, can I come in for a moment?"

So much for that free weekend. I gaped into my buzzer receiver for a minute, and took an extra second to gape at myself, still unshowered and clad in my ratty bathrobe. (Hey, kiss my ass, we like to laze around on Sundays in our own filth and thumb through the NYT on our own time.)

"Why?" I yelped before realizing that I didn't have to give any good reason at all. I tamed my voice and said, "No, this is a terrible time. I'm not even dressed."

There was a tiny pause before he said "Oh!" which would have been an awesome time to say something terrible like "See, I'd have to box up the snakes" or "I'm getting hella blown right now, dude!" But I didn't. Instead, I let the pause spin out, and finally he said, "Well, how about tomorrow?" I told him I'd be home by four. Remember that the day before he had told us to have a worry-free and visit-free weekend. Now he was right outside our building wondering if he could just wander on in. I'd give my friends the business if they showed up without calling.

He did come by the following day, Monday. He had a camera with him, a disposable camera. "I just want to get some shots of the things you guys want fixed up." All right. He started with the kitchen, where some of the decrepit tiles are starting to come up. He framed one clinically, and set a loose tile at right angles to its proper seated spot. "This is dramatic," he breathed, and then poked uncertainly at the recalcitrant camera. "What are you doing?" he said to it.

The camera kept its silence. Eventually it caved to his ministrations and flashed . . . at something. "Gotcha!" W. hissed at the embarrassed tile. He turned his attention to the superannuated dishwasher again as if it were an old nemesis.

"Look at this thing," he commented neutrally, but staring at the greasy beast as if it owed him money. "This is terrible." He briefly probed the outflow vent with a steady finger while I winced. He produced a popcorn seed. "Popcorn!" he crowed in some unknowable triumph before flicking it to the (granted, dirty) floor. I stared, wondering how long we'd be here doing this strange ritual, and wondering when Sartre got assigned scripting my life.

"I think the last time we had popcorn was, like, 2003," I said, staring at the forlorn kernel on my floor. "There you go," he gnomishly replied. Then he took some photos of some unweatherstripped windows as well as several good shots of what I predict are his fingers, based on what I observed of his framing.

"Who did this?" he wondered aloud.

"The owner?" I offered.

"He doesn't return my phone calls," he said. Great! Incidentally, what fucking number would he try? Never mind.

"Is there anything else?" W. fixed me with a getting-to-the-end-of-things look. I felt kind of embarrassed. But hey.

"Well," I said. "It's kind of stupid, but . . . our toilet seat." Our toilet seat--circa the Wood Age--is, well, made of wood. Good choice for a humid environment and bacterial proliferation! "The toilet seat is kind of cracked. And, well, it can pinch."

"Let's take a look." Yes, let's!

W. stared at the toilet seat. It might have been hammered into place by Orcs. He pointed his awful little camera at the seat in its "down" position. "This doesn't show anything." He lifted the seat.

"But this might!" There was a big crack in the seat, visible from this underside vantage point. He eagerly pointed his camera at the seat while I fidgeted in the background, thinking I sure wish nobody was taking a photo of my toilet seat right now.

He took a couple shots and stood up. "Nobody should have a pinchy toilet seat," W. said solemnly. "You pick up some new one from Fred Meyer--I don't recommend wood--and take it out of your rent."

"Okay," I said. "We hate getting pinched," I added witlessly.

"I'll call you soon," he said, meaning, I might show up at your door at any time.

Somewhere during this time I decided that, for God's sake, we have to get our own house. Then, when everything goes to hell and malevolent geese nest in our chimney or something, I will know that nobody is going to show up at my house and take photos of my fucking toilet seat.

Note: Comments are closed on old entries.


In Paris (where they are cheese-eating surrender monkeys, but now they're very pro-American cheese-eating surrender monkeys), I hear people pay good money to have random strangers show up at odd hours to photograph their toilet seats.

Well, not really, but damn that was fun to type.

Comment number: 014023   Posted by: Ian J on May 23, 2007 10:09 AM from IP:

I own my own house. *Looks over at dishwasher that stopped working when I finally cleaned under it 6 months ago*
Remember, then YOU'LL have to hunt down Greg and Larry, and no one, not even W? cares.
Talk about existential.

Comment number: 014028   Posted by: Alyxmyself on May 23, 2007 06:32 PM from IP:

Um, do you think he has any extra copies of those toilet seat shots?

I'm just, uh, y'know, askin'.

Comment number: 014030   Posted by: JJ on May 23, 2007 08:58 PM from IP:

Our final landlord before we bought our first home was the landlord from hell (well, from NJ, but close enough). God gave us that landlord for a reason.

Comment number: 014037   Posted by: Stan on May 24, 2007 10:55 AM from IP:

I'll swap pictures of my sink and ceiling fan for some of those pictures of your toilet seat...

if the toilet is as old as the seat i would bet she has a big tank. right?!

Comment number: 014045   Posted by: btroffded on May 25, 2007 01:18 AM from IP:

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