Sunday, January 24, 2010

THE LEAKY REFRIGERATOR

I have a tenant, a lovely Japanese woman with a young daughter. She is very gentile and speaks almost no English. A few months ago, she told me that her refrigerator had a leak inside. At first it was a small drip, she put a bowl under it, she was emptying it almost every day.

I had my super take a look at the leaky appliance, he said fixing it would involve new gaskets, a new compressor, it would probably cost at least $500 to repair, it simply wasn’t worth it. I told my tenant that I would have to buy a brand new one. She felt badly, she didn’t want me to have to purchase a whole new appliance, she assured me there was no rush, to take my time, for now she could keep changing the bowls of increasingly brown liquid.

I told myself I would shop for refrigerators the next week, then the week after that; then four weeks passed. I ran into my tenant in the lobby one morning, “don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you,” I assured her. It was true, the drip in the fridge nagged at me almost every day, yet the thought of a $700 charge on my Amex was too much to bear, I had removed the card from my wallet altogether. Still, everyday I thought, I should take a walk over to Lowe’s today, but Lowe’s would be replaced by a drive to Connecticut, a dumpling foray in Chinatown, a mental health day on the sofa.

Then at about 8:30 one morning my tenant’s number came up on my caller ID. The 20 year old refrigerator was on life support, she was standing in front of it with my super. I ran downstairs, patting myself on the back for being so responsive. The interior of the refrigerator was lukewarm at best. She had about a hundred dollars of groceries scattered across the counter, a bunch of organic steaks, other meats, specialty Japanese groceries purchased from stores far away, I offer her use of my refrigerator, it was brand new after my recent upscale renovation of my own kitchen, no expense spared. It was Friday, I assured her it would be replaced by Monday. She took both my hands and thanked me profusely.

The replacement refrigerator quest turned out to be more complicated than I initially suspected. Old faithful was over 20 years old, there were no similarly sized units on the market. My connection at PC Richards, the head of the wholesale division told me there was simply nothing like it. I called my tenant, and gave her a heads up on the quandary, assuring her that I would find a solution, but my promise for Monday would not be kept. She again thanked me profusely, she was sorry this was causing me so much bother. The search to fill the hole in the apartment downstairs continued.

I searched every appliance manufacturer dot com ad nauseam, I combed Craigslist, I searched brands only sold in Taiwan. I started to entertain every possible solution: should I remove the cabinet above the cavity? Should I renovate the entire kitchen? Should I buy a refrigerator that partially blocks the entrance to the kitchen? I was in Kitchen Paralysis, assuring myself I was doing my due diligence. Monday became Tuesday, Tuesday became Thursday, and then the phone rang again.

The docile tenant’s voice was shaky. She was calling me at work. She broke into a mindless loop of: she was too nice, she had been patient, she told me about the problem 4 months ago, she was too nice, she was too patient. The loop was gaining momentum, she couldn’t be pacified; soon she was shrieking as though witnessing an oncoming truck from the passenger seat of a minivan. She was going to dock me rent for everyday I continued to stall, she would pay me only ¾ of the rent, and for everyday after that, another $75 would be docked. Her math calculations stunningly correct in the eye of her blinding rage.

Fuck this bitch, I thought, “Fine, but then we’re done,” I told her flatly. I had extended her lease twice, indulging her odd requests for partial year leases. I was such a great person, I thought, but no more Mr. Nice Guy. I told her to be out in April – done, finito. I’ll show her, that crazy Asian Princess, who did she think she was, screaming at me like that, refusing me monies. I fixed her wagon good, she paused mid scream as I delivered the April 1 vacate, whimpering a faint “oookayyy”, the last couple “yy’s” cut off with the abrupt click of the phone slamming down on my end.

I stomped down the hall of the ad agency, looking for an office in which to vent. I found a work friend, Morissa – a cynic, a fair person, the first to jump on the “yeah, fuck ‘em” train. I breathlessly started my story of indignation, “Hey, remember that woman with the leaky refrigerator, well, it broke and NOW that bitch is” Morissa interrupted me “what? you mean you haven’t fixed it for her yet, that was four months ago.”

Walking home from the subway, I was still shaken from the unsavory exchange with the Asian Princess. I shared my story with a couple of friends when I returned home, recounting the injustice of The Princess’ attack, bragging of my fierce retributive threat to not renew her lease. My friend Mel listened well, then urged me to think about how frustrated she must be, having a young child that she was now having difficulty feeding at the end of a long day. I speed dialed Brian, my go-to guy who always took my side, now silent on the other end after I again bragged how I’d pulled the lease out from under The Bitch Princess. He waited for a pause in my tirade. “Maybe you’ll both settle down after a couple of days.” We had discussed on many occasions what a great tenant this woman was, how she was still paying top dollar rent on a now devalued apartment. I didn’t sleep very well that night. I was still clinging to my rightness, I would not be yelled at, I would not be wronged. But my tenant was right. She HAD told me four months ago. She had been nice. She had been more than patient; yet I passed Lowe’s at every occasion.

I called my super that morning and asked him to meet me and confirm final measurements, I had to buy something today, it had to be delivered tomorrow no matter what. It might mean dismantling the cupboards above – I feared the refrigerator I would be ordering would push the limits of the particleboard cabinet above. As we were leaving her apartment, my tenant was coming in, we looked at each other with regret and remorse, we clasped hands – exchanging apologies and responsibilities for the ugliness that had ensued, we were again BFT’s. Best Friends in Tenancy.

The next day the refrigerator came, my super removed it from it’s packing, it was beautiful and huge, surely it wouldn’t fit into the small space. But as we wheeled the looming stainless steel icon into the tiny space, it fit just so – with a whisper of a space to spare. I was sure it wouldn’t fit, just as I was sure that my sweet natured tenant was Satin himself, but now I realized that the leaky old fridge had been my only nemesis – and I had given it the power to destroy me.

10 comments:

  1. Give that Asian princess my number and I will explain what it's like to wake up to electrical arcing inside your wall on a Saturday morning. <3.

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  2. Maybe you should pipe in the farmville music

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  3. The old, "I'll give you something to cry about" eh??

    Farmville should be renamed "Paxville"

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  4. I would have called 311 on you after a week, and I only keep beverages and condiments in my fridge. But I'm a real bitch.

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  5. I'll have to send you "The Real Bitches Beverages and Condiments Cookbook" :)

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  6. With the best bloody mary recipe evah?

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  7. Oh yee-yeah!! Nice n spicy-like, lots of horseradish, the drink that goes down like a meal!!!

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  8. Wow. Usually it's the asian landlords who are . . _______ insert nasty word. Four months?? Four fucking months?!?!?

    That's a lot of summonses to deal with. Ya know - that lil thig called karma. What goes around comes around. To kick you in the ass twice as hard as this patient asian princess.

    Wow. It's almost February. Another couple of months - literally - till you be scootin 'round da hood.

    Watch out for leather jackets on Harleys. With Bowne belt. And that distinctive FAT leather summons pouch.

    -Fistfulofsummons4u

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