Thursday, May 10, 2018

More Landlord Troubles:Threatened Lockout

My psychotic landlord is at it again. Today, May 10, I went out for a walk and got home around eight p.m.; found nothing on my door. Three hours later, Jeff came home from an outing with friends and found a note on our front door -- a note dated May 8 -- which reads as follows:

Dear Resident(s):
Please be advised that per your lease the office MUST have a key to enter into your unit. This will be the FINAL NOTICE that you will receive in regards to the office not having keys to your unit. You have until the close of business on Friday 5.11.2018 to give us a copy of your key or we will find you non-compliant and your locks WILL BE CHANGED. 
Thank you
Kehoa York

Yes, I'm mentioning the manager's name this time; respecting her privacy is clearly pointless. And frankly, if any future would-be employers Google her name, there needs to be a record of her appallingly unprofessional behavior; this woman is both dishonest and dishonorable, and cannot be trusted with anything remotely resembling "authority."

Let's dissect the problems with this message:

First, we received a "final notice" without first getting any prior notices.

Second, despite the date reading May 8, we did not get this until well after the end of business hours on May 10, ordering us to produce a copy of the key by end-of-business next day. (Indeed, had Jeff not gone out, we would not have found that message until we left our house tomorrow.) As with that slanderous "illegal drug violation" they stuck on our door, they gave us a threat which could only be resolved by taking time off work, if we had a regular nine-to-five schedule.

Third, why is it our fault if they lost their copy of our key?

UPDATE, May 11: Turns out Ms. York had a copy of our key all along; apparently EVERYBODY in the apartment complex got a copy of that threat-letter. No apologies for the inconvenience, the threat of being locked out of our own home, or anything else, of course.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Stop Blaming Women for the Evil Behavior of Men

The Daily Mail managed to out-despicable itself last weekend, running a story (link goes to a Tweeted screenshot, since I refuse to give that wretched article a single click) headlined "EXCLUSIVE: Ex-fiancee who broke suspected Golden State Killer's heart, and 'sparked his rape and murder' spree, is a travel blogger who went on to marry successful accountant and is now in hiding."

I wonder if she's in hiding because the Daily Mail printed her name, address and multiple photos suggesting SHE is responsible for HIS psychopathy?

After murderous misogynist Elliot Rodger killed six innocent people in Isla Vista a few years ago, the Daily Mail ran a similar story about a girl who did not return Rodger's interest -- when the two of them were in elementary school. And they included photos -- not of the ten-year-old Rodger mooned over back in the day, but of the sexy young twenty-something she grew up to be.

Y'know, I don't think I'm likely to snap and become a serial killer at this late date, but just in case, perhaps I should prepare a lengthy and semicoherent "rage manifesto" including an angry laundry list of all my schoolgirl crushes who refused to reciprocate my affections, so the Daily Mail will know which innocent people's lives to destroy after I'm arrested for my crimes. (Just kidding! I know better than to think the Daily Mail would blame a man for the evil actions of a woman, when they won't even blame a man for the evil actions of himself.)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Ask An Atheist Day

Two things I just-now learned:

1. There is this thing called "Ask an Atheist Day."

2. It's today.

And I'm an atheist, last time I checked! So ask if you want; meanwhile, here's one question-and-answer combo to get y'all started:

Q. Is it true that making large cash donations into the PayPal accounts of redheaded atheists gives one a clearer complexion, improved muscle tone and increased sexual stamina?

A. I don't know, but if you wish to make the experiment I do have a PayPal account you can use.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Shakespeare's Bicycle

While going through a file of juvenilia I found this, part of an application for a writing gig. The question was "Describe a modern bicycle to an intelligent person from the 16th century." There is one error in the rhythm scheme -- when I wrote this I thought "antipodes" had three syllables rather than four -- but despite that error I got the job. (Unfortunately it did not last long, as the company folded soon after.)

Pray grant me, sir, a moment of thy time;
I’ll tell thee of a marvelous device
which giveth mortal Man a greater speed
than Mercury, clad in his wingéd shoes.
And thou, with far less effort than to walk,
might make use of this marvelous Machine
to travel all four corners of the World
far faster than the mighty storm winds blow.
Imagine now, two wheels of equal size,
like spokéd wheels of wagons, yet not like;
for thine two wheels doth not stand side by side,
but one behind the other, in a row.
The axles of these two wheels doth attach
unto a frame of metal, light and strong
and higher on this frame, there shalt thou find
a saddle, whereupon the Man might sit
and also there a bar which he can hold.
But more of these anon. Betwixt the wheels
lies one last, spinning thing found on this frame:
the axle of a Gear, as thee might find
inside the clock which keepeth time in Town;
a wheel with toothéd rim, art what I mean.
And on the axle of the Wheel in Back,
a second toothéd gear hath been affix’d.
And lo! A chain of forgéd iron links
pulled taut around the two gears’ antipodes,
enslaves the second gear unto the first
so that, whenever moveth this first Gear,
thus too must move the back wheel on the frame.
Yet this Gear, though master of the back one,
art but itself a slave unto the Man
who percheth on the saddle high above.
On each side of the Master gear, shalt find
a stirrup, where the Man may place his feet
to move the gear, the chain, and thus the wheel.
And as the back wheel turneth with the gears,
thine front wheel spins below the Gripping-Rod
by which the Man might turneth that Front wheel
as thou wouldst turn the rudder on thine boat.
This wheel’d machine art not a friend of Sloth;
when thy wheels move not forward, shalt they fall.
‘Tis balance, sir! Aye, balance—there’s the rub,
for those who lack it go not Forth, but Down.
And if thou findst not balance well at first,
get hence a child’s toy, to help thee learn:
two minute wheels, shalt flank the wheel in back,
until the Time of Training passeth by.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Collective Punishment: Here We Go Again

Brief update: the management at my apartment complex is once again making (almost certainly) illegal threats against its tenants. Today -- when I went outside to throw a bag of garbage in the dumpster, ironically enough -- I found a memo stuck to my door, and every other door in my building (which is one of several in this complex):

I am (at least for now) keeping the name of this apartment complex, and the odious semi-literate wretch who writes and sends these threats, to myself. But here is what the letter says, in case the photo is not clear (punctuation and other errors lifted verbatim):

Dear Resident(s),
Building #200
Effective immediately if there is any trash thrown out over the patios or even found on the backside of building 200. The entire building will be charged a fee until it stops or the office is notified on who is trashing the grounds here. Maintenance has taken the time to continuously clean that area and as of today is it completely clear. This is UNACCEPTABLE and UNSANITARY!!! You all will be held accountable in order to stop this immediately!!!
          Thank you,
I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that, despite the poor construction of the paragraph, what is "Unacceptable and unsanitary" is the strewing of trash over the grounds, rather than the area now being completely clear.

Of course, I agree that whoever is dumping garbage on the ground rather than in the dumpster is irresponsible, but just as firmly disagree with the notion that since management has been unable to find the culprit, they can impose collective financial penalties on innocent people.

Without even bother to check the rental laws of unincorporated Decatur, South Dekalb County, Georgia. USA, I am fairly certain such collective financial punishment is thoroughly illegal. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my last post, the management here is clearly used to dealing with impoverished Section 8 recipient who lack the financial resources to defend their rights even if they know what they are. (Which in turn explains their unprofessional, belligerent behavior and why the property manager -- she of the inferior writing skills -- accused me of being "sarcastic" when I demanded an explanation. No, I wasn't being sarcastic; I was being uppity, behaving like the indignant middle-class woman that I am, rather than the terrified poverty-stricken woman she thought me to be.)

Are the fools actually going to try imposing fines on me? Will I soon be in the market for a Georgia-certified lawyer? Stay tuned to find out!

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Eviction Threat Ending: A Whimper, Not A Bang

The belligerent new management at my apartment complex has toned it down a few notches and laid off the worst of their bizarre bullying behaviors... or maybe they've simply moved those behaviors to where I can't see them. Meanwhile, I've learned a few things about the south-suburban Atlanta neighborhood where I've lived since mid-2016.

In my last couple posts I mentioned sundry bizarre and possibly illegal behaviors committed by the new management in my apartment complex, including a slanderous “illegal drug violation” notice on my door, followed by a verbal eviction threat when I went to the management office to ask about it.

For a week or so after that confrontation, their behavior grew steadily worse. The fake-cop “Warrant Service” security guard made evermore aggressive rounds with his fake drug dog which barked at anybody who walked past it, including me. One weekday evening around 7:30 (about half an hour after sunset, before Daylight Saving Time kicked in), Jeff and I tried driving out of our apartment complex to go to dinner, and the WS guy had parked his car so as to partially block the sole entrance/exit from the place. Accompanied by the aggressive dog, he was interrogating the driver of a car trying to pull into the complex from the public road. Jeff and I had to wait a couple of minutes before the fake cop let the other driver through, thus clearing the way for us to leave.

All this while their behavior absolutely baffled me: what kind of “professionals” were these, anyway? I hadn't encountered such an attitude since my schooldays, interacting with teachers of the “all kids are delinquents” variety.

Example: the day I was banned from the rental office, another mass memo went out to all tenants, starting with the line “Dear Resident(s), It has been brought to management that there are illegal pets in your home.” (Jeff and I don't have any pets, let alone “illegal” ones.) But as I kept reading the letter's language changed, and it was obvious this was NOT a personal letter directed at us, but a mass missive. Only instead of starting with the tone “Dear residents, this is a reminder that pets must be registered and blah blah blah,” they started it off like a personalized threat.

Reminder: when Jeff and I moved here in the summer of 2016, things were very rushed – we were living in the suburbs of D.C. when Jeff got a job offer down here. Neither of us had been to Atlanta before, and we had only two or three weeks to find a place to live and move into it before he started his new job. Meanwhile, the Atlanta metro housing market seemed bafflingly different from what we were used to in northern Virginia and New England before that, but eventually we found a place that was in our price range, in the size we needed, and would have a vacancy before Jeff had to start his then-new job.

When we filled out the application, it had a disclaimer at the top of the first page: something about how in order to live here you must have a minimum income at least three times the monthly rent. No problem; Jeff's salary alone is well over that, plus there's my (scandalously small, due to under-employment) income as well. I thought that was the case with all my neighbors: every family or tenant paying their way out of a salary at least three times the rent. Come to find out I was wrong: this apartment complex is what's called a “HUD property,” which apparently means only a relative handful of tenants (such as me and Jeff) are fool enough to pay the full market-rate rent. The majority get assistance from Section 8 vouchers.

I learned this from a reporter who works for a local TV news station, after the “curfew for minors” and other edicts inspired me to contact a couple of “News on Your Side” tip lines. She looked into a few things, spoke to people in the management office (off-camera but with her “journalist hat” on), and then told me what she'd learned about this property and its crime history—broadly, management has a lot of legal leeway to be horrible to tenants, for security-theater reasons (though “lots of legal leeway” is not synonymous with “carte blanche” — if we still had that false “drug violation” notice with its unjustified eviction threat, we could indeed cause serious and potentially expensive problems for the management here.)

And that no doubt explains much of the “like teachers who distrust their teenaged students” vibe I'd felt from the management, why they behaved like belligerent bullies rather than professionals talking to a paying client: because they're used to dealing with people so desperately poor they have no other options, people too poor to stick up for their rights even when they know what those rights are. Back in the day, teachers didn't need to care whether their students liked them, because they knew their students had no choice – and apparently, landlords for Section 8 renters can afford to adopt a similar attitude toward most of their tenants, if they (or their hired property managers) are mean-spirited enough to do so.   

THAT explains the property manager's incredulous fury when I questioned their bad behavior, and why she accused me of being “sarcastic” for doing so — no, she didn't mean sarcastic. She was mad because I was uppity: behaving like the indignant middle-class person I am rather than the terrified, impoverished woman she thought I must be, for living here. 

The good news is, the visit from the TV reporter seems to have scared some semblance of decent behavior into the management: no more appearances of the fake drug dog, and no more bogus checkpoints clogging traffic in or out of the parking lot. Of course the management now knows better than to give us another illegal threat in writing (just as we'd now know better than to let them take it back) – but I don't know if they're still pulling such stunts on the other tenants in this complex.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Eviction Threat 2: Gaslight Boogaloo

Yesterday, I told the story of how appalled I was earlier this week, to come home from running errands and find an eviction threat on my door: apparently, February 19 was “the deadline to come to the leasing office and speak with the manager about the [illegal drug] violation that you received on Thursday Feb 15th 2018. You have failed to do so and this will and can result in the termination of your lease. To avoid this make sure to come by the office by 12 noon Feb 20th 2018.”

Except of course I never received any “violation,” so how did one get connected to my home? Since that note had my apartment number hand-written on the back, but no names or other identifying information on it, my original guess was that the memo was intended for another apartment, but someone accidentally misplaced the digits: I live in unit XYZ, but this was supposed to go to the people in XZY.

Fortunately, Jeff (the actual lease-holder) works the night shift as opposed to a regular nine-to-five gig, so he was able to talk to the management about the matter without having to take time off work. He told me that when he went to the management office there was a “marshal” there, who said something about a woman with a package outside our apartment door. He also asked Jeff what color his wife was, and when Jeff said white with red hair the marshal agreed I wasn't the problem.

Which is good, except – for 99 percent of the apartments here, the answer would've been “black.” Or, more precisely, “those varying shades of brown and beige and tan and related hues somewhat misleadingly labeled 'black' according to contemporary American racial whatever.” So even though the problem seemed resolved this time I was still worried, not just for “principled” reasons but a very pragmatic one: sure, being the only white woman in an otherwise-black apartment complex saved me from mis-identification this time – but it could all-too-easily backfire in the other direction. Petite white women aren't that hard to find, even in “majority minority” Atlanta suburbs like South Dekalb County. So how did my apartment get written up for an eviction-worthy violation without me even knowing about it?

“None of your business,” is what they told me when I asked today. That's an exact quote — said maybe two or three minutes before they threatened to evict me. Again.

Let me backtrack a little. When I wrote last night's blog post, I asked Jeff where he'd put the initial threat letter, because I wanted to quote from a more extensive piece of it. When he said the management took it back after determining we were not the ones they worried about, I frowned and said, “If I were them I wouldn't want to leave a paper trail either.”

I'd thought I was kidding, but in sneero veritas* – next day when I asked them about it, they denied ever threatening us with eviction and asked to see that letter as proof. At which point I realized with a horrified sinking feeling that these people were not acting in good faith, not honest, and not to be trusted.

When I went to the office I saw the presumed “marshal” Jeff mentioned yesterday: a large, intimidating-looking man wearing a bulletproof vest labeled “warrant service.” When I was talking to one of the office workers, asking how I could avoid getting further violations in future, the marshal/WS guy walked over and told me, in a very unfriendly voice, that he gives out the violations so if I have any complaints I should talk to him and not everybody else.

“All right,” I said. “Sorry about that. How did that violation get recorded against my apartment?” He told me not to worry about it, since my husband had taken care of it yesterday. Which I already knew, but not know how the violation happened in the first place, which also means I don't know how to avoid future recurrences. That, IIRC, is when he said it was none of my business. I looked at him in some surprise and said something like “I must disagree; it is very much my business, how I got threatened with eviction for a violation I never even knew about.”

I think that's when he first denied making an eviction threat, and demanded to see the paper. Which is when I realized with a sinking feeling that these people were not coming at this in good faith, at all.

Then a woman who I guess is the new Chief Office Manager or whatever accused me of being sarcastic. I apologized if my tone was rude, but said I am genuinely worried – how could I have proven it wasn't me? Of course we all know it's impossible to prove a negative, but ….

You know how a common Internet-troll arguing tactic is self-contradiction? First they say X, then when you respond they insist they actually said not-X. Which is frustrating as hell and evidence of bad faith, but with online trolls you can at least quote or link to their earlier arguments: “You say X now, but here's where you clearly said not-X, not five minutes ago.”

Of course I couldn't quote any contradictory posts during today's discussion. Nor could I speak in full sentences; either the office manager or the “Warrant Service” guy would always interrupt. They never threatened us with eviction before – though she said they're going to evict us now, after my terrible, threatening behavior here today. At one point Office Manager made some comment about how I kept misquoting or misinterpreting them, and I (admittedly exasperated by then) said “I'm sorry; I did not think I needed to record this, but if—”

At that, OM got even ruder and more furious than before, going on about how I'd be facing lawsuits if I ever tried that, which made me frown in confusion and say “Oh, I'm sorry; I thought Georgia was a one-party consent state?” [Narrator: It is.]

That seemed to make her even more upset, and said she'd give me her email address and we could continue the conversation that way. Which I thought was a wonderful idea — I feel more comfortable communicating via writing than speaking anyway, especially in stressful matters such as this one — so I said “Yes, please, that would be great! Plus that way we'll have a paper trail in case of future misunderstandings” or something to that effect .... but before I could finish speaking she interrupted me again to tell me to get out of her office, and she had the intimidating Warrant Service guy escort me to the door — and no, I never got her promised email address either. 

Of course they have no legal right to evict me for asking about a violation (or getting the false violation in the first place) – but they can certainly be annoying jerks who make my time here unnecessarily unpleasant. And when our lease is up for renewal in a couple months they can likely raise the rent sky-high, or we can take on the expense and annoyance of yet another midsummer move. Fortunately we can “afford” it (meaning the expense will hurt us financially, but at least the wound wouldn't be fatal) — but I'd wager most tenants here can NOT afford it, and that's what these corrupt managers are counting on.

When my friend Kevin Carson read my blog post from yesterday, he tweeted it and remarked that "If you think structural racism is bad in law enforcement, check out the landlords in predominantly black areas." To which I can only add: holy shit, yes. Even in my broke-student days dealing with cheap and skeevy landlords, I never encountered any so-called "professional" who behaved with such belligerent dishonesty.

From what my neighbors later told me, I gather the bully-behaving "Warrant Service" dude has been scaring kids in the complex ... and I'll bet he's the guy with the aggressive and fake "drug dog" from yesterday, too. 
*Probably the worst pun or attempt thereby I've made in my life. But today I careth not.

#WhitePrivilege: When Innocence Won't Save Your White Ass, but Whiteness Will

For the past week or so, the management at my apartment complex has left frequent notes on all the tenants' doors — more precisely, rolling 8”x11” printouts into hollow tubes which are then stuck in the narrow space between people's doorknobs and doorjambs — and I'd discover mine either when I opened my door for the first time that day, or when I returned home from running errands and saw another paper roll. Most were reminders of the complex rules: any cars parked here must be street-legal and in running order; put your garbage in the dumpster, not the ground; and similar things.

The overwhelming majority of notes are printed on white paper, but last week somebody put a red note on the door across the breezeway from mine even though that apartment's been empty since the first of this month, when its tenants were evicted. The woman and kids who'd lived there did nothing wrong, but the man who'd lived there until December 17, when he tried shooting some people and ended up shooting my apartment instead, clearly did, and I guess the management decided to evict some innocent people on his behalf. (At the time, Jeff and I joined various neighbors in urging the management not to evict the man's family, but this evidently did not have any effect.)

That red paper was an eviction notice in the name of a man who was NOT the shooter, so far as I knew (besides, I'm pretty sure the lease had been in her name, not his). That red roll and various white notices are still wedged in the vacant apartment's doorjamb as I type this.

Monday afternoon, Jeff and I left our apartment shortly after one o'clock to run some errands, and when we returned home shortly before six saw another white paper next to our doorknob. But one detail made it look different from the others: someone had used a pen to hand-scrawl our apartment number on the back.

I unrolled it and found a pre-printed list of possible lease violations – loud music, property damage, misbehaving pets, etc. – with “illegal drugs” checked off the list. Underneath was a note:
Today was the deadline to come to the leasing office and speak with the manager about the violation that you received on Thursday Feb 15th 2018. You have failed to do so and this will and can result in the termination of your lease. To avoid this make sure to come by the office by 12 noon Feb 20th 2018.
Clearly this was some type of mistake — we certainly hadn't “received” any “violation,” whatever that meant, let alone a deadline to deal with it. Other than our apartment number written on the back of the page, there was nothing to personalize the letter, no mention of my name or Jeff's. I figured the letter was meant for another apartment, and whoever scrawled our number on the back must've accidentally transposed a couple of digits. The office closed at five, so we'd have to wait until the next day to ask.

By the time I woke up next day Jeff was awake and dressed, and said he'd already been to the management office to clarify the matter.

“Good,” I said. “Whose apartment was that eviction-threat letter actually meant for?”

“Oh, it was meant for us,” Jeff said dismissively. When he went to the management office a marshal was there with the office staff, saying something about a woman and a package. And then the marshal said to Jeff “I don't mean to be rude, but what color is your wife?” When Jeff said “white with red hair,” the marshal agreed that no, the woman definitely wasn't me.

So – what the hell would've happened if I were black? (Which actually is the case for something like 99 percent of the tenants in this complex.) Presumably I'd have faced the logical impossibility of trying to disprove a negative. I wasn't there to ask the marshal to be more specific about the details. All I know is that on the fifteenth there was a woman somewhere, presumably in the vicinity of my apartment door off the third-story breezeway. Also there was a package – I don't know what it looked like or how big it was. Nor do I know if the woman carried the package, received it from someone else, gave it to someone else, or what.

What exactly does “received a violation” entail here, anyway? How did my apartment end up “receiving” it? Presumably it emanated from a security guard, not an actual cop with arresting powers. I doubt the woman, whoever she was, showed any identification suggesting she lived where I do, or ay ID at all for that matter-- the marshal asked Jeff what color his wife was, not her name.
Turns out the apartment complex is now under brand new management, which explains the recent rain of rule-reminder notices. The new management also seemed not to know about the still-unrepaired bullet damage to our apartment; Jeff filled out a work order detailing what needed to be done, and also let them make a photocopy of the card a cop gave us the day of the shooting, with the case number and related info.

And the new management sounds aggressive to the point of assholery; Jeff said he saw a security guy walking around with what looks like a police K-9, which started barking when Jeff walked past it — both he and my downstairs neighbor's husband agreed it was a "security theater" fake-drug dog. Also, when Jeff opened the door to go to the apartment manager's office he found another paper roll: a reminder that the lease states that the complex's “quiet hours” are between 9 p.m. and seven a.m. followed by mention of a 7 p.m. curfew for all children under 18, who must be inside their homes by then or else “Any resident found guilty of not complying will result in immediate termination of their lease. No EXCEPTIONS or EXCUSES!!!!” (That's actually a truncated quote: I put four exclamation points after the all-caps EXCUSES whereas the original note uses fifteen.)

After Jeff told me this, I went out to discard some garbage and stopped to chat with my downstairs neighbor, who stood outside waiting for one of her daughters to return from school, and my next-door neighbor, who kept her company. They knew about the previous day's eviction-threat on my door, and I updated them regarding the marshal and how my coloring solved the problem, ending with the rhetorical question “So what would've happened if I'd been black instead?” Both women agreed in that case I'd be in deep and wholly unjustified shit. Then (since we were already discussing/complaining about the new management anyway) they started sharing their own complaints about the new management, which segued into some complaints about the local police. Short version: they (and especially their adult or adult-looking kids) were, and are, getting shit for Existing While Black.

None of their stories surprised me, exactly — any student of police misconduct in America knows about Driving While Black and its many siblings, how a “street gang” can mean as little as “three or more black folks in public together,” and of course my own take on so-called “white privilege” has always been “it definitely exists in America, it definitely is a problem, and 'privilege' is definitely a bad label for the concept” — but while I've read plenty of complaints in news stories, and in quote-unquote black blogs and websites, not since my daily-newspaper days have I been directly told such stories — and not since my undergrad days did I hear them in a “social” (as opposed to journalism) context. They were especially incensed about the new curfew announced that morning; my next-door neighbor said her son, who works every day, already gets harassed enough walking to the store across the street, and she talked about The Talk she (like all black parents) had to give their son about how to increase his chances of surviving police encounters. I could only nod in furious sympathy, occasionally punctuated with useless comments: “How horrible!” “Those assholes.”

As for the mysterious woman and the mysterious “package,” it's damned lucky she got caught Doing Something With A Package While Black in the vicinity of my apartment as opposed to, like, 99 percent of the others in this complex, because to the best of my knowledge I am literally the only woman in this complex white enough to easily prove the negative “No, I'm not some random black woman who allegedly had a package or something.” Had it been any other apartment but mine, I'd have another neighbor lady evicted over something she had nothing to do with.

NEXT DAY ADDENDUM: There's a followup to this story, and a nastily ironic one: I got threatened with eviction for asking how to avoid being threatened with eviction in the future.
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