Friday, January 5, 2018

Cold Memory: Winter Landlords

I remember living in a BK apt with a stingy landlord who didn't like to turn the heat up on days like this. We would be freezing in the house, ask for him to raise the temp, and he would ignore our request. I and the other roommates started opening the electric oven door and turning it on broil for an hour at a time. The landlord would get mad at us and say 'stop using the oven as a heater.' We would smile, say 'okay,' wait for him to leave, and turn that shit back on. A cat-and-mouse game ensued of us trying to stay warm, and him trying to catch us using the oven. Finally, we had a heart to heart. I said, "Miguel: WE IZ COLD." I then asked him if he would allow his children to live in an apt that's so chilly you have to put a jacket on to go to the bathroom? I didn't yell at him for breaking an obvious NYC landlord law or talk about how I felt like I was getting sick. No attacks, just questions. A day later, he turned the heat up. We were warm and toasty, never had another landlord problem, and I lived there for a few more years. When he thought a contractor was ripping him off, he asked us to confront the guys about the cost b/c he said we were more effective at arguing than him. When I decided to leave he said 'nooo, you were such a good tenant.' I didn't mention the heater incident or the toilet seat incident where I subtracted the cost of a new toilet seat from the rent to get his attention that he needed to fix stuff. I smiled. 'You were a great landlord.' We had fun training each other.

4 comments:

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Shep Glennon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shep Glennon said...

I'm learning how to comment on Google blogs lol bear with me.

So let me get this straight: instead of making your primary value/goal being right and proving a point, you chose to invest in emotional intelligence and have a very human relationship with all the messy conversations and mercy of unspoken truths that comes with it?

Are you saying that we don't have to get locked into zero-sum situations with people even when they're clearly in the wrong?

I'm reading about this now, Jessica Benjamin's Beyond Doer And Done To, about a place of mutual recognition, messiness, failures, restarts, and empathy called the "ethical third" as a way to get out of the zero-sum relationship. And I love to see you talking about it!

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