8.10.2004

Acres Update

Milhouse, my troubled tenant, was apparently hauled away by police on Wednesday morning. When his case worker came to tell him he had to move out, he became violent and 911 was called. Some people hate the police, but I've learned to love them.

The episode reminded me why it's important to keep myself in shape. I'm not scared of anyone out there right now, and have yet to be scared by a tenant, but putting on a little muscle mass and nurturing my cardiovascular system is probably a good idea. With the current crop of tenants, I don't foresee myself in a situation that would force me to defend myself or restrain them, but tenants move on and new ones move in. Some of them could invite unsavory characters on the premises. Today, my upper body is pretty worn out from lifting free weights for an hour yesterday. I also ran a mile as fast as I could.

Last night, after exercising pretty hard, I just wanted to get my chores done quickly and hit the sack. But as I was finishing up, unfamiliar cars began parking in the lot en masse. I caught the driver of one and asked her if she could please park in one of the designated spots (she was blocking a fire lane), but as more and more cars showed up, I called in an airstrike of parking tickets.

By the time the cops came, I had thirteen cars of non-tenants parked in the lot.

The parking lot is a bit of a maze. There are three driveways that lead into it, and then there are three parking areas inside of it. The first parking area is along the middle driveway, angled parking along a house, numbering about seven or eight spaces (I have never painted lines, to encourage people to park creatively). The second parking area is perpendicular to the first one, and connects the first driveway to the middle driveway. It has space for about five cars to comfortably park, six if forced. The third parking area is beyond the first and second, between the middle and third driveways. It has eight spots.

It's common for tenants to park along the rock wall opposite the third parking area, should all twenty to twenty-two parking spots be full. There's space there for two cars, but if people are determined to maximize space and make the place feel like a downtown apartment complex, four cars can make it. Technically, parking here is illegal, as it blocks a fire lane. I am sympathic to tenants who cannot find a spot elsewhere, though, and let them park there overnight.

Last night, somebody was having a party, and thirteen cars turned up in the lot, cars that did not belong. Since we're very nearly at capacity for parking for tenants (20 to 21 cars, depending on how you want to count), I had to do something - call in the authority of that is the Township police department.

When the cop arrived 30 minutes later, one of my tenants rushed out of her building and over to me.

"Is there a problem with the parking?"

"Yes," I said. "There are thirteen cars here that don't belong to tenants. I'm having them ticketed."

"That's not fair. They're only here for a party, they won't even be here all night. I get home at night and I never get a parking spot (which is untrue - ed.). Why are they getting ticketed?" She had a cell phone in her hand, and the index finger of her right hand was poised above the keypad. She was ready to make some calls.

"They've filled up the parking lot. There's no place to park for regular tenants." I walked away to meet the cop and hand him my neatly typed list of car models, makes, colors and license plate numbers that demanded ticketing.

"What if they move right now?" she pleaded. I stopped in my tracks and considered. Would moving the cars mid-party deliver a sharp enough sting to prevent this scale of an offense again, or would it require the cold, clean, and white justice of the parking ticket to make them learn their lesson?

The note of desperation in her voice led me to opt for compassion. She had personally done nothing wrong, her friends didn't know, and from now on she would be certain to warn all visitors: Don't fuck with the parking here.

"That'd be okay," I said.

She dialed. I waved to the cop, and as I handed him the list, twenty-somethings poured forth from the building. And thus did the cars empty.

The girl I'd asked to move earlier confronted me.

"I was under the impression that as long as I didn't park along the rock wall, I was okay," she said.

"I never said that." Which was true.

"But you didn't tell me I couldn't park here," she said, obviously frustrated by my semantic distinction.

"When you parked here, there weren't twelve other cars in the lot. More like three. But whenever this place fills up with cars I don't recognize, I call in for tickets, and I ticket every car that doesn't belong. That's only fair."

She seemed to accept my explanation, but the cop was blocking her from moving her Jeep. As a courtesy, I instructed the officer not to ticket her vehicle.

In the end, two cars were ticketed. But the best part of the story is the angry 60s casualty who emerged from his apartment after all the cars had left. We'll call him "George".

George is a complainer. In an earlier post I mentioned that every tenant has a pet problem. George has pet problems. I'm no psychologist - I don't even play one on the radio! - but as far as I can tell, his state of mind requires him to inform me of something bothering him whenever we interact. A typical conversation between us will go something like this:

GEORGE (approaching from behind and shouting suddenly to startle me): Hey!

ME: Fuck. Don't do that.

GEORGE: Hey. Sorry. Gotta keep you on your toes. How are you?

ME: I'm doing okay. I could complain, but what's the point. And how are you?

GEORGE: Great, just super. Although I was wondering....

...At which point he launches into a tirade about how when the fire door doesn't shut it costs him money on his utilities because it lets in cold air, or how the light bulbs in a particular fixture need to be changed because they're too bright and they blind him when he walks in, or how we need a bigger dumpster because it's always full by the time the township comes to empty it, or how someone is leaving out their laundry detergent in the laundry room. Or something similarly benign and weak.

This is also the fellow who, when I post a "rent past due" notice on someone's door (always folded and taped shut in an envelope), fetches it and reads it. I suppose I should be grateful that he doesn't actively create problems for me, but would it kill him to just shut up for once and mind his own business?

So anyway, George sees a police officer in the parking lot and comes out of his apartment.

"Is there anything I can do to be of assistance, sir?" he asks in his most sycophantic tone. I'm rolling my eyes.

"Just issuing some tickets," the cop calls back. I approach George.

"We just had a lot of cars here that didn't belong, and I'm having them ticketed," I say. "Gotta keep the spots open for people who live here."

"Well, it's probably just that lady in number three. She's having a party, I can hear it in the hallway."

"I know it's the girl in three," I tell him. "Most of them have moved their cars now."

"Excuse me, are guests not allowed to park here?" He places his hand over his chest and takes a step back in fake astonishment. See, he's had guests show up - three or four cars - before, and park there for a few days, and I know this. He knows I know this, and now he's trying to avoid trouble in the future.

"That's right," I say.

"Where does it say that?" He gets closer and tightens his mouth. I point to the sign nailed to a tree, it says Tenant Parking Only.

"I'd take that to mean 'Tenants and tenant guests', that's what I think it says," he tells me.

"That's not what it says."

"Well that's what I'd take it to mean. If I got a ticket, I'd take it down to Dane County court and the judge would throw it out, because that's what it means. It means 'Tenants and tenant guests'. And I've never even seen that sign before. You can't even see it driving in."

I helpfully gesture to the other sign that you can read pulling in. "There are two of them," I say, "And both have been here for years. Since before I started."

"Well I've lived here eighteen months, and I've never seen them before."

"Well there they are," I say, very suddenly tired of this conversation. "Besides, I don't set the policy, I just do my job."

"Oh I don't blame you for following orders," he says, "you've gotta do what you're told. I understand. I'm just saying that I think it should be 'Tenants and tenant guests.' That's how I read the sign. A judge would throw out any ticket if you took this to court."

"It's not a problem if guests park here, but there were thirteen cars here that didn't belong."

"So where are they supposed to park?" he wants to know, hands on hips, craning his neck towards me to be aggressive. "I had some friends over for New Year's Eve, and I would have been furious if they had been ticketed. I would have called and complained to the office, and I would fight the tickets in court. Where are they supposed to park?"

I gesture to the north. "McGuire Street, up there. Over in the Sears lot. In Maple Bluff."

"So guests have to walk a block and a half to come visit?"

He's obviously never lived downtown, but I'm not going to point this out to him. He shouts to the officer, who's just smiling to himself in his squad car, filling out tickets.

"It says 'Tenant Parking Only', but it doesn't say guests can't park here. There's no way that'd stand up."

The officer doesn't even look up from his clipboard. "If it says 'Tenant Parking Only', then that's what it means."

George pretends not to hear him. "What'd you say?" he turns back to me. "I think it means 'Tenant and tenant guests', that's what I think. If they're going to change their policy, the office needs to send a letter to everyone out here. They need to inform them."

"I call them tomorrow and ask them to do that," I say. "I'm just doing my job."

"You call them," he says. "Cause I want this in writing. I've never heard of this before."

The next day, I call my supervisor at the rental office and tell this story to him.

"You know what you can do?" he tells me. "I'm going to fax you a copy of the lease George signed, with his signature on it. You can blow it up there, and about three inches from his signature, under number nine? It says 'Parking for tenants only. One spot per apartment.' You can blow that up, highlight that part, and tape it to his door. That can be his fucking letter."