Saturday, August 28, 2010

Courtesy of the friendly folks at the Lancaster Condominium, Part I

The following tale, I'll freely admit, has nothing whatsoever to do with baseball. It is, rather, the story of how what should have been a petty and easily remedied annoyance, when met with a total failure of good-Samaritanism, begot a true-blue comedy of errors — a series of ever-more-ludicrous (not to mention -expensive) occurrences that, even in the moment, began to feel ... cosmic. I don't know which god I pissed off, but probably one of the more major ones, is my guess.

The should-have-been petty annoyance was that I disembarked from a five-hour coast-to-coast Virgin American* flight and took a taxi from Dulles to my girlfriend's place out in McLean, where I retrieved my car and bid the girlfriend a temporary adieu and headed home to unpack and maybe cook something quick and generally decompress a bit before meeting up with some buddies to catch up on what I'd missed D.C.-wise over my deeply needed and most-excellent vacation in San Francisco with said girlfriend the past week. I pulled into the circular drive outside the lobby to my condo building, entered with bags in tow and turned the key in the lock — but no go. Someone — whoever'd let the electrician in earlier in the week to repair and upgrade the decades-old fuse panel — had, in addition to locking it, deadbolted the door.

For reasons that've never been entirely clear, I don't possess the key to the deadbolt of my own condo.

Of course, this sort of thing had happened before, and (as I've said) has in the past been only a petty annoyance. I called Roger^, the property manager, at his home in Falls Church; he suggested I try units G12 or 213, as members of the Board of Directors live in those condos and have access to the building's office, wherein there's a master set of keys useful for letting in locked-out residents or ushering electricians into units whose owners are off gallivanting around the Bay Area (as the case may be). I figured G12 is right down the hall; why not try there first?

Which is where we get into the decidedly-bad-Samaritan chapter in the story. Sam**, a probably 50-something Peruvian I've seen around the place a time or two, answered the door to G12, looking frazzled and bothered and generally not thrilled to be answering his door at 10 at night on a Friday; his attitude didn't improve much from there. Despite my assurances that yes, I did in fact live in G1 and had lived in G1 for over a year and had in fact just gotten off the phone with Roger, which conversation after all had been the impetus for knocking on his (Sam's) door, Sam said he'd have to call Roger himself and shut the door in my face. He then disappeared for five minutes or so, during which interval I could hear through the door what sounded less like Sam's half of a phone call to Roger and more like an unidentified female yelling in an unidentified language^^ at Sam. Upon his reappearance, Sam, sounding defensive, as if he could foretell the pique what he had to inform me would inspire, informed me that he could not open my door for me; to do so (he claimed) would contravene Board of Directors policy regarding (he claimed) the level of acceptable access to the building office (this though Roger, whose office it is, actually works for the Board).

[A brief interruption in our narrative here, Dear Reader, with your indulgence. I'm going to give Sam the benefit of the doubt and assume his actions in this case were governed not by his being a total fucking asshole who simply didn't feel like exerting the energy it'd take to walk the forty or so feet down the hall and to the building office to secure the master key and let me into my unit — though let's admit it, this seems just as likely a proposition as the alternative, which is that the guy is just a complete slave to what let's admit is a rather arbitrary Board of Directors policy re: not opening the office/letting locked-out residents in, even when it's not their fault they were locked out in the first place (and in fact a property manager or Board member had been the one to lock them out — but I digress).

In any event let's assume Sam's simply acting out of an unbending adherence to the rules and extrapolate his behavior to society writ large and ask whether we can't please stop following the writing on the walls to such a ridiculous T and actually (gasp!) use our own logical thinking brains or even (double gasp!) our hard-wired sense of, like, empathy and basic kindness to govern our behavior. Without getting into the matter of whether sticking to the rules so blindly is maybe the hallmark of stupidity, can't we agree that the alternative would make for, if not a stress-free society, at least one in which we're not burning calories getting into petty disputes with a bunch of drones sporting company jackets and photo-ID laminates whose only response when prodded to have a heart and put themselves in our position is "Sir. Sir. Sir. I'm going to have to ask you to ..."?***]



* Which, I feel compelled to add, is one hell of an operation. There's the fact we took off 45 minutes late from SFO and still managed to land only 10 or so minutes late at Dulles; also the kick-ass deceptively-simple stick-figure modern-art cartoon with which the airline reviews safety procedures; and finally the dim club-style upward-directed lighting in the cabin, all sexy pink and purple, as opposed to the sterile nerve-jangling bright-white of most modern fuselage decor.

^ Not his real name.

** Yes, his real name.

^^ Maybe Spanish, given what I was later informed was Sam's Peruvian provenance, but possibly also a Chinese dialect, Mandarin or Cantonese or other, Peru having received like basically the same number of Chinese immigrants as the American West circa the mid-1800s. The country is now home to over a million ethnic Chinese, one of the largest Chinese minority populations in the world.

*** Full disclosure: This last complaint — even some of its wording — is lifted from the venerable Adam Carolla, aka The Ace-Man, who often registers it (the complaint: what he typically refers to as the "We've deputized a bunch of idiots" argument) on his podcast, which I recommend to everyone everywhere at any time.


  1. Keys and locks are the most primary of symbols. The message from the Unconscious is clear. San Francisco is calling. If you find a situation for myself and the missus out there we would be delighted. Winter coming.

  2. Interesting about the extent of Chinese immigration into Peru. I learn stuff in the strangest places.

    Before you criticize the Scott Stapp song too much (see last blog entry), you should listen to the insipid "Talkin' Baseball" by Terry Cashman (1981). I must have heard it about 5 million times including the local variants where each MLB team had its own stars in the lyrics. My theory is that repeated exposure to that song and the Barney song made the deputies into idiots.

    See, we can get the discussion back to baseball again.