"If everybody minded their own business," the Duchess said in a hoarse growl, "the world would go round a deal faster than it does."
Today is Monday, March 4, 2013.
As soon as I moved in here, they started gossiping about me, I could tell. It made me extremely uncomfortable. Every time I answered a question, everyone seemed to know what I'd said.
They all knew when I went to the hospital. But instead of feeling that friends were concerned about me, it felt like vultures were picking over the remains. Not one of these people was a friend, and at the time, I knew only a few people by sight, and even fewer by name.
I saw them doing the same to others. We had ambulance crews here several times last fall - one was for a death. The apartment management had to put up a notice asking people not to get in the way of ambulance crews in the future. That's how ambitious some of these people are to get a "scoop" that they can share with others at their coffee gatherings three times a week.
I've never been to one of their coffee klatches. They are held in the morning, and I am just not interested in communicating with others early in the morning. I have come to enjoy nursing a cup of coffee in solitude while checking emails, the weather, the news, and Facebook each morning. And.... I am very uncomfortable around people who gossip.
One of the third floor residents I met early on, and one who has been the most friendly, told me soon after I moved in that the ladies were very cliquish and did a lot of gossiping. Apparently, at the time, someone on first floor was dishing dirty about her. For a while, this lady tried to organize a separate coffee klatch on third floor, but that didn't last long.
There are also monthly pot luck suppers and monthly birthday celebrations with cake and ice cream. I have never been to any of these, either. The pot lucks are always on Thursday evenings, and that is my Weight Watchers time. To boot, I have to watch what I eat now, and these women are the kind who cook the type of "Lutheran lady pot-luck" food made famous by Garrison Keillor in his radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion."
As it turns out, the only December birthdays were mine and the apartment manager's. I didn't know whether she would attend or not, given that she doesn't work in the evening, and she only comes here a couple of days a week. I already had some plans for that evening. Nobody bothered to ask me beforehand whether I would be home that evening. Nobody bothered to invite me to my own party. They just posted that there would be cake and ice cream. Well, cake and ice cream are two more things on my no-no list, and since none of these people was a friend of mine, I decided not to go. I didn't say anything to anyone, either. I wasn't going to deprive them of their monthly cake and ice cream, if that's what they wanted. For some of these people, these gatherings are apparently their whole social life.
When I got back home, I noticed that a birthday card had been signed by the attendees. I quietly took it off the table and threw it away. Why? Well... do you keep birthday cards from people you don't even know? Not one person came up to me later and said, "We missed you at the December birthday party." I figured nobody cared.
A few weeks ago, it turned ugly.
I'd been told that if the washing machines on my floor were busy and the ones on other floors were not being used, I could use them for my laundry. I wanted to attend a meeting one evening, but needed to get my laundry done. The machines on my floor were full that morning, so I decided to wait until afternoon, since the vast majority of people do their laundry in the morning here. When the two machines on third floor were open, I put my laundry in, then went to check out second floor. That room was open, so I put two more loads in. I had one additional load, so went to first floor to put them in. One other lady was doing laundry, and she had only one load.
With my clothes in the wash, I went back to my apartment to wait. I would start the dryers as soon as the wash was finished, and would be able to get done with time to get ready for the meeting and go.
There was a knock on my door.
The lady standing there had a menacing attitude. She didn't waste any time saying hello. "You can't use the laundry room on first floor."
"I was told that it would be OK to do that once in a while."
"Well, it's not."
"OK, I'm sorry. I'll get my clothes out as soon as they are finished. By the way, my name is Linda. What's your name?"
"Oh, I don't think you need to know that," said the woman, already halfway down the hall.
When I went to the machines on first and second floor, I was careful to take the shopping cart that said THIRD FLOOR on it, realizing that the Laundry Room Queen was probably also the local Shopping Cart Sheriff. It wouldn't do to be caught using the FIRST FLOOR cart.
I piled my clothes into the cart, and worked my way up from first to second. On second floor, there was now a group of people gossiping, and the lady (who had said she was from first floor) was now obviously telling people what a horrid person I was. One or two of the people who were there were unable to look me in the eye for at least a month afterwards.
I folded the wet clothes as best I could and dried my clothes for the next several hours. Naturally, I did not finish in time to go to the meeting.
I didn't hear from the management about the incident, and no notices were posted officially informing the residents which laundry room they were supposed to use. However, I did get an envelope containing the application papers for next year. (In a rent-controlled apartment, everyone has to prove each year that they are poor enough to live here - and there are at least five empty units in this building!) I thought that was strange, getting the application papers in January when my lease does not expire until the end of June. I still have the papers and have not turned them in yet. One of the residents told me that the management didn't usually give anyone the papers to fill out until a couple of months before the yearly lease was up.
Did the apartment manager tell the lady who complained that she would try to force me out of the apartment? If so, that's highly illegal. The manager has not mentioned the papers or asked me to submit them by any particular deadline. Maybe she thinks I won't qualify to live here next year. I'm not making any more money now than I was before, so I don't think I'm in any danger, but you never know. Rules do change, often without notice.
I will fill out the papers and put them in probably in late March, to give myself a bit more time, if they should determine that I will have to move, and I'll be pro-active in looking around for another place to live, just in case. I was hoping I could live here for a couple more years, at least, until I turn 62. After that, I can apply for Social Security, and my monthly income will allow me to spend a bit more on rent.
There will be no love lost when I leave this place. :-/