Today, boys & girls, we’re going to talk about the maintenance department in the place I live and work as a property manager for a privately owned apartment complex. I won’t dare say the name of it, because internet, and I don’t want to get fired/homeless.
So here’s the scoop:
In December 2015, I was still recuperating from a car accident the year before, and living with my sister and her husband, their 5 kids, my other adult nephew and 5 dogs (two of which are mine). I got a call from an old friend, saying that her boss (83 year old widower) owned an apartment complex, and needed a manager to live on site. It doesn’t pay much, but it comes with a free apartment.
SIGN. ME. UP.
Okay, so I meet the owner (forevermore known as Bossman, because, internet) here at the apartment on January 2nd, 2016, and he basically says “When can you move in?” rather than interview me. I was a little unsure, because the buildings are really old (circa 1930) and have a kind of weird layout (2 walk-in closets in the living room, but the one in the bedroom isn’t big enough for adult sized hangers…also the toilet is diagonal, for example. More on that nonsense later). My sister (and benefactor, for all intents and purposes) is with me, and she keeps saying “I think it’s really cute!“, but I’m pretty sure she is just really ready to get SOMEONE – anyone – out of her house.
Can’t say as I blame her. I’m not fun to live with.
I had a weird gut feeling, but I knew I didn’t have much choice. If I didn’t take it, who knew when something like this might come along? My job and living opportunities were slim since the accident.
So, 48 hours later, I’m standing in this place with the realization that it is infested with German roaches, the floor is soggy (both the carpet AND the tile) and the promise that it had been cleaned really meant that the tiny, 65 year old Hispanic maintenance man, Felix, and his even tinier wife had sort of swept and vacuumed a little at some point during the unit’s vacancy. At least up to about 5 feet up the walls. Kind of.
Fast forward to: I’m crying to my dad on the phone, saying “What have I gotten myself intoooooooo?“, on repeat, for the better part of a month. Exterminators came (a lot), and I eventually slept with the lights off, without fear of bugs crawling all over me.
Friends and family brought me things and help clean ‘for realsies’, and kept me alive with Netflix and food and supplies until I got my accident settlement and bought a used car. WooHoo!
That’s how and why I got here.
So, I’ve been here for a little over a year and a half now, and let me tell you how our maintenance department works…
My maintenance man (Felix) was a gardener for Bossman and his late wife in their posh home many years ago. The wife owned this property (inherited from her parents) and ran it with an iron fist. She apparently had Felix come here to the property to fix things now & then, and eventually it just kind of morphed into a regular maintenance job. He does a pretty good job with the yard work around here. But he should. He’s a gardener.
A gardener. NOT a handyman.
So you can understand why one of my first “fights” with Felix was about how it was, in fact, inappropriate to “fix” an air conditioner with duct tape. Variations of this argument still happen regularly, and when I ask about something done poorly, he shrugs his tiny shoulders and says, “I don’t know why they did that like that“.
It sounds way cuter with his accent, but not while he’s saying it. It’s actually quite annoying. I finally called him on his bullshit and said, “They, who, Felix? Who are THEY? Because YOU have been the maintenance guy here for 25 years. So I’m very curious as to who THEY are, that do the things for reasons you don’t understand. Who are THEY?“.
He smiled, shrugged one shoulder and walked away.
It took 6 months for me to finally get him to commit to a specific schedule, rather than stopping by unannounced and never letting me know he’s been on property. He actually would (and still does, on occasion) hide from me. Tenants have reported him ducking behind a building when he sees me on my back porch, then darting out when I go inside, or hiding in one of the 3 supply closets we have (only two of which I have keys to). So he’s supposed to work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of each week. When he does actually show up, he arrives between 11 and 2, works for maybe an hour (doing I have no idea what), then takes lunch. Sometimes it’s an hour. Sometimes it’s three.
He’s out with the promptness by 5pm sharp.
On days he doesn’t show up, he doesn’t call or answer his phone. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times he has actually answered his phone since January 4th, 2016 – they day I moved in. He doesn’t check his voice mail, doesn’t text, and has called me back exactly 3 times since January 4th, 2016.
He does this with Bossman as well. I feel fairly certain that I have some job security, when taking this behavior into account. He once went 3 weeks without calling or showing up, and never answered his phone or returned a call. Nothing. Bossman and I genuinely wondered if he’d met his demise. He finally called Bossman back and as it turns out, he’d broken his glasses and needed new ones before he could work again.
To this day, I’ve still never seen glasses on his face.
I’m sure I sound like a screaming banshee when I finally do catch him and can tell him all of the things that have stacked up and now are urgent because no one’s seen or heard from him except darting glimpses in two week’s time.
Speaking of which, he just slinked past my window. I gotta go catch him!