Monday, April 12, 2010

Pandemics, Pigs, and Peasants

My Super — ain’t nothin’ super about him. Never mind, yes there is. There’s the super-tardiness and the super-tawdriness. The super-incompetence. The super-chicanery. And I’m long past super-outraged.

Whenever I run into this guy on the street and I unsmilingly remind him of the outstanding repairs that are waiting for him in my apartment, he’s all glibness and grins. “OK, mami — you got it,” he likes to say. And then he still won’t do it.

When I first moved in, I showed him about 3 sets of urgent repairs he needed to make. With gaping eyes and melodramatic sighs, he said he’d come back the next morning. I thought he meant he was going to come back to physically make the repairs. But the next morning he showed up with a representative from the Bronx-based landlord’s office. I have every reason to believe that he described me to her as a demanding little bully and solicited her escort services with the expectation that she would fiercely put me in my place. Let’s just say his plan backfired.

This Super isn’t used to me or my kind. About half the people in the building have lived there for at least a decade and have some kind of rent-stabilized arrangement. By and large, they’re the agreeable, non-confrontational types who are grateful for whatever they have and go through life with the attitude that the world owes them nothing. Whereas I’m nothing like that. Superman picked up on this very early on in my tenancy. I make him work and he resents it. Which is too bad (for him)— I spend way too much of my hard-earned money to live in my mediocre building and, as far as he’s concerned, I don’t want to hear it.

I like the Super’s son who once lived with him. He was a pleasant and hard-working young man/old boy who could have been anywhere between 16 and 35 years old. I never heard him say anything bright, interesting, or 100% coherent — but he always struck me as an undiscovered working-class poet. He oozes soul. But he recently moved to Texas and he took his soul with him. So now it’s just me and his awesome dad.

The other day, I had another repair (involving my bathroom sink) that needed to be made. The landlord’s office told me the Super would come by between 7 and 8 o’clock that night. I rushed home from work so I wouldn’t miss him. By 7:40, I was hit with an unshakable feeling that I was en route to being stood up. I continued to semi-patiently wait, flipping through the Spring 2010 issue of World Ark magazine (“the magazine of Heifer International”) that had just arrived in the mail, the cover of which featured a full-page photo of a self-assured-seeming middle-aged woman clutching a live goat to her bosom. A few years ago, I became a card-carrying member of a national feminist organization. As a result, I’ve been unwittingly placed on the mailing lists of about a dozen obscure left-wing organizations. I didn’t mind this Heifer publication. Especially after having a few drinks. One of the articles I skimmed was entitled: “Pandemics, Pigs, and Peasants.” There are worse ways I could have killed my time.

At 8:01, there was a knock at my door. I jumped up, raring to go. Much to my amazement, it wasn’t at all who I thought it was going to be. It was a young woman carrying a clipboard. She was from NYC Communities for Change and was going door to door in support of several NYC public schools that Governor Paterson was trying to shut down. I consider David Paterson to be right on par with my Super. Eager to go on record as denouncing him, I signed her petition and gave her $5 for the cause. While I was signing, I casually told her that I had thought she was going to be my Super. “Is your Super black?” she asked. I told her he wasn’t. “Oh,” she said, “because I just saw a black guy on this floor and he looked like he could have been a Super.” Still can’t believe she said that. Particularly since she herself was black. And a member of an organization that called itself NYC Communities for Change.

At 8:15, it became clear that my non-black Super wasn’t going to come up on his own. So I went down to go get him. He answered the door wearing his trademark wife-beater shirt and talking on a cordless phone. “Hi mami,” he said. “Give me 5 minutes.” Fifteen minutes later, he arrived and lackadaisically surveyed my faucet situation. He went back down to his miniature urban workshop to retrieve another piece or a tool he needed. He didn’t end up actually getting down to business until after 9 p.m. I don’t like having strange men in my home at this hour of the night — and he was as strange as they come. His prompt and humble son would never ever have pulled a stunt like this.

(Rumor has it that the Super who came before this guy wasn’t that much better. In fact, he got himself fired after the landlord’s office learned that he had been organizing regular cock fights in the building’s basement.)

This isn’t the first shady, shitty Super I’ve ever had in this city. And many of my friends who have lived in NYC have had similar experiences. What’s the hiring process for non-swanky NYC residential building Supers? It’s gotta be something like the first person who walks through the door (and has a working knowledge of how to use a screwdriver) gets the big gig. Perhaps the good people of Heifer International would be interested in this gripping human-interest story. I’ve got a few heart-wrenching tales of pandemics, pigs, and peasants of my own (in addition to secondhand accounts of some scrappy indoor roosters).

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