Out With The New, On With The Old: The Senior Citizen Strata Squabble.
What is it about the human aging process that makes regular people turn into “Old People”? Not just people who are ahead of you in numerical age; I’m talking about the porch chair rocking, cane waving, youth denouncing, old bags that hate everything that isn’t familiar. It’s not all of them (my grandparents have a cell phone, can email, and are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet), but it is a startling and unfortunate majority. Is it the progress? Is everything just moving too fast nowadays? Is everything just too loud? Why do we always have to speak up around you then? Are rock n’ roll, and backwards hats really signs of the apocalypse?
I’ve had some experience living amongst old people. Shortly after graduating from high school, I lived with my friend Jeff (http://jeff-bourne.webs.com/) in a “Retirement Castle,” as I liked to call it. Jeff has Spina Bfida, a condition that confines him to a wheelchair. The facility was the best option for his accessibility. It required enough arm-twisting for them to allow him to live at this place; you can imagine what hell had come loose when word got out that a perfectly healthy and able-bodied young person was moving in as well. The stink-eyes, the glares, the turning and hiding of purses while passing women in the hall, and the all too constant reminders of resident rules would’ve been enough for Milton from Office Space to burn down the building and then retreat to Mexico, were all daily encounters from day one.
Probably the most insane incident at this place occurred in the games room. A nice, typical, old person’s game room; it included shuffleboard, billiards, and the likes. I used it from time to time, and one day I had a friend over to join me for a game of pool. We broke, got a few shots in, and were having a good time, when all of a sudden, Marshall (the Strata President) walked in. I greeted him, and introduced my friend. Marshall had no time for my pleasantries. We were promptly presented with a verbal declaration of strata rules, chapter 6, section 2, subsection ix, paragraph 16 (I think that’s what it was) that clearly stated: The games room is for residents only. No guests are allowed to participate in activities that the games room provides. With all due respect Mr. President (a formality, my due to him in the respect category was zero), HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND? Unfortunately I only made this a mental statement. So for the next few minutes, while no one else but the three of us were in the room, Marshall watched us while I played the rest of the game, and made sure that my friend was not participating in pool, or anything else. I swear to you, I am not making this up.
After my wife and I got married, we rented out my older brother’s condo, in a Strata-complex. Though not an official retirement home, you’d be hard pressed to prove it based on the residents. There were a few nice folks, but the general consensus was pretty much the same as before.
One of the paranoia progressions this place had made was the lobby and underground parking security cameras; and the ability to watch them from one of the digital cable stations, in the comfort of their quintuple locked, shades-drawn, homes. They also felt the need to post a minion resident in a chair by the doors that the cameras viewed, just for added security, and likely, gossip.
The main entrance of the building featured foyer style access. There was a primary door that was always unlocked, and then a second set of doors that required key card admittance. From time to time, I did not have my key, for whatever reason. And also, from time to time, there would be one of these old people, sitting in the chair, minding the door. More than once, I asked for some assistance from the person to simply grant me admission; in lieu of calling up stairs and waiting for the buzz in. It’s not exactly sound proof glass, and anyone could have figured out the pantomime motions I was making. On pretty well all of these occasions though, the person I requested aid from was… less than helpful. The cold glares that came through that glass towards me, and the pretend reading they would be doing while I politely asked for probably the lowest level of assistance available… it was infuriating. I heard this same story from a few of our visitors as well.
In the wintertime, salt and sand naturally collect on a person’s car while driving on any city roads. When this same person parks in their underground parking spot with said accumulation, their spot is, of course, going to be dirty. One day after returning home, I got a whole earful quoted to me from the resident rulebook (probably the same one from the other place) that stipulated in another rabbit-hole of strata code, how clean my parking space was to be kept at all times. According to the book, I was required to sweep my spot regularly, or I may lose my spot altogether. I may have verbally agreed with the given citation, but I’ll have you know I never touched that broom from that day on (nor did I before).
Our condo did not have a working dryer, so we dried our clothes either at the Laundromat, or out on our deck. When we took them outside, we put our clothes on hangers and drying racks. After the very first time we did this, we received a note under our door the next day; stating that we were in violation of a Strata rule that said nothing was to be visible from decks that could be seen by anyone, so people wouldn’t think less of the strata as a result of it. First of all, it’s not like they were bad clothes. Second, there was one sliver of the highway visible from our view. There’s NO WAY anyone was seeing them, and/or reporting on the trashy looking disposition of our “great” condo. That warning found its way into the recycling bin quite quickly.
I think the Strata arrangement gives old people the last grip they have on any responsibility and expectation. They’re either assigned to, or volunteer for a job, and they do it to the best of their abilities. They may or may not even want to be living there. Perhaps their independence was taken away before they believed it should have been. That’s unfortunate if that’s the case, but it doesn’t mean that they need to make people younger than them miserable while they attempt to co-habitate in the same building as them. Like I mentioned, there are some really great seniors out there, but man are there some awful ones too. Now if I could just get our next door neighbours to turn that music down…