Monday, April 16, 2012

Now I remember why I don't use Craigslist.

So, I have an interesting story to share with you all.

Mike and I have been looking for a new apartment because he needs to be closer to his job. We've finally decided on a place. While we were still looking, we considered a certain apartment in Bridgeport. We visited, and an older lady (I'll just call her "Betty") gave us the tour. Now, she seemed nice enough at first. A bit high-strung and neurotic, but friendly. She came across as the kind of person who could be fun in small doses. The apartment was lovely and reasonably priced, so Mike and I prioritized it. Although we liked Betty well enough, she had some mannerisms that were off-putting. We would be engaged in pleasant conversation, but as soon as either Mike or I expressed a (reasonable) concern, she would start yelling at us. It would happen like this:

Me: "I really like the way the sunlight floods into the rooms. It's cheerful."
Betty (smiling): "Yes, it's beautiful, isn't it?"
Me: "I notice there's no laundromat nearby, though."
Betty (dramatically stepping back as the smile dropped from her face): "IT'S ONLY A SHORT DRIVING DISTANCE AWAY! WHAT DO YOU EXPECT, A PALACE??"

This sort of exchange occured more than once. She pushed for us to sign the lease immediately. When Mike said he wanted to discuss it with me and call her in a few days, she shouted, "A FEW DAYS?? And what do you need to discuss it for? There's nothing to discuss! It's perfect!" When I asked about the price of utilities, she answered me and then indignantly added, "I think this apartment is just fine! I'd be very happy with a place like this!" Her mood shifts were so abrupt that it was jarring. It couldn't be attributed to age. She was elderly, but clearly not senile.

Mike and I went home and thought about it. We toured another apartment that we really liked, and the landlord was laid-back and friendly. The neighborhood was cute and we'd be allowed to keep our cats there. The cats are important to us, and the other apartment had a no-pet policy. That was the deciding factor, so Mike called Betty and informed her that we'd decided to live somewhere else. Betty became even pushier. She insisted that we revisit the apartment and said she would lie to the landlord about our cats. Mike responded that he appreciated the offer but didn't want to move there under false pretenses. (Plus, it would be pretty difficult to hide our kitties. They're very friendly and love to greet everyone who comes to our door.) Betty told him she would persuade the landlord to relax the no-pet rule for our sake. She also told Mike that the other apartment we had toured was in a bad neighborhood, and said, "You don't want to worry about your wife walking around on those streets!" Now, there was absolutely nothing sketchy about the area, and there has never been a single break-in at that apartment building. Her tactics were growing increasingly manipulative and wearing down on our nerves. Nonetheless, Mike agreed to meet with Betty and see the apartment again. We figured we should give it another chance.

We returned to the place on Saturday. Betty spoke with us while we waited for the landlord to arrive. She said she'd told him we only had one cat, and instructed us to keep up the ruse. I was wary right away. When the landlord came, Betty continued to pressure us. Just like the last time, she rapidly alternated between speaking pleasantly and then becoming angry and defensive whenever we asked questions or expressed concerns. When she mentioned that we'd looked at another place, she made it sound like we'd betrayed her. The landlord pointed out that she'd shown the apartment to other people too, and she looked embarrassed when he said so. She expected us to have a monogomous relationship with the apartment and refuse to cheat on it by seeing any others.

When Mike and I left, we were still undecided. However, the events on Sunday changed it all.

We hadn't planned to talk to Betty on Sunday. The landlord had said he would call us on Monday (today) and let us know if he'd decided to lease us the apartment. But yesterday, Betty called us four times and left four separate messages. The last three calls were made within only three hours. The final one was from her cell phone. I suspect she knew we were ignoring her and used her cell so we wouldn't recognize the number. She just wouldn't leave us alone. Mike was getting more irritated, so he didn't answer. Her fifth attempt came early this morning and Mike called her back. He put her on speaker phone. As soon as she answered, she told us we'd gotten the apartment and scolded us for failing to respond to her earlier messages (in the same breath). Mike told her we decided to go with the other one. She gasped and asked, "Why? What happened?" This was the ensuing discussion:

Me: "Well, there are a few different reasons. For one, the other place costs less."
Betty: "But you'd only be saving fifty dollars a month!"
Me: "That adds up to six hundred dollars a year. And I still think the cats would pose a problem--"
Betty: "The cats would be no problem at all! The landlord said he'd make an exception for you!"
Me: "Even so, he doesn't know we have three cats. It would be hard to hide the others when he comes by to collect rent. And he said the neighbors aren't supposed to know about our pets, which will be difficult. What if we make friends with the neighbors and want to invite them over? It would be weird to hide the cats from them."
Betty (shouting): "It wouldn't be so hard to hide them!"
Me (not shouting): "Also, we like the neighbors at the other apartment. They're a friendly Jamaican couple and they make delicious food that they'll be happy to share."
Betty: "There's plenty of good food around this place!"
Mike: "We like the other neighborhood better."
Betty: "Where did you say the other apartment was? Crowley Street?"
Mike: "Yes."
Betty: "Well I've got news for you, boy! Crowley Street is not a good neighborhood! If you care about your wife at all-"
Me: "Honestly, your approach is putting us off."
Betty: "What? I'm not doing anything wrong!"
Me: "You're being pushy. It comes across as manipulative."
Betty: "Wha--no! No, I'm not like that! I'm not pushy!"
Me: "You're being pushy right now."
Betty: "I can't believe this! Everybody likes me!"
Me: "I never said we don't like you. I said you're being too aggressive."
Betty: "I AM NOT BEING AGGRESSIVE!! Now I'm going to get in trouble for not leasing the place. I hope you're happy!"
Mike: "I'm sure the landlord will understand."
Betty: "You should have told me you're not moving in!"
Me: "We're telling you now."
Betty: "I can't believe this! I thought you were such a nice girl! Boy, was I wrong!"
Me: "We have the right to say no, and this is really unfair. I'm hanging up now."

With that, I hung up as she continued to argue. I've got to say, I don't think I handled the situation badly. I managed to speak in an even tone the whole time, even though she was screaming. Mike said he was proud of me, although he felt badly because she's an old lady. I felt guilty at first, but then lost sympathy for her as she became more conniving and hostile. That's the thing: It's good to be polite, but you are not obliged to please someone who's being outrageously rude to you. A person can be a bully at any age, and they're never too old for you to stand up to them.