Yes, Virginia, use the telephone

Nobody in my family loves the telephone. I grew up thinking that my Mom did, because

  1. She answered the phone when it rang
  2. She would talk on it for more than three minutes

neither of which you were likely to find my father doing. I have since met people who do love to talk on the phone; and in that perspective, let me reiterate: Nobody in my family loves the telephone.

We do love the internet, and that has considerably helped us avoid the telephone.

But the internet was no help to me when I found a note taped to my apartment door. It was a “Tenant Notice” from the Landlord and from maintence, advising me that when I was away from the apartment I was to set the thermostat to 60 degrees.

I am not a heat freak. Besides, I pay for the heat myself. I haven’t set my thermostat up to 70, and only set it up to 68 one time just for the thrill of it–I don’t feel cold with a sweater and a 65 degree thermostat. (Contrast this to my experience growing up, knee-knocking cold with a 68 degree thermostat. Either there is really something in these brick walls, or the thermostat is wrong.) I set my thermostat down to 65 or lower when I am leaving, unless I forget. I didn’t set it down as far as 60 because setting the thermostat too low makes the furnace work just as hard to regain lost ground.

I did find out that 60 is still recommended by some for your away temperature. See? The internet did help.

I was really offended by this notice. I had one–two, I think–before, telling me to be more careful about parking my car inside the painted lines. The bumper was over the end line, you know, leaving less than the full 48 inches of passage way along the pavement (never mind the lawn beyond that).

Yep, a “Tenant Notice” with a little checkbox “From the Landlord.” On the bottom, “Thanks for your cooperation, [The landlord].”

What gives? I thought about telling them how niggardly they were with the hot water. Before I got the heat turned on I sometimes had to turn myself rapidly to keep from forming ice on the side of me not currently being lightly sprinkeled, Lutheran style, with hot water.

Instead I decided that if they were going to harangue me about the thermostat, even though I paid for the heat myself, I had better make sure all my other i’s were dotted and t’s crossed. So I wrote down every trivial thing wrong with the apartment, so that while I was busy making sure the furnace was not overtaxed heating my apartment five extra degrees, they could be busy making sure that the kitchen sink was hermetically sealed so that no water could ever drip into the cabinet below.

While I was going through my rental agreement to make sure there was no obscure clause about not keeping the thermostat above 60 degrees while away so as to avoid providing free heat to the tenant upstairs, I noticed:

The landlord is not responsible for statements made by any designated contact person, contractors, employees or those assigned to maintenance duties. All statements must be verbally substantiated or confirmed by the landlord, himself, to be official and binding. Call landlord for confirmation or questions.

Now, the above obviously references the building superintendent where I am. He is a garrulous fellow. I don’t know if I have ever talked for him for less than an hour. He is also, so to speak, a stray dog. I have a cousin who is somewhat like him. These types are “friends” with everybody but have no friends. I don’t call it polite to listen to such rambling, but I do believe it is merciful and gracious for the ostracized or lonely. The superintendent may talk, and I may listen, and I know pretty well where things stand.

But nobody ought to be posting Tenant Notices without meaning business. Clearly the note was written out by the superintendent. Just as clearly, it indicated that it was from or at the behest of the landlord, and expected compliance. But the nagging feeling I had that this was some freelance supervision kept growing and growing. I had worked up a nice steaming pot of indignation and did not really want to let it go; I can write a pretty scary formal-legalese I-mean-business letter when I want to. I wasn’t even trying that hard and I got up a pretty good letter full of ominous foreboding, without explicitly saying anything unwarranted or confrontational. (Actually sometimes I have problems with my letters meant to be casual business being taken as full of ominous foreboding, not with good results.)

I made myself get out the phone, dial the landlord, and inquire verbally about this notice. It was not written out at the behest of the landlord, and it was only a lonely man reassuring himself of his own importance in the world by gravely advising his charges on their economic matters.

What a waste of perfectly good righteous indignation. But my relationship with my landlord–my actual landlord, who has left me quite alone to my own business–was saved from harm, and most especially my view of my landlord. Not for the first time in my experience, the telephone accomplishes what the written word cannot.

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