Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hey, HEY ... we need your opinion


What the hell is going on??

Joe and I were innocently standing and waiting for the elevator when a woman came into the lobby. She strode up to me and asked if I lived in the apartment above her. We compared numbers and, yes, I did. She then shouted at me.


If anyone thinks that writing in capitals is the same as shouting at someone ... wrong.


I was taken aback.

Joe spoke up, not having been assaulted by her anger he was quicker to speak, "We hear that all the time too, we think it's from upstairs."

Now, in fact, it isn't all the time, it's sometimes, it's random, its background noise to me, I only hear it when it's pointed out. But apparently this woman is losing her marbles because someone seems to be dropping them.

After Joe spoke I sputtered into action, being on the defensive, I agreed with him that I hear it too and that like him I thought it came from upstairs.

Just then the building superintendent came along and the woman who lives downstairs, her actions make it impossible to call her a neighbour, said angrily, "I was just about to whack him," indicating me, "upside the head for constantly dropping things."

The elevator came and she got on with the superintendent continuing her rant about marbles.

I got upstairs.

Calmed down.

Ramped up again.

How freaking dare she?

Firstly, shouldn't people speak to, question, investigate a little before lobbing an accusation. Secondly, is it ever OK to suggest that violence is part of the solution?

Don't tell me that she was just speaking figuratively.

I don't buy that shit.

Since becoming disabled I have come recognise the vulnerability that comes with the territory. I don't like threats, idle or not.

I told Joe that I intended to write her a note telling her I didn't like her presumption, her tone and her implied threat of violence and that my disability didn't give her the right to act with such rudeness.

Yeah, I think disability plays into it.

She knows that Joe and I live together but it was me she approached, probably because we constantly drop things with our weak little grasps us disabled people, not Joe.It was me she shouted at, not Joe. It was me she threatened with violence, not Joe.

So, I want to write her a note, tell her that I've gathered my thoughts up and HERE THEY ARE.

But Joe thinks that this will just escalate things.

We had an, ummm, heated debate about this.

We agreed to abide by your opinions. Simple majority will do it.

Write or Let it Go.

Vote Now!


Anonymous said...

Yikes. Not a very neighbourly neighbour indeed. I think I would write...but about a week...but wait...and after speaking to the superintendent. Not in complaint, but to see if the situation that she obviously continued to complain to him about in the elevator, has been resolved or addressed. Further, to ask him what HE thinks the noise is. Then write your note. Perhaps mention it was too bad you had to meet under such stressful situation. Then state that you didn't appreciate being addressed in such an angry manner. Wish the hope that the situation gets resolved and your understanding of what the noise is. Then state the expectation that the next meeting will be civil. Have both you and Joe sign it. If you do it in a non-threatening manner, but still firmly, it will probably be a positive thing. If she does not receive it well, at least you have stated your feelings and the burden of the disagreement is on her. Just my 2 cents worth.

Glee said...

First speak to the Superintendent and find out what went on and what he is going to do. Then YES do write to her. I won't suggest what to write cos you are a grown man and I reckon you can do it all by your little disabled self lol (sarcasm there)

Mary said...

Writing a note to her won't help and will probably escalate the situation just as Joe says. People never respond well to being told they've been rude, especially when it's true, and the person pointing it out is the person they were being rude to in the first place.


It's not okay for people to yell at you or threaten you with violence (even indirectly, as her threat was not addressed to you but was clearly intended for you to hear it). And since she lives in the same building as you, and has approached you in the communal areas of your home to spout abuse at you... that's a problem that needs to be dealt with.

If it was me, which it isn't, then I think the first step would be talking to the superintendent. Partly to find out what the noise is (in case it's a building issue that needs to be dealt with) but mostly to register today's incident and point out:
- that this tenant has behaved inappropriately. Yelling at other people is not okay and many buildings have a clause about behaving with due regard for other tenants.
- that you believe there *may have been* an element of disability discrimination involved with her attacking you and not Joe, and how uncomfortable it is to experience such discrimination in your own home.
- that as a vulnerable adult, you feel intimidated and upset about her behaviour and are concerned that it might happen again.

That way if the situation recurs or escalates, you have something to refer back to where you've stated your misgivings in a calm and sensible manner.

Anonymous said...

Ignore the marbles (they aren't yours) - address the violence.

My 2cents.

Anonymous said...

let it go.

Anonymous said...

Let it go!

I often get angry but don't act on the anger!

Take a wisdom from this interaction and be prepared for the next encounter with her!

Love Linda ( LinMac in Dublin)

Sher said...

Write....but not today! She may not even be aware of the way she communicates and it would be good for her to become aware, but the message will be lost if it's a heated letter. In the workforce, someone is not allowed to speak to a co-worker in that manner, so why are the rules not the same waiting for the elevator?

pattib said...

write, but don't send it, then write again and send it

Anonymous said...

I agree that you should wait...deep breath...and then write. This is the essence of conflict resolution...done with respect and professionalism...but most definitely done. This lady who co-exists in your building has not done this in a manner that seeks resolution, but in a manner that feeds conflict. That is not OK...that is never OK. That was disrespectful, and I believe she needs to be made respectfully aware of often as is necessary, perhaps firmly and with assertion, and always with the dignity and respect that was lacking when so contemptuously thrown at you. And...having said all of that, I think YOU now need to do whatever it is that YOU need to do in order to be at peace with the situation. Willing you the best.

Alison Cummins said...

Write. She threatened you. And copy the superintendent to remind them both that you have witnesses. This is no time to worry about escalating a disagreement: you've already been physically threatened.

Karry said...

Let it go. I like the idea of talking to the superintendent, though.

Kelly said...

I say this time, write an official letter to the superintendent. Reference the time, date, content of the interaction, and the fact that he witnessed it.

I second Mary's suggestions. Make sure it's clear that this kind of thing makes you feel threatened in your own home, and that you won't hesitate taking it to the next level by contacting police in the future if people are threatening you with violence.

Now, I'm normally all for taking things up with people directly, preferably in person. I'm a paid conflict mediator. But in this case, my sense is that the woman who threatened you won't really be able to hear your complaint, and it may just escalate things. If she does it again (hope not!), then when you take it up you can say "this is a pattern of violent interactions making me feel threatened in my own home. I'm sorry you're frustrated about the noise, but I already identified that I am not the culprit, and you continued to threaten me. The super has been notified, and if there is a third interaction, I will not hesitate to call the police." Usually the idea that people are doing something police-worthy will "sink in" and change the behaviour.

Jan said...

My suggestion is to write but as others have said wait a bit before you do. Knowing your writing and language abilities I am sure you can get your point across. I like the idea of talking to the superintendent and sending a copy of the letter to him as well. This woman's behaviour was reprehensible and she needs to be made aware of what she did and how it was perceived.

Anonymous said...

Joe could very well be correct that a letter will escalate the situation, but I don't think that's a good enough reason not to do it. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. I agree with the others who suggested talking to the super. I think he needs to know that her behavior is not acceptable, to know that you are addressing it and to find out about the odd sounds. I'm also wondering if her actions may have crossed the line into a criminal offense. Where I live her behavior could have been taken as disturbing the peace. Perhaps a call to the local law enforcement to check out your options might be in order? This might especially be important if she decides to act ugly after getting your letter. Sorry you have to deal with this. No matter what you do it sucks.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this situation will be solved with a letter. It's so easy for the tone of written words to be misinterpreted and if she chooses to misunderstand your intent it could easily escalate the problem.

Speaking with the superintendent seems like a good idea. He knows how the rest of their conversation went, and he's likely to know what the source of the marble noise was.

Maybe if you see her again in the communal areas you could broach the subject with her from a 'Did we ever find out what that weird noise was?' point of view. This will start things on an even footing again and remind her that you aren't responsible, are just as puzzled as she is. Hopefully then you'll be able to judge if explaining how she's made you feel will be worthwhile or whether it would be best to let it go.

wendy said...

I say no letter to her, yes to documenting her accusations and threats and reporting it to whatever person or body seems most appropriate.
For me, this is not a situation in which "fighting your own battle" is advisable. When dealing with over the top, irrate people who know where I live, I'm not a fan of iniating further direct communication by addressing their behaviour.
The only way I'd willing have further communication, if I could help it, would be if she showed up at my door with a home made pie, flowers and a heartfelt apology. And even then, I'd be wary.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't take it seriously.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Alison Cummins 100%. Write to her, copy the super, demand an apology. None of this tippytoeing around the abuse. Call her out as the bully she is, put her on notice.


Jan Goldfield said...

You will not change her mind, no matter what you say or do. People like that are like awful and mean, no matter who the anger is aimed at. She would have yelled at anyone regardless. Write to the manager or her or both if you wish, but she will not hear you and the manager can't change her.
But was she yelling at you or just yelling and you felt her anger more than Joe did?

Anonymous said...

I agree not to write but to talk to the of luck- how horrible to have this happen in your home.

Rachel said...

patib (above poster) said exactly what I was going to: write, don't send it, wait a bit, then write again.

The challenge is to make woman downstairs your ally against random marble drop noises (and in the world at large), not your opponent in life with some weird unknown noise as a side battle. It's a daunting challenge, because she sounds like rough raw material, but I actually think you can do it. Your writing is powerful and you can exert a lot of charm, so wait until the power and charm are the predominant elements, rather than the outrage and the hurt (which *are* justifiable, but not the most productive elements).

BubbleGirl said...

Even though it would be totally counter-productive, I think you should buy some tap shoes for Ruby and Sadie, and have them practise tap dancing for a few hours the next time they visit. Oh, and pogo sticks, and bouncy balls, too.

Realistically, though, I think she deserves a strongly-worded letter. And the super should also get a letter (more kindly worded) voicing your concerns about the marble-dropping noise, and the shouty downstairs person.

Anonymous said...

My inclination would be, do say something to the supervisor, perhaps a friendly word in person and a more formal written letter. That way, if things do escalate later (or if other residents file complaints about her), there's something on record documenting this as a pattern of behavior. DO point out your extra feelings of vulnerability as a person with disabilities. My guess is he probably hasn't stopped to think that some people are going to feel inherently more threatened because they know they're already at more risk of being targeted for actual physical violence, so it's good to raise his consciousness in this way.

I am more hesitant about the idea of confronting the woman. I know it must be a sore temptation, it probably would be for me too. But I'm not sure how productive it would be in the long run -- my sense is that it might just make her more defensive because she may be already primed to take offense almost no matter what you say or how you say it. But it can be hard to judge these things without knowing more -- some people act really tempermental one day because they're in a bad mood or whatever and take it out on innocent people, then get embarassed and reverse themselves later if given a chance.

I like this suggestion raised by "anonymous" further above: "Maybe if you see her again in the communal areas you could broach the subject with her from a 'Did we ever find out what that weird noise was?' point of view. This will start things on an even footing again and remind her that you aren't responsible, are just as puzzled as she is. Hopefully then you'll be able to judge if explaining how she's made you feel will be worthwhile or whether it would be best to let it go."

Re, her targeting you because of your disability -- I'm guessing perhaps she saw you as less of a threat (and thus easier to bully and yell at) than Joe because of the disability.

Andrea S

Martha said...

Write. Don't necessarily send it, but definitely write. Also, talk to the superintendent. You should never have to feel unsafe in your home.

Happy said...

If you were advising one of your clients, you would tell them to go to the police, not to address their potential abuser directly.

Whatever you decide to do, I wish you luck.

Princeton Posse said...

Uh oh Dave, I am always of a divided mind about these types of interactions. I suspect that writing a letter to her would only escalate the matter. I would, as others suggested, write to the super stating what had happened and how it made you feel. She may have a history of complaining & rabble rousing.

Liz Miller said...

What Happy said. Write to the Super, and ask if he's had other complaints about her. If you are the first, then ask him to let you know if there are others.

If she confronts you again, or you learn of any other complaint, go to the police.

Once may be an aberration for her. But more than once calls for intervention.

Susan said...

I vote letter.


Wait until you are no longer "angry" (not that you don't have a right to be, but people tend not to listen to visibly angry people), and then deliver de letter, de sooner de better.

Follow it up with a plate of homemade cookies or a piece of apple pie and ask, "Did you get my letter?..."

And it that doesn't work?... Well, you can always come back and ask for another vote from we your reading public.

And just because I don't happen to agree with Joe in principle, doesn't mean that I don't sympathize. Not a nice place to be in! Neighbours, blechhh. THAT is why I live out here in the country - because THAT is where chickens belong! :)

Susan said...

I just read all the other comments and now I'm mad.

Don't you DARE let this go!

She's a bully and boor. She has all the power - and keeps all the power - if you do nothing. If you exercise the power you have - writing the letter, and expressing the Truth - you have exercised your power.

If she chooses to "escalate" instead of letting you "educate" then that's her problem, but at least you are on equal ground.

Then if you turn the other cheek, it's because you're earned the right to - and you're making the choice to -

-not because she bullied you into it.

John R. said...

Unless this woman has some type of mental illness that would POSSIBLY explain her aggression and boorish nature, I would indeed say something. It is almost, in the description you offered, that she has an instability. Mind you, that is no excuse for being violent, but if there is something cooking there, be careful. I am not sure a note should be the vehicle for your addressing her violence. I believe in some type of face to face (with a witness). If there is not an apology or some resolution, let it go and let her be. She has no right to be aggressive regardless of mental status etc...In fact, in my municipality if anyone did what she did it would be considered menacing and could be punishable by law. Keep her in your sights but take no more violence.

Anonymous said...

Well. if the options are write or let it go, then I vote wholeheartedly for WRITE. I think this is not something to 'let go'.
I think you are a regular writer and writing is your style so I wouldn't want to comment on the write to her vs. write or speak to others debate.
If I was writing, I would want to say on the one hand I am concerned to be a considerate neighbour and in civil circumstances, I would want to explore with my neighbour the source of the noise and what can be done about it.
However in the context of verbal attack and talk of physical violence, this course of action is simply not available to me and any further communication about this will need to happen through mediation which addresses both the abuse in the elevator lobby as well as the noise problem.
I don't know if mediation services is just something we have locally, but that's who I would go to, and copy the letter to, if it happened to me.
But that's me not you in a different context to where you live so it's not a suggestion to you, just a comment!
Solidarity against the bullies!!!

Dave Hingsburger said...

Once again, thanks for the lively discussion. We are going to:

Meet with the superintendant about the interaction in the lobby and ensure she is investigating the 'marbles' and that she knows about my concerns with how I was addressed.

Write a note to the person downstairs and let her know that, while she might have been frustrated, she needs to be aware of how her actions came across and that they will not be tolerated.

Write and ask the building manager if there are written policies about intertenant conflict or bullying.

That's may spark all sorts of issues but, what the heck, it's not cool to be targetted in one's own home.

Jan Goldfield said...

Great decisions on all counts. I applaud you.

FunMumX3 said...

Chiming in late to say (now that I've read your plan) , respectfully, that pausing before each of your four steps would probably maximize your effectiveness and provide time to reflect rather than react.

Example.. First step to meet with Super, address noise concern and how you were addressed. If Super tells you confidentially that the woman was fired from her job that day, was beaten by her boyfriend the night before, has an anxiety or personality disorder that causes her to interact aggressively but is really not like that... well, you may refine how you take the second step.

Heck, you may find that your next step is to stop by with muffins and get to know said person. Or it might go completely the other way in which case your reflection might cause you to avoid at all costs.

My advice? Sleep on it between steps :)

Anonymous said...

You might want to reverse the order of the last two steps, ie ask about policies on bullying/conflict between tenants before writing your note to your neighbor. Knowing more about what policy there is (if any) might give you more thoughts on how to handle things when writing the letter to her.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting: 'First step to meet with Super, address noise concern and how you were addressed. If Super tells you confidentially that the woman was fired from her job that day, was beaten by her boyfriend the night before, has an anxiety or personality disorder that causes her to interact aggressively but is really not like that... Heck, you may find that your next step is to stop by with muffins and get to know said person'
To my mind even if any or all of those things happened to her, it's still totally not ok what she did in the lobby and I think NO MUFFINS!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I don't get why people suggest letting it go if the woman does have a mental health issue or wierd values that make it ok to abuse you when she is in a bad place. How does it help her, or you, to let it go?
If you have the strength and support to call her out for what she did, then surely it's helpful to tell her that her actions were not acceptable.
'Forgive them father for they know not what they do' I think the point here is that 'they know not'... it's important that people DO get to know the consequences of their actions. When are able to do this without overtaxing or damaging ourselves, then that's the right thing to do.
I think a sound reason for letting it go would be 'this is gonna cost me more than it's gonna help me', that would be the logic for not escalating the situation in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

'Turn the other cheek' and identity politics- if you are on the perjoritised side of the axis of oppression, then you would be required to turn the other cheek repeatedly in the face of sustained insult. To me it's simply not appropriate here.

Anonymous said...

I had a neighbour that once wrote a note to everyone in my building claiming that my children were breaking into her apartment and stealing her dishsoap and her shampoo and that my husband was stealing her clothes the letter went out on a Thanksgiving weekend when I was away at the cottage and when I came home and one of my other neighbours passed me the note I was livid, not just angry but livid, how dare she accuse my family of such perposterous things then I realized it was perposterous. I went to the property manager the next day and she had also seen the letter, the board wanted it investigated. The outcome was that she was ill her sister hadn't been in to check on her for several days and that I was free to go to the police with the matter as it was slanderous but because she was ill nothing would come out of it. I didn't know what to do it was all so ridiculous my husband and I penned a letter to everyone in the building stating that we were not the tyoe of people that steal, that we were willing to open our doors to any investigation of the accused actions and that although we did not appreciate the letter we were willing to forgive our neighbours. The next month a nephew moved in with his aunt (our neighbour) and we became quite good friends with him. He was a social service worker and was helping hisaunt with her meds as she was becoming increasingly ill, later on that year the neighbour died I still don't know if I did the right thing or not. Her illness was not an excuse for her behavior but then her knowing of her illness made me able to deal with her behaviour in a less threatening manner. So maybe I am just as guilty as your neighbour so my suggestion would be to talk to your superintendant first and carry on from there with what is in your heart

Dave Hingsburger said...

Again, thank you all. I enjoy this kind of discussion - and I'm pleased that so many weighed in on this.

Anonymous said...

I would write her, once you take some time, them buy a nice big bag of marbles or 2 and DROP THEM....DAILY....

Cynthia F. said...

Dear Dave and Joe - How annoying that even though SHE was out of line, YOU have to end up spending a lot of time and energy dealing with the aftermath. Harrumph!