Thursday, July 04, 2013
The Dragon Lady Redux
This house is lovely and we've found that you can be happy here but we're wondering if it isn't a house we've outgrown. It's stead us through a lot of things and we've always said we'd keep it but at the same time it's walls are a bit too close to the neighbors and the neighbors well,...meh.
A few months a go we watched as our new neighbor moved in, difficult not to notice because he backed his new SUV up to the door and unloaded his handful of things all day, leaving the car there while he lunched on the port even though it blocks the passage for many people, including us. Ours is a row house and the neighbor's house too is a row house but imagine if you took a nice row house and chopped it up into three tiny studio apartments, well there you'd have the Dragon Lady's lair, her financial goldmine-- one among many in our town. The tenants change practically on a monthly basis it seems and they all are either in chaotic circumstances or are a young couple with their first apartment eager to impress everyone with their party throwing skills. In the summer if the places are empty she rents them as vacation rentals for the astronomical sum of 700 euros a week. At the end of the day our newly divorced neighbor,a beefy chainsmoker, had loaded his last few boxes into the place and sat down on our steps to have a rest, lighting up a cigarette and pulling out his phone. I wasn't sure if now was right for the speech..."sorry but this is actually our house and we don't smoke and could you please...and about the parking could you please and ..." but I was tired so I let it go for the time being. I'd just had to give this speech a few weeks ago and we had only just gotten to know the last tenant of the downstairs unit, a divorced 60 something year old. He'd come down on his third day or so and knocked loudly on my windowpaned door, ignoring the bell. He seemed to be in dire need of something and when I opened the door just before he was ready to rattle my panes for the third time he launched right into his discourse and insisted that he check his electrical counter inside my house. "I think my counter is in the MAIN building so I need to get in" he said exasperated. "I understood that he thought we we're the MAIN building so I tried to explain. "Yes sir but my house is an individual house and has nothing to do with your apartment" He rolled his eyes as if he was trying to explain to a person of indigenous origins how a telephone works. "When does your husband come home so I can I ask him?" He'd obviously seen Seb earlier the day before or something. I was more amused than angry. "I'll send him over when he gets home" And before this lovely man the tenants were a young couple who used one side of my steps for their patio gardening, only their gardening skills were nil and I had to go out every morning to a stairwell full of shedding half dead plants that they never watered. They used our step too for socialising, smoking and telephoning. Seb thought the girl was pretty so he asked me not to bother them about mundane things like cigarette butts by our mailbox or loud midnight phone calls under Charlotte's window, "they seem harmless enough" They stayed for 8 months leaving behind a few bedraggled plants in their wake. I'd had enough of them.
There's also the main issue which is the parking issue. Parking on our street is actually not allowed but we all do it anyway, we have to. We all park one discreet little car in front of each one family house, and there is the unwritten rule that we park in front of our own houses. But in the case of the rental house there are often three cars for the unit. And when there are three cars for one house guess where they park? And since they don't participate in the community they could care less about unwritten rules or how to be a good neighbor. Toleration. I try to practice that as my mantra but I feel like I'm the unpaid manager of an apartment complex and I feel like I'm always explaining the rules and being the bad guy.
Under the cadastral map of our home we actually co-own the landing area directly in front of the Dragon Lady's apartment housing and so luckily we have a say in things like whether or not her neighbors can put out chairs and tables and pull the cars right up to the windows and leave them. She also has to approve things like mailboxes with us and anything else she puts there. We own our stairs but that part we both own. The mailboxes are the latest issue and have caused a stalemate on both our sides. It all seems overblown on our part but it isn't if you knew the Dragon Lady and how she works. Believe me when I say that you'd understand. In the past she's tortured us with issues. She even sued us and our roofers and had her entire roof done at our expense by lying to an insurance expert. He admitted to us that she was lying and that the problem she was touting was pre-existing and not our roofer's fault, but he couldn't prove it on paper and in these cases the insurance companies find it cheaper to settle than to enter into litigation...not the first problem we've had with her. She has sent us at least 18 recommended letters over the years for cracks and repainting walls and this and that--you name it. She is a piece...of something. A few weeks ago after being gone all morning I walked up to find her worker cronie attaching mailboxes to our shared wall where the only access to get the mail was to climb onto our steps. We'd already said no to this spot and suggested she put the mailboxes on her own wall but she went stealth under the radar and did it, or was doing it anyway. I don't usually get angry with elderly people but I felt my blood rising to my face and in a voice that wasn't my own I swear I let out a burst of pent up frustration and what can only be described as acute intoleration. I told her exactly how I felt about her, the steps, the renters and her ugly smoke infested apartments. And it felt GREAT! I know forgiveness is a glorious thing and she's one of my soul partners here to teach me that lesson and a few more, but at that moment I just needed to release it and let her have it all back. I think I shocked her. I'm pretty sure she thought I couldn't even speak French.
A week later she told all the neighbors about the incident and so now everyone is weird with me. In her version of the story she isn't the Dragon Lady but a feeble old, helpless woman with a sick husband who was only maintaining her properties when suddenly she was attacked by the most foulest of foreigners. One neighbor said she told her I was the town gossip which had me laughing. I'm sure I get gossiped about but I hardly think I'm the one capable of keeping track of our village and it's humdrum happenings.
I'm unsure if we'll stay here forever. The curse of The Dragon Lady takes a lot of the fun out of things and even if we love it here, the constant battles are draining. But it would be a shame to have to sell because of her wouldn't it.
More on the Dragon Lady from back in 2005