I don’t know which irks me more: meeting attendees who turn a scheduled program into a gripe session, or the program leaders who allow it to happen. I’ve seen it happen in seminars I’ve attended at work, and I’ve seen it at genealogy meetings. But the worst has been what we’ve experienced here in our own apartment complex.
Jerry and I live in a fairly unusual complex:
a) It is not a gated, secure community, although a security company is hired by management to man an entry shack 24 hours a day, making it appear as if a security system is in place;There are no garages, only open carports, and no storage facilities of any type. Many of the residents use battery operated golf carts to get around and which must be parked outdoors in front of their apartment.
b) It has a small retail complex just inside the premises that is open to the public – a Laundromat, café, market, thrift shop, pharmacy, beauty and barber shop.
c) It rents out various buildings for both public and private affairs such as weddings, service clubs, etc.
This complex has been owned for many years by a group on the East Coast but is managed by a local property management company. The rent we are charged, the lowest by far in this area, is what brings people here. There are 1240 individual apartments, 12 to a building and all on the ground floor. It sits on several acres of land with a 3-par golf course in it.
Periodically some kind of organized burglary gets a foothold in the complex. Thugs cut through the chain link fence at night from outside the complex and steal batteries from golf carts, and occasionally steal the entire cart. Sometimes cars parked in the carports or on the streets are broken into. Interestingly, every apartment has at least one bedroom with a window in it that overlooks the property. One would think that someone would hear something going on when one of these burglaries are in process, but old people are hard of hearing, or sleep soundly, or are afraid to have a window open, so rarely are the police called except after the fact.
The County Department of Aging sponsored a meeting at our complex last night presented by the local Sheriff’s Department on the topic "Personal Safety and Security." The head of the Aging Department, a woman, welcomed the attendees – probably 200 or so of us – and introduced first the Sheriff Department’s K-9 handler and dog. The handler barely got started before hands began being waved at him and people began shouting questions: What is the dog’s name? How old is he? Does he play with your kids? The handler answered them, as well as other inane and inappropriate questions -- and basically had his talk taken away from him. The next person to speak was a Lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Department who said he was there to talk about how to make good policing a matter of cooperation between the public and law officers.
He had barely started his talk when a man in the audience shouted out “You are a damn fool.” The audience roundly booed him, but then, before the Lieutenant could even started his talk again, residents jumped up and began their litany of grievances, one going so far as to walk up to the front, take the microphone out of the speaker's hand and launch a diatribe about something that happened 8 years ago. And it just went from bad to worse. No one, not apartment management nor the Department of Aging representative, stopped the audience to tell them that the Lieutenant had a presentation and would take questions afterwards. It became a resident-directed meeting with no leadership anywhere.
This did not surprise either Jerry or me, because we knew that just as at every other “house meeting” we’ve ever attended, the program would end up being nothing but a viscious gripe session about how bad “management” was.
Disgusted, we got up and left.
I don’t like to disparage my neighbors, but during the 6 years we have been here I have seen this same rude and ignorant attitude exhibited by the residents at every meeting. But to be honest with you, I also have never seen the person in charge of the meeting actually take charge of it. The meeting is allowed to get out of hand almost before it has begun. The idea of someone having “control” of a meeting apparently doesn’t have much cachet around here, and thus the bedlam happens over and over.
Frankly, I do not belong at those meetings because I know ahead of time I am going to get irked enough to leave shortly after it starts. And that is why I don’t know which bothers me more, the crowd or the program leaders. Maybe the leaders, because they should know better.
I don’t like being irked, so I mind my own business, find my social life outside the apartment complex, be kind and helpful to my neighbors and hope my car doesn’t get broken into. Other than that, I pretty much disassociate myself from this place.
I remember my mother once telling me that you don’t get yourself in trouble if you keep your big eyes open and your big mouth shut. I think maybe that is what I do here. I try not to be “standoffish” – and I truly am working on that, but oh, it is so hard on evenings like this on.