Concerning the 24th of April.
Attention Fellow Occupants:
I am writing in regard to the incident that occurred 24 April in the foyer of our building.
I am writing and posting this letter in the foyer of our building so everything is out in the open and no one can accuse me of being sneaky or backhanded or in other ways deceptive. I know I am not those things but there are people in this building who seem to believe that I am, or perhaps some other combination of unflattering qualities, and I know that those people may carry more weight in the courts of public opinion (i.e. this building) than I do, even though I am a quiet and respectful tenant who has lived here for more than a full year (6 years, 2 months, 22 days). I prefer that things be settled without rumors and lies and gallons of milk secretly dumped on hard-to-reach-and-therefore-clean fabric items which then fill apartments with the smell of rancid milk. I would also like it to be known that I am well aware that the chances of accidental milk spillage on most such items are very small, no matter what you say, Mr. Northrop in 202, and don’t like how you smirk when you tell me it was not intentional.
That is a matter for another letter, however.
I am writing this letter to dispel misapprehensions about the nature of my conversation with the tenant in apartment 101, whose name I do not know because he gave me a name and I don’t believe him, but whom I will henceforth call the Man-Squirrel, because that is what he looks like. I am sure that we all know who I’m talking about. I know specifically that most of you know who I am talking about, thanks to the numerous anonymous notes in different handwriting (at least three types, one is still being analyzed by my friend at the library). Only tenants in the building would have access to my door so they could tape notes to it, even though all of you claim to be ignorant of how they got there, and the “widow” Mrs. Tumba’s (apartment 301) suggestion of “vandals” is nonsensical, because the content of the notes indicates intimate knowledge of the political (yes, political!) machinations that are afoot here in the building. Further, Mrs. Tumba’s smirk, much like Mr. Northrop’s, indicates to me, and I have checked this with a sociologist associate of mine so I know it is relatively provable fact, that she is attempting to pull my leg, probably due to our ongoing feud over a misdelivered parcel (October 2005). Mrs. Tumba, your behavior remains shameful, and I would appreciate you not trying to distract this letter from the issue at hand. It is hard enough to concentrate with all the racket you and your sticky children make when climbing the stairs as many times as possible in the course of a day. Please: give your children a bath and tell your numerous boyfriends to not stomp so much, or to purchase quieter shoes, which would also be acceptable.
On 24 April, I returned from the grocer to find the Man-Squirrel fumbling with his keys as he attempted to enter Apartment 101, which I assume is his but have still seen no rental agreement (despite numerous requests to both the super and the landlord itself (I don’t know whether Terry Orlon is a male or female landlord)) which would make his occupancy a legalized fact. Not having seen him before, I said hello and asked if he needed help. He turned and said “No thanks.” and went back to his ring of keys, which I should also say are far in excess of the number of keys any one person should have, especially for a telecommuter, as the Man-Squirrel claims to be. Needless to say, as everyone in the building should agree, if they are honest with themselves and not swayed by pro-Man-Squirrel propaganda, this person seemed untrustworthy, so I stayed in the foyer watching him. Note: at this point, if he had simply found the right key and gone into his apartment, I would have been much less suspicious.
Unfortunately for me, he seemed to be deliberately delaying his entry into his own apartment (!) and occasionally looked at me and snorted (!!) as if I was impositioning him!(!!!) By this point, my ice cream was much softer than I prefer that it become, and my arms were tired from the weight of the bags, which I mention as they may be mitigating factors when considering my subsequent behavior. Stress, fatigue, and the build-up of muscular toxins can have adverse effects on the human brain, and being human, I am no exception. The Man-Squirrel continued to thumb through his multitude of keys, and to cut through the tension I said “I haven’t seen you around here before. Did you just move in? Is that why you’re having such difficulty locating your key? Because it’s new and you don’t recognize it by sight yet?” Clearly I was giving him the benefit of every possible doubt. His response? Yet another snort!
Only a moron’s suspicion would not be activated by this point. So to escalate matters (since, given the information I had at the time, he was almost certainly a criminal or some kind of unsavory rogue agent intent on using the apartment for money laundering or possibly drug manufacture) I asked if I should phone the super for assistance. This made the Man-Squirrel say, with a very notable edge in his voice “No, no, here’s my key.” He advanced on the door, and I realized he might very well have a real key that he had stolen from the rightful tenant (though I have to admit I doubted he could be a successful thief given his girth) so I attempted to delay him with more small talk. Also there was the possibility that I could smooth things over if he really was the true occupant, though that possibility was small, in my mind. As to certain comments made by Mr. Herndau in 102 about Occam’s Razor and the likelihood of the obvious, I can only say that hindsight is 20/20 (if not moreso) and that if you had been there at the crisis point you might not be so smug in your conclusions. Further, your Jack Russell terrier is very loud while you are at work, and is inappropriately named (Misty).
What follows is the best possible reconstruction of the words exchanged between myself and the Man-Squirrel in the moments that followed. If anyone who was actually there has specific corrections they wish to submit, I will happily accept them, provided you have the ability to verify the truthfulness of your claims.
ME: So what was your name then? Since you live here and I haven’t seen you before?
ME: What was that? I couldn’t hear you over all those jangling keys.
[At this point, the Man-Squirrel turned and gave me a name, which as I said before, I believe was false.]
ME: Well, that seems rather unlikely. Did you just move in and that’s why it took you so long to get into your own apartment?
MAN-SQUIRREL: You didn’t help.
ME: I was just seeing if you needed assistance. And that you belonged here. I’ve been here quite a while, and you aren’t familiar to me.
MAN-SQUIRREL: I’ve lived here since last May. We met at the 4th of July block party last year. You’re Mr. Prenders in 302.
ME: Well, then you have me at a disadvantage. [Here, I laughed, because I thought what I said was funny.] And you are?
MAN-SQUIRREL: I just told you my name.
ME: No, your real name.
At this point, the Man-Squirrel and I engaged in what can only be termed a heated semantical debate regarding the nature of names. I will spare everyone a direct transcript as the Man-Squirrel’s language was very coarse and his argument was poorly thought-out. I see no reason to embarrass him again by committing it to print where it could come back to haunt him, if for example he is some kind of online linguistics professor. I continue at the point where I have effectively bested him from a rhetorical perspective.
ME: Regardless, I’m pretty sure you don’t know anything about my mother.
MAN-SQUIRREL [after a long pause and one sigh]: I have a lot of work to do.
I attempted one last time to sway him with words, but he turned and appeared ready to advance on me. It was at this point that I hit him in the neck with one of my bags of groceries. It was a glancing blow, far less painful than any of the countless shin bruises I personally have sustained from the Tumba children operating their plastic tricycles on the third floor landing, which I’m relatively certain violates numerous city ordinances as the interior of the building is not zoned for racing and the potential for illegal gambling on the outcome of these child races is great. Further, the use of the groceries in this manner falls completely under the umbrella of “self-defense” and none of the Man-Squirrel’s property or person was damaged. In fact, I might very well be the victim (see next paragraph).
Sensing that this was as good a time as any, I left the Man-Squirrel to his own devices and returned to my own apartment to put my ice cream in the freezer to resolidify. I should note at this point that the pints of ice cream were rendered substandard by the prolonged thawing and the collision, not to mention the lesser injustices visited upon the frozen blackberries and refrigerated luncheon meats I bought, and for which I believe the Man-Squirrel should be responsible for some kind of restitution. I can provide receipts as necessary.
Having laid out the facts of the incident, I will now make my statement to the Man-Squirrel, in the hope that my words will be the olive branch that stops others from taping poorly written letters to my door. Also, please be aware that the tape is hard to remove, at least in the manner it is currently being applied, so in the future, please do not apply it in that way, assuming the letters continue to be written and taped to my door, which I hope will not happen.
It has come to my attention over the previous weeks that an enmity exists between us, which I believe begins with our conversation on 24 April about whether or not you lived here. This was not my intent. As any reasonable person will surely admit, I had many reasons to regard you as a potential threat which you had ample opportunity to address and yet did not. These include:
- Fraudulent name(s)
- Suspicious quantity of keys
- Generally unpleasant demeanor
and also others.
I realize I could have been less pessimistic about your intentions and nature, but as a person who is genuinely concerned about the building and his fellow tenants (regardless of the quality of treatment said tenants have provided to me in the past), I determined it was better to err on the side of caution and make certain you were not here to blow us all up or stink up the entire structure with your meth lab or porn cabal.
Inside these limitations, and only inside them, I apologize.
I hope this has smoothed over whatever social wrinkles have arisen and that we can all enter a new era of peaceful coexistence free of letters taped to doors and garbage thrown at windows in the middle of the night.
Lastly, the cost of the damaged groceries is less than twenty dollars, so I hope, Mr. Man-Squirrel, that you can promptly dispose of that debt, which will greatly improve the atmosphere between us. A personal check would also be an excellent way to discreetly inform me of your real name, so when we next meet, I will know what to call you.
While I have the public ear, let me also say to Mrs. Tumba that whatever your mind has decided was in the parcel that was addressed to me and that you should not have opened (as it is a federal offense to open others’ mail and it is only because I am a decent person that I haven’t had you arrested and possibly deported), it was not what you thought it was, and I am surprised that a mother would even know of such things, much less accuse me of having ordered them via the internet. Madam, you have children. Shame on you. I hope now we can consider that matter also closed.
And to Mr. Northrop: get bent.
I look forward to seeing you all at the Memorial Day cookout, provided you do not bring your pets and your children are free of grime and excretions.