Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Nutjobs Abound

There is an older black woman who teaches in the English department. I don’t know her name but we’ve been friendly since we sat in solidarity next to each other at some kind-of useless “reading RAMP-Up” or other such nonsense this summer. She’s from LA, where she taught for 30-odd years, and she has a quivery Grandma and fried chicken Southern accent with which she speaks through an unfortunately large set of lips that protrude obscenely out of and above an unsightly under-bite. She dresses in that distinctive way older, single women sometimes do that is always referred to as quirky or eccentric. She’s pretty funny, mumbling things like, “This shit is ridiculous,” in her trembly drawl as we pass each other in the halls amidst the whistle-blowing cops, screaming kids and blaring fire-alarm.

I ran into her yesterday in the library and gave her the special smile and “How ya doin?” that I reserve exclusively for older ladies that I think are hip.

“What do you know about landlord law?” she asked, shaking her way towards me.

“Who do I need to call,” she continued, “if there’s a secret passage in my apartment?”

I suddenly realized she had me cornered between the periodicals and her layers of flowey skirts and baggy sweatshirts, and I felt a little trapped.

I grunted a non-committal reply and tried to give her a quizzical look that I hoped casually said, “Please explain,” without screaming, “Holy Shit! You’re fucking looney tunes!”

“I know there’s a secret passage because people have been coming into my apartment when I’m not there, they’ve been using my stuff,” she explained, and I wasn’t about to argue.

“I wrote the landlord a letter, and he just ignored it,” she went on, “so I need to take this to the authorities. They’re coming into my house.”

I decided my best course of action was to act as if what she had just told me was a perfectly sane, normal thing to say.

“Pictures. You gotta take pictures. You ever watch ‘The People’s Court?’ If you’re going after your landlord, you need pictures of the,” I choked a little on this last part, “the secret passage.”

“Well, you can’t see the secret passage. It’s just a wall. All you can see is the wall.”

Yeah, no shit it's just a wall.

“Well then, at least get pictures of the damage the, uh, intruders do,” I actually said before going on to specify that, although I am no expert, it’s my definite opinion that her complaints be delivered to the Housing Authority. I then excused myself and walked away muttering, another day closer to the secret passage myself.

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