Friday, January 09, 2015


Condo living, as some of us have been schnookered into believing, brings all of the benefits of home ownership – built up home equity! paint the walls whatever color you like! – without the downsides  - shovel the walks; fix the roof.

Somewhere, there may be a condo paradise where everything works like a charm, but I don’t happen to live in one of those. No, I live in the house of meshugas, a building so lunatic that  one of the other owners has dubbed it Fawlty Towers.

Now, some of what has happened in the past couple of months could have happened anywhere. Toilets leak, drains back up. But, of course, when something happens here – however routine – there is typically some aspect that is particular to us.

Anyway, I thought I’d highlight just a few of the recent occurrences that make living where I do such an adventure.

It’s 11 p.m., and I headed into the bathroom to brush my teeth before getting into bed with a good Kindle. Observant old geezer that I am, I immediately noticed that there is no water in the toilet bowl, and sewage backup in the bathtub. Neither is something you want to see anytime, day or night, but I assure you it is most decidedly not anything you want to espy just before going beddy-bye.

I went and shot off an e-mail to our property management company, noting that the last time this had occurred there’d been a main line backup caused by someone flushing non-flushables – Handi-wipes, Swiffer cloths, paper towels – down our ancient plumbing.

When the plumber came, he asked whether he could have access to the next unit. “Sure, I said, it’s an elderly gentleman who has a 24/7 home health aide…”

As soon as I got the words “home health aide” out of my mouth, the plumber told me “someone’s been flushing baby wipes down the toilet.” Sure enough.

Anyway, the plumber was able to roto the route out and all was well. Well, all was well after we got through to the home health aide that she could no longer flush those wipes down the drain. An after I had used about two gallons of bleach to sterilize my bathtub.

A week or so later, there was a more innocuous and routine event.

Around midnight, I head water dripping and, on exploration, I discovered that it was dripping through the light fixture in the stairway.

Electrical and water – my favorite combination.

I heard the guys upstairs still rattling around, so went up and asked them not to use the bathroom that was the source of the water coming in through my light fixture.


Easily fixed the next day.

Score one for the property management company: a nice example of how things should work, and only mentioned because, the day after Christmas, I again heard water coursing through the ceiling, this time coming through the light fixture in my office, narrowly missing my laptop, soaking the rug, and destroying a pile of papers. (One pile less to sort through and shred. Hope there was nothing important in there…)

I put a bucket under the leak, called the property management emergency line and waited for the guy to come by, completely perplexed by the location of the leak, an area where I knew that there were no pipes in the ceiling.

And because the water had stopped after a couple of gallons, I knew it wasn’t a burst pipe, which would have gone on ad infinitum.

The repair guy was as perplexed as I.

No pipes. A clear and sunny day, so no gutter action.

While we were speaking, I decided to call J, a fellow who owns a unit in the building but doesn’t live here. He’s an engineer who owns a lot of property, who knows the building very well, and who – whether we want him to or not – takes on some of the building’s repair work.

I described the problem, and asked J whether he had any ideas of what might be happening.

J asked what time the water had come in.

When he told him, he said, “Oh, that would coincide with the flood test we did on the roof.”

Well, as it turned out, J, trying to find the source of a persistent leak in one of the unit’s ceilings – not his unit, by the way – had decided to run a self-authorized flood test, and had run six inches of water onto the front section of the roof.

How it wended its way to the ground floor, back section, I haven’t a clue. But water will go where water will go, and, this time, it decided to go through the light fixture in my office.

At least J had the decency to come back and repair my light fixture for me.

And then the back gate – mostly used to take trash out of the building, and to drop things off/pick things up – got stuck. It’s also used by the residents of the unit that comes with a parking space,  since their spot is right next to the back gate. But it’s by no means necessary. Having it stuck is a minor inconvenience – a few more steps to haul the garbage and recycle out, having to walk about 15 seconds out of your way to get in the building if you’re parking out back.

Theoretically, it’s a safety issue not to have this as a secondary form of egress if the building turned into a towering inferno and collapsed into our little cement back yard. But not of any immediate concern. Fix whenever.

But, no.

Someone just couldn’t stand to have that back gate stuck.

So they yanked/cudgeled/forced it open, so that they could get in and out. In doing so, they destroyed both lock and latch, leaving what amounted to a half-way swinging door.

Which might not be so bad if it weren’t for the 50 mile an hour gusty winds, banging the door open and shut. Conveniently, less than two yards from the head of my bed.

The Case of the Thumping Back Gate was discovered by me the other night at 9:30 or so, after I had returned from an evening with friends.

Now the last thing I wanted to do at 9:30 p.m. when it’s about 5 degrees out and the winds are howling is figuring out how to keep the back gate from thumping all night.

But there I was, with my scissors and roll of 3” duct tape, securing the gate every which way but loose.

I used to tell my husband that he was past-master of the ugly home repair that works. I have now assumed the mantle.

Meanwhile, someone had reported the broken back gate to the property management company, and there was a flurry of e-mails that I had missed while I was out for dinner.

I added my two-cents/three inches of duct tape, and hunkered down for the evening.

At 10:30 p.m., I got a call from J – remember the guy who’d flooded the roof? He was here to fix the back gate. At 10:30 p.m. In the teeth of a howling wind. In hypothermia and frostbite weather.

Have at it, I told him. I just don’t want to hear it banging all night.

After briefly inspecting my handiwork, he decided to leave my duct tape in place for the night.

Yesterday, I was gone for the day, and didn’t check my e-mails until I returned.

When I got home, I saw that there’d been some back and forth between the property management company and the owners, with the property managers saying they were going to do the fix, and one of the other owners claiming that our friend J was going to see to it.

I have no idea who took care of it, but the gate appears to be fixed.

Ah, condo living!

In my next life, I’m coming back as Eloise and living in a hotel.


Here are a couple of related earlier posts:

This one’s on the joys of building self-management. The second is a continuation on that theme, plus some thoughts on a Las Vegas condo scam. 

No comments: