Every workplace is cursed with one. Every extended family learns to endure one. Every church tolerates, well, several of them. But when a busybody poisons your condominium building, a place where you escape every other life nuisance, things reach a whole new level of “mind your own damn business.”
They always introduce themselves with such warmth, busybodies. They want you to know that if you need anything, and they mean anything, they’re just a jingle or a holler or some other cheesy expression away. As sweet as a kid’s tooth on Halloween, I tell you.
They also prey on newcomers, such as a woman who’s just moved to Boston, for two reasons. Newcomers don’t know their reputation, so we’ll actually speak to them. And, newcomers need someone to show us the ropes.
Ask a busybody to show you the ropes, though, and you will quickly tie a noose.
Surely, she was the building manager. That would be the only reasonable explanation for all her questions that morning, the orders she gave our movers and her very presence out there with my husband and me, as we directed the trailer driver.
She wanted to know how long the trailer would be there, where it would park, and then, when the answers met her approval, she wanted us to know one thing: “If anyone gives you any trouble,” she told us, “you have them deal with me.”
All that was missing was the ol’ jingle or holler stuff.
After the move, there was a knock on our door. Her again. She had, you guessed it, another question. Did we leave a mattress in the dumpster?
Sometimes you realize you’ve done something wrong for the simple fact you’re being asked about it. Example: Is that what you wore to work today? Another example: Did you delete the Michigan State game from the DVR? Yet another example: Are you the one who used the bidet as a toilet? (I’d like the record to reflect that I’ve never been asked this question, but know someone who has.)
For a brief second, I thought about lying. But, like Tina Knowles did Beyonce, my mama taught me better than that.
When my husband returned home I relayed our building manager’s message about needing a rubbish pick-up service to retrieve the mattress because “that’s not allowed.”
That’s when my husband told me something that tested my status as a dignified 36-year-old woman. The lady who was out there in the parking lot with us that morning, asking us and our movers and the trailer driver all those questions? The lady who looked disturbingly delighted to inform me about a rule regarding mattresses in dumpsters? Yeah, that lady isn’t the building manager. She’s just a nosy-ass neighbor.
Duped. That’s how I felt in the present moment. Doomed. That’s how I felt about our future in that building. And for good reason.
We called the rubbish pick-up service that day. They couldn’t make it out until two days later and would charge a fee of $35 to do so. Fine. Well, fine for us.
Keep in mind, the mattress stood next to the dumpster in a fenced-in area. Most neighbors probably didn’t even notice it, much less become bothered by it.
Still, my husband discovered a lovely surprise when he walked out to the parking lot the morning of our scheduled rubbish pickup. His car was wearing our mattress.
Now, I just joined my husband in Massachusetts, but he’s lived here four months already. Upon moving into this building, neighbors warned him about this lady. While making a purchase at the liquor store next to our building one day, he overheard two men griping about her. She worked hard to build her tainted reputation and she wasn’t going to let one measly mattress improve it.
A week later, we got an email from our landlord, reluctantly inquiring about a mattress and acknowledging that we must have met the building busybody. Apparently, she contacted the association that manages the building, which contacted our landlord.
The morning my husband had to lift a mattress off his car, pro-wrestling style, he penned our friend a little note. He wanted her to know he didn’t appreciate having to body-slam a mattress in his work clothes. And, if she had any further issues, she was not to bother his wife, but speak to him directly.
I couldn’t figure out why he added that last part. Until I started fantasizing about what would happen if she didn’t heed his request. As you read this, I’m counting all the wonderful ways to tell someone to mind their own damn business.
Contact Xazmin Garza at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.