I’ve been told I have a ‘Justice Complex’. But I figure if there is one complex to have, justice is not a bad one. And if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s bullies and boundary-crossers. People who think it’s OK to intentionally make other people’s lives less wonderful, and sometimes much harder, than they need to be. And I just won’t have it.
To that end, I’ve done some crazy things in my time. I’ll freely admit that. Shameless things that other people would cringe at (including my family, unless its in their service). I’ve adopted alternate characters and personas when the occasion strikes. All because of this breed of person who thinks they can do whatever they want without consequence.
I did this on our honeymoon cruise when we were seated at a table full of rude, loud and boorish people who wanted to tell us what to eat. To be fair, Jeff egged me on that time.
‘Be that horrible New Jersey dry cleaning lady.’ he whispered. It’s one of the characters in my repertoire. So I did. I was so awful I surprised myself. The boorish people didn’t know what to make of me. It made our dinners that week into theater and almost tolerable.
And at one of Jeff’s class reunions I pretended to be him. Yes, I impersonated my husband, but it was for a good cause. I didn’t plan this, it just sort of evolved in the moment.
There was a guy who used to beat Jeff up every day after school all through junior high school. The bully waited for him outside the gate for three years, where shy, introverted Jeff was terrorized. He would try to run or go another way but the kid stalked him. When we met nearly 20 yrs later he still had a hard time talking about it.
So at the reunion, when Jeff pointed him out, I made a bee line for him. I chatted the bully, now late 30’s, up. I was younger and cuter back then, so it wasn’t difficult.
‘I want to hear everything about you’ I told him. ‘What you’ve been up to.’ I gave him my full, rapt attention
To say I was fawning over him was an understatement. Jeff was on the other side of the bar watching this exchange, mouthing ‘What the hell are you doing?’. Full disclosure, he never asked or hinted I should do anything like this and while not surprised, he was clearly nervous. I let this guy wax on for a long time. When the bully, who was hunkering down thinking his smooth moves where clearly working on me, finally asked me who I was, I said, ‘Don’t you remember me?’.
When he said ‘No, sorry. But you seem really familiar. I’m sure we had a class together. Can I buy you a drink?’ (the drinks were included with our tickets – so very smooth) I pounced.
‘Well, I’m sure I do seem familiar since we spent every afternoon in Junior High together.’
The bully looked confused.
‘It’s me, Jeff xxx.’ And I smiled my sweetest smile and pulled back my jacket that had been concealing Jeff’s printed name tag on my blouse. I had swiped it from the reception table when we walked in. They’d had to hand write him another one.
Now keep in mind, this guy wasn’t a rocket scientist because while I had on very high heels, I wasn’t anywhere near 6 ft 3. And I’m pretty sure when they do the surgery the 4 inches they cut off aren’t from the top of your head. The guy’s jaw dropped open. I thought he might throw up.
‘Uh…’ He was speechless.
I reached over and squeezed his arm. He looked at where my hand was touching him like it was burning his flesh, and his eyes got wide.
‘Oh sweetheart, I guess people really can change.’ I told him sweetly, then I walked out to meet up with Jeff by the front door. I bet that guy had nightmares for a week.
So yesterday, when Jeff called me and told me our old house in Seattle is for sale and they’re having an open house this weekend, and I’m in Seattle to take care of some personal business, I jumped at the chance to go for a very good reason.
‘Oh, you gotta go there and do that bored, horrible rich lady character.’ Emilie told me when she heard about it. She is so bummed she couldn’t come with me but she’s finishing her summer job up this weekend back in Portland.
I know, this sounds kind of harsh. I mean, they’re just selling our old house and they’ve owned it for less than 3 years. Why do we care? But they were BIG TIME Boundary Crossers of the first order during the purchase and closing process back in 2016. We had moved to Arizona for my job, so the house was just filled with our furniture to stage it. They had access to the house for an inspection for a few hours on an appointed day. That was supposed to be all. But the wife was also their real estate agent, so they let themselves in whenever they liked over the 45 day closing.
They actually slept in our bed (on our sheets and pillows). And I know this, not just from the security footage, but because during that time Jeff and I had to return to Seattle to finish up some stuff and we stayed in what was still our house. The first night, when I crawled into bed they had left their dirty socks under the sheets at the bottom. Eww! Gross! They lit fires in our cleaned out fireplaces and took one of the throws I had on the sofa. They had a barbecue out on the deck with their family, using our barbecue. Outrageous! Unprofessional! Possibly illegal.
So I decided I would take time out today to see what state it was in. I raised my children there. The wife is still the agent and she’s showing the house, but while we’ve never met I would know her instantly from the digital images of her abusing my home. They’d tried to sell it last year for $1.3m but didn’t have any takers and have lowered the price a bit.
This operation required me to get into character. Luckily, I had come prepared. Packing is my super power and I always have one outfit that can be dressed up – as required. A little more jewelry and make up than one should normally wear during daylight hours. A pair of ultra high heels, big sunglasses, a large handbag and an expression of total boredom. The look was complete.
Some of it was a little mismatched but it screams ‘I don’t really have to care.’ A version of this get up has gotten me upgrades at some of the finer hotels in this country. But that’s a hilarious story for another time. I have no idea why it works, it just does. Perhaps its 40% the clothes and 60% attitude. I was going skip the accent of the indeterminate country this time. But when I got there it just sort of came out and it helped me remain in character.
The agent was very welcoming. Of course, she wants to sell the house since they aren’t even living in it. We know everything there is to know about it so I asked about some of the things we did to the house. Softball questions to warm up. Dates when upgrades were done, etc. to test her knowledge, and also her honesty. She didn’t pass. Then I went to work.
‘You know.’ I said to her in my French, Iranian, Russian, who-knows-what-else-cause-Americans-can-never-tell accent, ‘We are just thinking of purchasing a property for when we’re in the US a few days a year. Something small – like this little place (it’s 5000 sq feet). But I need to get a feel for it. And I can’t do that without sleeping in it. My husband and my children will all feel the same, I am very sure. I know you understand what I’m talking about.’
I snap pictures of every room, at every angle, like I’m The photographer at a Vogue photo shoot. The agent looks confused. While she’s done exactly what I’m asking, herself without asking, she’s clearly shocked someone else would attempt it so boldly in broad daylight.
‘I mean, of course I would have to consult with my husband – he’s flying in from Europe tomorrow so I will speak to him then. But how would you feel if we were to, say, sleep here for one night before making a very generous cash offer?’
The agent gulps. I can’t tell if she is remembering what she did to us or if she’s mulling over whether to entertain this request with the dangle of a pile of cash at the other end. So I go further.
‘We have 7 children. Mostly boys. They are a rambunctious lot. But so fun. Such a delight. I love to cook for them. The family is the heart of the home. But of course, you know this.’
The woman nods. She has no idea where I’m going with this. Frankly, I’m not 100% sure either.
‘Well, the kitchen is where families spend so much time. (I spin a little like Mary Tyler Moore indicating the expanse of the kitchen) I would want to make a meal for my family in this kitchen. Before I could commit. I would want to ensure my husband would be happy watching me cook. You know, he likes to sit as I prepare the meal when we are on vacation and we don’t have our cook traveling with us.’
The woman appears speechless at first, but finds her words, indicating she would have to see if that was something they could arrange but she’s pretty sure the ‘owners’ (her) would allow it.
Then I point out to the pool.
‘And I’m sure my children would want to test out the pool. Salt water, you say? Well, this is very good. Good for the skin. Better than chlorine. My angels are so sensitive.’
Then I clap my hands together startling her!
‘I know just the thing! How about we stay here for just two days? Test it out – see how it goes. Get the full measure of the place. Maybe we could use the barbecue too. To cook some lamb. And then, if we like it we will make a cash offer and close very quickly. 15 days?.’
She’s salivating now. I turn back to the living room with our wonderful stone fireplace I loved sitting in front of on a crisp fall evening drinking a little glass of Riesling.
‘But you’d have to take this horrible furniture away because it’s very tacky. As my Grandmother used to say ‘You can’t dress up a goat and make him dance.”
The woman looks as surprised by that as I feel. I have no idea where that came from. Oops! I got lost in the character. So I recover quickly.
‘It doesn’t translate well from my language. But no matter.’ I wave my hand and then spot my missing throw. It’s still here, proudly displayed. Bile rises in my throat.
‘What a lovely throw. Such exquisite taste ‘ I say through gritted teeth. ‘It makes me want to steal it.’ And then I laugh without humor while looking directly at her.
The agent says she thinks they can work something out. I smile my best ‘Bless your Heart’ kind of smile. As I go to leave she reaches out to shake my hand.
‘We don’t touch.’ I tell her. I’m not shaking the hand of someone who abused my house and brazenly stole my throw. ‘Oh, and I did see some cracks in the walls. Those would have to be repaired before we could make an offer. I’m afraid that would be a deal breaker. My husband will not like it.’
My work being done, I drive away to meet some friends for lunch. I got to see the house and perhaps next time she’ll think twice about abusing other people’s homes and leaving dirty socks in their bed. OK. She probably won’t because she has no idea who I am. But I feel better. And yes, I’m pretty sure I’m going to Hell for all of it.