Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bad Tenant

My landlord, Dr. Wang, frequently assumes that I have done things that I haven't. These things typically have to do with the trash, the mail, or some other matter of mutual household use. He usually catches me as I'm arriving home and runs out of his acupuncture office on the ground floor of the building to tell me what it is that I shouldn't be doing. This is by no means a daily occurrence, but it happens frequently enough that whenever I see him, I do my best to smile, wave, and get the key in the door as fast as possible to avoid such encounters.

For example: one day a pile of trash bags and recycling containers mysteriously appeared on our doorstep and remained there for several days. A few evenings after their appearance, Dr. Wang ran out to talk to me. "Kate," he said, pointing at the mess. "Don't put trash on the doorstep." I looked at the bags from an Asian supermarket I had never heard of, filled with things I had never seen, and said, "Ok, I won't."

The awkwardness of these interactions is compounded by the fact that Dr. Wang, who is from China, speaks English with a very strong accent, and I speak, well, no Chinese. Sometimes I just cannot understand what he is telling me not to do. Recently, very soon after having returned from a weeklong trip to Spain, I was coming home from work when Dr. Wang accosted me at the doorway and said ... something. I felt like I could put together a string of words that he was saying, but the words didn't make any sense. So I repeated to him exactly what I thought he had said: "Don't put chest out back."

"Yes!" he said, excited that I seemed to get it.

"I have no idea what that means," I said.

Dr. Wang motioned for me to follow him and led me through his office until we were looking out of the back window into the tiny concrete space between our building and the ones surrounding it. He pointed at three full plastic trash bags lying in the middle of the dismal courtyard. "Don't put trash out back," he said. "The lady next door. She says she saw you throw trash out the window. Don't do that."

Let's examine the reasons that this could not possibly be true:
  • 1) I didn't even really know this concrete space existed or that it was underneath any of my windows. I mean, I guess if pressed I would have imagined that a space like this existed, or at least admitted that it was logical for a space like this to exist, but only after a lot of thought.
  • 2) I don't really know how to get the screens out of any of my windows. I suppose I should figure this out before I die in a building fire.
  • 3) I am far too lazy to overcome either of these thought hurdles in order to figure out how to throw trash out my window. Relatedly: I don't think I am creative enough to even come up with the idea of throwing trash out of my window in the first place.
  • 4) Did I mention I had spent the past week in Spain?

I didn't try to reason with Dr. Wang. I simply said, "I didn't do that." He looked at me, dumbfounded. "But the lady says she saw you," he said.

"I don't know what to tell you. I didn't do it."

"Ok," he said, but it was clear that Dr. Wang did not trust my word over the word of The Lady. (Side note: I'm interested in just how The Lady conveyed to Dr. Wang that the guilty one was I and not one of the other two 20-something girls who live in my building.) We seemed to be at an impasse, and so I returned home to my apartment and continued to not throw trash out of my window.

In conclusion, whoever is doing mildly deviant things around my apartment building, please don't do that. Because I'm probably going to get blamed for it.