I've Got A Brand New Pair of Rollerskates...
Okay, now let's get to the ORAL REPORT...
You all know the phrase.
I'll bet some of you have even used it.
Bitch on Wheels
Today, I will be forced to dispel various myths established by my very adorable significant other, Highlander, as reported (repeatedly and often at length) previously on his blog. Baby, I love you, but...Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! Any of you who know him and have read him (and if you haven't please use the link, he's funny and talented like you can't believe!), have seen him going on and on infinitum about what a wondrous woman I am. The second coming...more or less. Don't believe it.
Bitch. on. wheels.
I'll admit it's mostly work-related. Mostly. I work in construction. And a woman working in construction has to be taken seriously or she might as well just stay home. Abuse like that you can get from your kids. Though they usually tend to be far less talented at it.
There just aren't alot of ways to get the PROFESSIONAL respect of men in this industry without flexing a little. Okay, alot. I don't like to be that chick. But, believe me, if I have to turn it on, I'm getting my money's worth for the overhead. Now, I realize you've heard that I'm all sweet and thoughtful and generous. If some of the guys I work with heard that, they'd either double over laughing or call you a bold-faced liar. Because there is NO WAY that they will ever believe it. And I'm okay with that. It means I'm doing my job. And sometimes, they pay me extra for it...;)
While chatting with Highlander the other day, about the trials of a particularly grueling day, he commented that this would be a good place to offload some of that particular burden. (Probably because he was sick to DEATH of hearing about it!) So, let me share a little of what work's like in my world. Of course, I'll have to take some precautions, but I think I can handle that. And, my apologies in advance for what is bound to be a long post.
Officially, I'm a Project Coordinator. At least that's what my business cards say. That's really an open-ended way to get me to do a whole lot of jobs for not nearly enough money. Cool title, though, huh? And, of course, there's the business cards, too.
I work for developers and architects now. But I've been doing this type of work for...ugh...going on twenty years now. Working for subcontractors, general contractors, and developers, before my current gig. So, I know my way around a construction site. And I don't take crap from contractors. Not ever.
Right now, I'm finishing up (FINALLY!!!) work on two different apartment complexes. One of them I'll call Green Meadows (since we're protecting the innocent and all). The other, let's call...um...let me think...how about 'Hell'. Yeah. That works for me.
Green Meadows is a very large (250 units) low income housing complex. It's not the projects, but there are quite a few tenants getting government assistance of some kind or another. There are also alot of married students (roughly 70% of the residents, actually), who are on a limited income, living there. The owners of my company are actually the owners of the complex as well. And our firm did the design on the renovation work of the existing complex. Actually both of those things apply to Hell, as well.
I was asked to oversee the tenant relocation efforts. Basically, because the complex was occupied, and we needed to get in and renovate units, we were going to have to move family #1 from apartment "A" to apartment "B", so that apartment "A" would be empty and the construction crews could work in it. And we were going to have to do that for like 200+ families. Whee! Luckily, the plan was to leave family #1 in apartment "B", so moving them back wasn't an added nightmare. Still, it was a great deal like a giant Rubik's cube, as I tried to free up as many apartments as I could for construction, while moving families (most of whom didn't want to have to deal with the headache of moving...and who could blame them) to apartments that were vacant. We hired movers to handle all of the actual moving, so that the tenants would be more receptive to the situation, but they were still required to do their own packing and unpacking. And anyone here who has moved, knows what a pain the butt that is. Let me just say, "Yippee! I'm done!" All the moves are over, and the police never had to show up once.
Over the course of the ten months that it took to do this monumental task, the apartment complex has gone through four apartment managers. None as incompetent as the the one currently holding the position. Let's call her Maria. To say I have issues with Maria is a vast and spurious understatement. Maria came to this job from a previous stint managing a 15 unit complex in Hooterville. And she starts at a disadvantage from the significant geographical and cultural differences between Hooterville and River City. Now, add to that that Maria works, technically, for a property management firm that my bosses have hired to manage the Green Meadows property for them. So, while Maria's paycheck comes from XYZ Management Firm, she (and they) ultimately answer to my bosses when it comes to her job.
I, myself, have never managed apartments. Don't think I'm interested in trying. It would appear to be a great deal of listening to complaints all day long and I'm not quite that masochistic. Oh, I get my fair share of listening to complaints, don't get me wrong. And sometimes I have to be nice to the people doing the complaining. But...not always...and that's the difference I need, I think.
But I digress.
Maria, because she believes me to be her assistant, often tries to hand off particularly venomous tenants to me to deal with. It's her opinion that, as they were complaining about construction-related issues, she feels perfectly in her rights to divorce herself completely from anything having to do with the renovation of the property she is managing. I have tried to explain to Maria, on several occasions actually, that it is inappropriate for me to have direct contact with her tenants, as she is the property manager and my role on this particular project is somewhat limited and is more a liason for the owners. She nods her head and smiles every time. And clearly does not understand a single word I'm saying. Though I do believe English to be her native language.
So....the other day, I get an email from Maria. I'll try to reproduce it. Better...I still have it. Hold on...let me lace up these skates and I'll share the email transaction with you...
A concerned resident wishes for you to call her. The name is Mrs. Smith at 888-8888. She is concerned about all the mud, about construction, etc., and wanted to speak with someone Other then me.
Now, I've been clear about this stuff before, but apparently, I'm more subtle than even I know. So, I sat down to write Maria back a little note...and forwarded a copy to her immediate supervisor in hopes that she could get Maria back on track.
I’m not sure how the resident knew about me, as my contribution to this effort has been largely anonymous to the tenants. In any event, I’m sure you are aware that it is the responsibility of XYZ Management Firm to manage the property. If you are unable to answer Mrs. Smith’s questions, perhaps [Maria's boss]can assist you. If you have specific questions, I will be glad to try to get any information for you that I can, so that you relay that information to your tenants.
But, no. Maria still doesn't seem to understand the intracacies of her job. This, after being there for the last 3 months. And, again, I've never managed property and am probably entirely oversimplifying the situation. So, does Maria call me and try to go over the problems? You're right. Maria is too stupid to know how to operate a telephone. So, I get this email.
Yes, I agree. Mrs. Smith just isn’t satisfied with how the construction has been running. She wasn’t screaming…but very unhappy and wanted to talk with someone that had hands on before I came. I did give her [MY!!!] phone number but said I would talk with you. I can understand why everyone is disgusted with all the mud, however. Something should be put down as to where folks can walk without getting into mud and dragging mud into their houses.
Now, even though I've got my skates on, I don't want any of you to think that I'm unsympathetic about having to deal with mud, or with the noise and other problems associated with construction. I've had to live through that crap, too. And it sucks. Don't get me wrong. I'd be bitching like CRAZY, if I was Mrs. Smith. (As a bit if a sidebar, Mrs. Smith is not in the construction industry and Mrs. Smith's opinion of how the construction has been running really doesn't interest me.) The issue remains, however, that Maria is paid to deal with all the Mrs. Smith's at Green Meadows. I'm not. So, I tried to explain that. I probably should have worked on attaching some graphics, but I didn't. What I did do is send another email, which I also forwarded to her immediate supervisor, because...you know...I had my skates on.
I will be glad to mention to [renovation contractor], again, that they need to get the mud under control. I have no difficulty understanding that issue as well. I am, however, concerned that you are giving out our office number to tenants. I suppose [my bosses and the owners of the property] may have asked you to route all of your angry tenants' calls to our office, and just not mentioned it to me, as my work on that particular project has ceased at this point. I am out of the loop, after all. But, I do find it rather surprising, as they pay a great deal of money to XYZ Management Firm to avoid just this type of thing.
I'd rather not presume to tell you how to do your job, Maria. But it would seem to me that as the property manager at Green Meadows, your job description would entail...you know...managing the property. It would seem prudent to take down a resident’s concerns, advise them that you will check into the situation, contact the appropriate party(ies) to do so, and then get back with them with the information. At least that’s been my experience with other properties we have and with [the previous complex manager]prior to your arrival there.
Now that exchange is not a flight of fancy. It's real.
See. Told you.
Bitch on Wheels.
Not long after I sent that, I got a very lovely email back from Maria's boss. A copy of something she sent Maria, indicating that Maria would be undergoing an orientation of sorts to help her understand that she is not to bug me with this type of crap. Good for Maria. And not a moment too soon.
While all of that email exchange was going on, I also got a call from the superintendent finishing up the punchlist that will never get done at Hell. Hell, for all appearances, is an apartment building. However, it is, in actuality, a very upscale condominium project. That's a slightly different animal, in that the apartment units are sold outright. One would think that would be preferable. That once the unit was sold, I'd never have to deal with these people again. Ah, what fools ye mortals be. What it REALLY means is that I have 22 new people to have to bow and scrape for.
It's all about me. It's all about me when they are complaining about their neighbor's dog. When they are complaining about noise being generated by the laundry facilities at the hotel on the next block. When they are complaining about sewer smells coming from the sewer grate in the parking lot. And, sometimes, when they are complaining about stuff I can actually do something about, too.
I have been working at Hell since about March, when the project manager (who was previously running Hell) in our office quit. And the mess he made before he left has taken me months and months to clean up. I'm within a few weeks of walking completely away from this one and that is the single happiest thought in my professional life right now.
Hell has also been a haven for job turn-over, as our contractor there has gone through four superintendents. The current fella mentioned to me just Tuesday that he is about ready to walk out on them, too. I'm hoping, as worthless as he is, that he holds on just a few more weeks. I don't know that I have it in me to break in another one. Okay, I do, but I don't want to. We'll call this guy Biff. Biff is a strapping young lad who has charmed the largely gay population at Hell. Biff, himself, is not gay, but he's very pretty. Consequently, I am getting calls and email, regularly, from Hell's own Rainbow Coalition, indicating that Biff is doing a wonderful job and it is only because I am not passing along vital information to him that he is unable to please them. Um....WRONG! But, hey, you go, Biff!
The same day I had all that fun with Maria, I had a little thing going with Biff. We had closed on a condo last Friday and the owner was planning to rent it out. He already had a tenant lined up and they were moving in on Wednesday. Biff happened to be there working in the unit. As there were a few minor construction items that hadn't been completed and that I'd been nagging him about for two weeks. I'd advised him to get these things done before the tenant moved in and had given him the date of that move-in. Did it do any good? Of course not. Biff and I must dance the dance. It is the way of things.
Biff called me and advised that the tenant was upset because the floor was dirty. Now, we always have a cleaning company come in and thoroughly clean the units when they are complete. What had happened, as has happened in so many other cases in Hell, is that the construction crew had been back in to repair some drywall and work on ceramic tile and touch up paint. And they left a mess when they did. Because they don't think they have to clean up after themselves. And they do. So, I told Biff to have the floors cleaned because it was his responsibility. And he balked. And I told him that if he didn't, what would happen was that the tenant would call her landlord, who would call me and then I'd have to call him and have him take care of it. He opted to wait it out. What I didn't realize is that while he was there, he was telling this tenant that is was my job to have the floor taken care of...and that I was refusing to do it. Biff can be a bastard when he wants to be.
So, I get a call from the tenant (on my cellphone, while I'm at lunch) and she doesn't even say hello. She starts out screaming at me about how the floor needs to be cleaned and that her husband is an attorney and she wants it done now. So, I try to calmly talk to her and I tell her why the floor is dirty and that I will contact the contractors to have them take care of it. And I hang up. Cuss Biff, start looking for my skate key, and then call him. And I say "Okay, Biff. This is the official call now. You need to get the floor done and you need to get it done now." He advises me he'll have to check with his boss. In my snarkiest tone, I offer to call his boss for him if that will help. (I can do a figure 8 on these things when I want to...) But tell him if he isn't going to do it, he needs to let me know right away, so I can take care of the problem.
Two hours go by, I haven't heard anything from Biff, but I get another call from the psycho tenant from...heh...Hell. (That name change thing is really working well here.) Now she's letting me know that she's called the Health Department on us because there is a cardboard box discarded outside her door and there is standing water on the roof. I'm serious. Now, I'm pretty sure the Health Department is aware that standing water will not cause a mosquito infestation in River City in January, but I may be having that discussion next week. As for the cardboard box, she claims it could cause rats. I swear to you, that's what she said. And still, she's screaming and talking to me like I've done her wrong for months.
So, I stopped her, mid-sentence, and told her that while I understood that she was frustrated, that I did not appreciate the tone with which she was speaking to me and that I had not, to my knowledge, done anything to deserve it. And that she would find that I would be more than willing to help her through some of these issues and that yelling at me would not be necessary. She backed down almost immediately and by the end of the call, thanked me for "calling her" on that.
Biff, on the other hand, had disappeared off the face of the earth. No longer there. Not answering his cellphone. So, I called our cleaning guy and sent him over. And told him to get the damned cardboard box while he was at it. But to be careful. There could be rats.
The thing is that these are just snippets. There are so many other facets of my job that take me all over the place on a daily basis. It's one of the things I love about construction. There is never a dull moment. But it's one of the most difficult things as well.
Just that some days...by the time I get home...my calves are hurting from all the skating I've done...;)