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Rant #260
(published January 5, 2006)
Super Sensitive Human Beings
by Melissa Nation
I don't think I am racially prejudiced. I don't know for sure because I have never actually tried it out. However, I am definitely prejudiced against apartments, incompetent maintenance men, the people who do lawn care for apartments and the management for aforementioned apartments.

So, on one end-of-summer afternoon (read: mid-October, I live in Oklahoma) when my lovely apartment managers have finally conveyed February's work order for my caved-in ceiling and my perpetually running toilet, I come home from an undisclosed location at about eight a.m. to find a maintenance man (new to me, haven't seen him before) rigorously and vigorously talking to himself about how my ceiling is a "disgrace" and it was something that "shouldn't be allowed." (Footnote here, said apartments had only three weeks before changed ownership and management.) Enthralled by this man's dedication to my actually having a ceiling that would no longer require my arriving at eight a.m. (not my best hour) but guests leaving at eight a.m., I grinned, thanked him for his dedication and went promptly upstairs to shower. At last, a competent maintenance man who cares enough to fix my broken ceiling and toilet.

After said shower and dressing, I call my employee who lives in the apartment complex as well (Who was at work and too scared for her job to comment that I was three hours late for work) and say, "Let's have an early lunch break. Drive over here and we will go have daiquiris." My employee thinking "Lunch? When the hell did you get here?" and me thinking "Hair of the dog, etc." (Nice being the boss) I continue to make myself as presentable and un-hungover as possible for said employee. I am busy dressing when I hear my employee arrive (read: bad exhaust leak) and I look out of my window. I see my employee running to the other side of her apartment (condo, really, I face her patio door, her front door is on the opposing face of her building which I cannot see) and I think, "Wow, she's gotta pee." About two minutes later I hear said maintenance man say "I am done down here. Take care." And I reply, "Thanks! Have a great day!" Did I mention the maintenance man was black? No? Okay. Let me tell you how I figured it out.

Said employee rushes into my condo as said maintenance man is leaving shouting "Sam broke into my fucking house!!" (talking about her ex, Sam Spencer.) It is at this point where my friends who know that I was sued for racial prejudice say, "Oh, yeah. Oh gosh, what a mistake." And I think, "huh?" Evidently, the wonder of a guy that freed me from ceilinglessness and attempted to free me from perpetual toilet aggravation had heard instead "Sambo in my fucking house!!"

Please don't ask me what the hell a "sambo" is. I have heard many variations. Mostly in court. In the end, after about three thousand dollars worth of legal fees, maintenance guy and I chat about the incident. He felt wronged, because before hearing the actual story he thought she called him a sambo (still no fucking clue, except it was some kind of literary term in the sixties) and I felt wronged because he actually allowed some hysterical woman in my house without my express permission (I mean , just cuz she's white and female does not in any way mean she is not a threat to me) and we worked it out.

However, I will state this: It is impracticable to be overly sensitive. To the fact that your maintenance guy thinks you are related because you are both white, or because you think someone has uttered a racial slur. It is practical to think protectively. Protect each other. Maintenance guys everywhere: Never let anyone in unless they have a key. And if anyone, anywhere, ever thinks they have heard a racial slur or comment towards themselves or another, confront it. Immediately. Don't let people hurt people. With or without intent. Do you know how long it took that maintenance guy (whose name is Kenneth, by the way) and I to talk again? Civilly? Without him believing I encouraged racists through my choice of company, or me to believe that he would not protect my home without asking for identification? Long enough.

My toilet is still running and I am uncomfortable asking Kenneth to come fix it. We avoid each others' eyes when we cross each other, and we don't talk in a friendly manner any longer. Sigh. I wish we were not all so afraid of each other that we cannot be frank and inviting, and forgiving of each others sensitivities and each others mistakes. To the world: I don't give a fuck what you look like, can someone please come fix my fucking toilet? It's not like I live in a water scarce state . . . I just want to flush. Paper and all. Unharassed by my evil toilet. Thank you.

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