It’s been a busy few days at my condo building. We have a closed loop water cooling AC system in our 15 story building. I had always thought that we were responsible for our personal cooling units in our apartments, and in fact we are, but I hadn’t realized until last Monday that we are all inextricably linked by an umbilical cord to the roof of our building. There, there sits a large tank, from which circulates the water that our units rely on for AC. Sometime last Monday, the AC stopped cooling and eventually, the AC Service company figured out that the tank had no water in it. We had notices taped to our doors to turn off the AC until they resolved the issue. On Friday, they realized that one of the commercial tenants, Starbucks, not to name names, had left a valve on which had drained the tank.
I’m not sure how I feel about Starbucks having the control over such an important valve. Hmmm. 200 units x two thirsty, hot residents x $4.00 for a frappuchino x 5 days= $8,000.00. Not chump change. Hit that valve, again will ya, Freddy?
Anyway, it has been a rough few days, with temperatures in the high 90s downtown. Made me glad I lived next to a Starbucks. Hey, wait a minute.
Friday night, we attended a new play called “Animals Out of Paper”, by playwright Rajiv Joseph, at East West Players. I came straight from work. We dined in Japan Town, at the Green Bamboo Cafe, incongruously called a sports bar, where a table of rowdy young men and women were drinking beers and laughing at regular and spasmodic intervals. One of the men had a laugh like a tommy gun, the metallic scattershot ringing throughout the bar and out onto the street where we sat. The air was cooling – the week’s terrible heat finally seemed to have broken, and meandering between the tables and the storefronts were a parade of yuppies and hardcore homeless men, without shirts or shoes, some of them without their wits, conversing animatedly with themselves while meandering through the traffic on the street.
The play was great; the three characters’ relationships folded, unfolded, refolded, like the paper figures made by the origami master and her protegé in the play. The young man in the play, Kapil Taliwalker, a current student at USC, gave a performance that was bold and expressive. Tess Lina and C.S. Lee were strong performers as well, Tess Lina angry and self-protective, C.S. Lee funny and vulnerable. Jennifer Chang, the director, orchestrated one of the best scene transitions I have ever seen in a play, using music and choreography and the character of the boy to bring it to life. The scenic design by Naomi Kasahara, employed folding walls to create the three diverse sets, which surprised us in their versatile and unexpected openings in Act II. Striated by light, the sets were lit with depth and texture by Tom Ontiveros. Melanie Chen’s sound design was vibrant and infused the evening with energy.
We always have a great experience at the David Henry Hwang Theatre. The house manager, Danny, takes care to usher us upstairs to the theatre in the lift. Last night it was broken, so he took us up in the rear elevator, and we came through from the back stage door, through the darkened backstage, the house and into the upstairs lobby. The inside of the theatre was draped with elaborate origami creations made by audience members, I think. Because we missed the lobby, we missed the table where people could fold creations of their own. We returned to our sweltering apartment, grateful for the time away and the edification and thought-provoking evening out.
Back in our own building, yesterday, the AC issue was resolved. Carlos, a custodian, came to our apartment and reset the fuse for the AC unit, allowing us to turn it back on. After five days, it was a joy to feel the little arctic gust coming from the vent. Crisis averted.
Our next door neighbors were moving down to one of the garden apartments on the first floor. They had been moving themselves for two days, and with no AC in the building, were exhausted. I ran over to Ralph’s to get them some fruit and muffins for breakfast so that they could sleep in, and had just delivered them and come back upstairs when I heard an enthusiastic ringing of the doorbell. Hearing jovial voices outside, and thinking they were coming to say thank you, I swung open the door, instead greeted by a tall young man in a gray T-shirt and shorts, and a short dark-haired girl with a striped shirt and braces. The boy thrust out his sweaty palm and introduced himself as John, and his friend, Daisy.
“We’re in a competition to earn points for a trip to Italy!” He pushed the familiar laminated ID card of sales identification into my reluctant hand. He instructed me to flip it over to see on the back that they could in fact go to Italy. If you have ever been assaulted at your door by these sales animals, you know the drill. Whatever you are looking at is printed with such small type that there is no way you would ever be able to read it. Meanwhile, the steady barrage of enthusiasm and guilt-inducing sales pitch came at a relentless pace. I raised my eyes from the card and tuned back into his spiel. “And here, you are supposed to ask us how do you earn your points?!”
Since we have lived in our 24-hour secure apartment building, it’s been a very long time since I have had to say no to someone soliciting at the door, and so I was still trying to figure our how they even got upstairs.
” I am pretty sure this building doesn’t allow people to go door to door, so what are you doing here? Do you live in the building?”
The young woman piped up, “We have just been visiting our friend Mr. Donald, who lives down the hall. Do you know Mr. Donald?” I nodded weakly. ‘Mr. Donald’ is the president of our Homeowners Association and a very savvy man. I was sure he had not encouraged these sweaty, enthusiastic teens to meander through the halls of our condo building ringing the door bells and interrupting our Saturday evening.
What is wrong with me? Why was I unable to say, “I’m not interested. Go away. I will report you to the guards downstairs.” I must have said something about the guards, because now ‘John’ was saying “I am dating the sister of one of the guards downstairs and so he let us up.” Now I knew that was patently untrue. Such an act would ensure the loss of a guard’s job. Now John was saying “They allow up to 8 of us at a time into the building.”
While he blathered, John was scribbling out a receipt and reassuring me that I didn’t have to buy magazines, “NO! This is just about picking out a book for some children to receive,” his tone of voice implying that should I not pick out the books, one for the girls, a second for the boys, I would fall into the class of heartless miscreant. The paper he pushed toward me was filled with small writing and pictures of books. While he filled it out, he was peppering me with insanely stupid questions like “What is your favorite color? And don’t say pink or purple, all the ladies say that. What’s your favorite football team? We are supposed to ask as much information as we can to report back to win our trip to Italy. I want to be a football television announcer!”
My un-air-conditioned brain, the hallway still uncooled by the recent reactivation of the air; my Mom muscle which wanted to support hard-working teens to gain points to go to Italy; my sadness that this pimply teen would never reach his goal of television football announcer, these things swam in my skull as I watched them fill out their papers and thrust them toward me expectantly. I struggled to do the math and came up with the fact that they were now asking me for $120.00 to buy two books for the girls and the boys in the hospital and they would accept a credit card or a check or cash….. WTF?
I backed into the apartment, and from the couch where Jimmie was watching the game, I heard, “Who was that?” And I mumbled, ashamed, now enslaved by their sales pitch and my middle class guilt as I reached for my wallet. “Some kids who are trying to raise money for a trip to Italy,” and then, yes, I’m mortified to tell you this, I handed them three crisp $20.00 bills and took their sweat stained receipts, one for my taxes, and one for my records. I watched numbly as they affixed a small sticker that read “Don’t bug me” on my doorbell plate, so that the 6 other teens marauding through my building would not also ring my bell. As I closed the door, I thought that sticker really says “A complete fucking moron lives in this apartment,” and I reached my hand outside and peeled it off the bell.
I closed the door, my heart engorged with buyer’s remorse. I told my husband what happened, and then as quickly as I could, I grabbed my keys and headed out into the hallway, down to the guard’s desk, sputtering about how they told me the guards had let them upstairs because one was dating the guy’s sister, and there, at the desk, a middle-aged Korean man who lives on the 5th floor and who’s wife had just talked with them, too, was sputtering in equal outrage. One of the guards jumped up, grabbed his walkie-talkie and ran to the elevators. I waited at the desk, and in a few minutes, saw him escorting them out. Feebly, I cried out – “That’s them!” And they turned, looking back over their shoulders at me with disgust, as if to say “You are the reason we will not go to Italy.”
Now, as I examine the yellow and pink receipts, the language on the side mocks me, “You, the BUYER, may cancel this transaction IN WRITING at anytime prior to midnight of the third business day after the date of sale. See the notice of cancellation form on the reverse of this receipt for an explanation. NO REFUNDS AFTER THE CANCELLATION PERIOD EXPIRES.
I remembered that after I paid the cash to them, John had torn off my receipt without marking how I had paid, so probably I will be unable to recoup my losses, but I will go through the motions anyway. Just to regain some dignity against these animals out of paper in the hallway.