Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sturm und Drang

The holidays seem like ancient history this morning. Our household is focused on the future—three days from now, to be exact.

December 30 is our next court date. The lawyers were hoping to have our case settled before this. But rather than negotiating lawyer-to-lawyer, they handed over the responsibility to their clients, namely me and Mr. Slimy.

After several unsuccessful phone conversations with Mr. Slimy, I told him I thought it best for us to negotiate in writing. I requested that he write up what it was he wanted from us and have all of his partners sign and date it. I didn't want him coming back again to say that his partners wanted something other than what we'd just agreed to. He said that was "impossible" for his partners were all over the country. [Hmmm. How do multinational companies do it, do you suppose?] Besides, he continued, he had full authority to make decisions for the corporation. I could look it up with the State of Illinois. [Right. So why has every previous conversation ended with "I'll have to run this by my partners"?] But after making a few more contradictory or implausible remarks, he agreed.

The very next evening, an envelope was slipped under our door. In it was a poorly written letter stating that we had all agreed that my husband and I would pay August rent plus $1,400 in lawyer's fees.


My husband and I had reluctantly said on December 8 we would pay the $1,400 just to end the madness. Ever since that day, we have repeatedly said we refused to pay BOTH the rent and the fees. And now it felt like we'd just stepped back in time, no closer to a resolution than we'd been nearly three weeks before.

I countered Mr. Slimy's proposal with one of my own, one that didn't involve any upfront payout. I offered to leave our lease 8 months early. He stood to profit $4,550–$6,400, depending on how much he increased the rent and whether he rented our parking space separately. This was more than enough to cover his legal fees. I was going to put my proposal in the infamous rent box, the very spot where our August rent check had "disappeared" and called his answering service to let him know that.

The woman asked me if I wanted to talk to Mr. Slimy. I said no, I just wanted her to give him my message. She told me to "Hold on," and then suddenly Mr. Slimy, who could never be found at that number before, was on the phone. He asked me to tell him my answer to his proposal. I said the whole point of negotiating in writing was to avoid these phone conversations during which we seemed unable to communicate clearly. I said I could e-mail it to him to expedite the process. He eagerly gave me his e-mail address, which just happened to include the number of his street address—another place I was unable to reach him back in August when I was so desperate to resolve the problem.

Eleven minutes after e-mailing my letter, Mr. Slimy wrote back. He wanted to make sure we were on the same page. His summary of the new agreement was that…
1. We would leave 8 months early.
2. We would pay the $1,400 he wanted.
3. We would pay all our future rent.
4. We would not pay the August rent.

Same page? We weren't even in the same book.

I wrote notes about the many conversations that had taken place and sent them along with the proposals to my lawyer. I asked him to please talk to Mr. Slimy's lawyer and explain what a deal we were offering.

Of course, the holidays fell at an inopportune time for our case and we've not heard from our lawyer.

So I'm going to write a detailed explanation today for the judge about why this eviction case is even in his courtroom, enlightening him as to the facts and history that the lawyers have so far omitted. Lull postings may be a little light until Wednesday.

My wish for the New Year? A roof over our heads that we can afford. No, more than that: to not be taken advantage of by unscrupulous people. Or better: to defeat the unscrupulous people who try to take advantage of my husband and/or me. (The last few years have produced a long list of these individuals.) Or: to learn how to recognize unscrupulous people before they have a chance to undermine us; to acquire more skepticism and rely less on trust.

[Art courtesy of Edvard Munch.]

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