Yesterday, I wrote about how Bill discovered that his daughter was medically neglected when she was growing up. The problems that younger daughter had weren’t life threatening; they simply caused her great discomfort and pain. Ex figured her kid would live, so she didn’t have to take her to a doctor or pay for devices that would make her feel or function better. She didn’t have time for it, nor did she want to go to the trouble or spend the money. And if she did spend the time or the money, she would never let anyone forget it, as if seeing to her children’s needs was a favor, rather than a responsibility.
It occurs to me that I’ve often heard that same excuse from other narcissistic types. Whenever someone makes a request of them, particularly when it has to do with respecting personal boundaries or spending money, their excuse for not honoring the request is often “I don’t have time.” But they have no issues with taking YOUR time or making requests or demands of your money or resources.
When I was in the Peace Corps, I had several different landladies. The first two were basically kind and respectful enough. I left the first place because it involved living with a host family, a young woman and her little brother, and I wanted my own space and more privacy. I didn’t want to have to worry about someone going through my stuff when I wasn’t home (which happened both times I lived with host families). I preferred quiet in the evenings and she would have friends over until all hours. I also wanted to feel comfortable in my own home rather than like a guest. So, after two months living there, I moved into my own apartment. It was a lot better for me.
The second landlady I had was a very nice lady whose brother had moved to Ukraine and left her to take care of his apartment. She was also the Peace Corps doctor. I was reasonably happy there, but had to move after a year because her brother had decided to sell the place. No one told me he was selling it, so I was very confused when someone rang the doorbell wanting to know if I was “selling” the apartment. I started getting other random people showing up wanting a tour. Later, my landlady explained what was going on and I decided to move, rather than deal with people constantly coming over to see the apartment.
Then, there was my third landlady, who had an apartment and moved to Hungary to study. When I agreed to rent her place, I didn’t know her very well, although she too had worked for the Peace Corps. She left her father in charge of the apartment. Every month, he would show up at the apartment to collect the rent. I was paying twice as much rent for that apartment than I was for the previous one. By American standards, it was a very cheap place to live, but by Armenian standards, it was very expensive and quite overpriced. In fact, the rent was double what I paid for the other place, smaller, and in a less desirable location, although it had nicer furniture (a real bed instead of a fold out couch). I worked at a non-governmental organization to help cover the rent. Technically, we weren’t supposed to be paid for extra work, but it was a common practice, especially for those of us who lived in Yerevan. Volunteers are no longer posted there.
In my last three months in that apartment, which I lived in for about ten months, the landlady came back to Armenia from Hungary and started paying visits, even if I wasn’t home. She would let herself into the apartment when I wasn’t there and let her son eat my food. Not only would he eat things from my fridge, but he’d leave the dirty dishes for me to find. One night, I came home from having gone out to see a movie and this lady and her father were waiting in the apartment for me. They had let themselves in while I wasn’t there. I was completely unprepared for the ambush, and not really in a state to be talking to them at that hour. It was about 10:00 on a Friday night and I’d had a couple of beers. Dad was smoking a cigarette when I opened the door to the place I had considered my home for about nine months.
Former Armenian landlady accused me of not paying rent one month. She said her father had accused me of not paying. I was outraged, of course, because he showed up every month on the first day, ready to collect the money. And of course he was paid. I could not even fathom how she thought I could live in a place where I wasn’t paying rent. There was a record of me getting the money from the NGO where I worked. I asked the ex landlady to check the records. Her response? “I don’t have time to do that. How do I know you didn’t just spend the money?”
I could have asked the same thing about her father, who did very promptly collect the rent without fail and very faithfully got paid. I kept a daily journal when I was in the Peace Corps and I actually noted the days when he came, not because I didn’t trust him, but because I habitually journal about mundane things like that. I still do that today, as you can see.
As for my Armenian landlady, I was beyond offended by her gall and, still being a young, inexperienced renter in a foreign country, I couldn’t believe her sense of entitlement and unfairness toward me. She had worked for the Peace Corps and knew full well what the organization is about, yet she still felt fine about trying to rip me off.
She had plenty of time to let herself into my home and wait for me, but no time to do a simple check like finding out if she’d been paid. She had no problem accusing me of stiffing her for a month’s rent, and she probably figured that because I was a “rich” American paying what we’d consider “cheap” rent, I would just pay her to get her off my case. I think she also mistook my tendency to get emotional as a sign of weakness. Well… she could not have been more wrong about that. I went on the fucking warpath, as I tend to do when people push me past a certain red line. She quickly found out that she had made a major miscalculation of my potential reaction to her dishonest ploy and had completely misjudged and underestimated me.
Armenian landlady and her father finally left the apartment when I had a panic attack in front of them. At the time, I had severe issues with anxiety and depression and I would sometimes hyperventilate and cry uncontrollably. I was so completely shocked and horrified by her aggressive and completely unwarranted accusations that I had a big meltdown. They didn’t know what to do, so they left. Fortunately, panic attacks are no longer a problem for me– now, I just get super pissed off and resolved to set things right.
I eventually recovered my senses, called one of the Peace Corps administrators, and explained what happened. We arranged for someone Armenian from the office to be there when I handed over the keys to the apartment, to make sure that I didn’t get harassed as I was trying to leave the country. And no, Armenian landlady did not manage to shake me down for another month’s rent, but I left Armenia with an angry and depressed mindset. I was flabbergasted by her nerve and left with a bitter taste in my mouth that I had spent over two years of my life trying to do something good and was accused of theft for my troubles.
Many years hence, I had a landlady who “didn’t have time” to send a four word email or text to let me know when she was coming over so I could be prepared for company. Bear in mind that in most developed countries, landlords aren’t supposed to simply drop by without notice. They’re usually required to give 24 hours notice before they show up. Bill and I were initially pretty laid back about her habit of dropping in– or really, I was, because I was mostly the one who dealt with her. But she’d caught me undressed, sick, busy, or asleep one too many times and I was fed up with the intrusions, among other things.
Bill politely and reasonably asked her to let us know before she came over (so I could be awake, properly dressed, and we could make sure there weren’t any doggy landmines in the backyard). We weren’t even asking for 24 hours notice, but she was offended that we had the nerve to ask her for ANY notice to come to HER house (which was also OUR HOME). She wrote back that she “didn’t have time” to send us notice– as few as just four words “I’m coming over now”– so I could be ready to receive her. She actually refused to do it, because she “didn’t have time”. We still have the email with her refusal to comply with that simple request, along with all of the others she sent that indicate her huge sense of entitlement and propensity toward double standards when it comes to her renters.
This is what gets me about these types of people– folks who are entitled, high-conflict oriented, and narcissistic. If the shoe was on the other foot, they would be absolutely up in arms if someone told them they “didn’t have time” for them or to honor a simple request. Narcissistic types will go off about that– how dare you NOT bend to my will?! How dare you NOT have time to do my bidding?! I am ENTITLED. You are not.
When Bill was first married to Ex (when she only had her son from her first marriage), he asked her to look for a job because they were struggling to pay their bills. Ex got very offended and said she was going to mark all of the stuff she’d brought to the home as hers. She was so upset and put upon that Bill would ask her to look for work, even though it would benefit everyone if they could more easily pay their bills. She “didn’t have time” to work. Ex did later work when more children came along, although her work history has been a bit checkered.
If I had told any of my former landladies that I “didn’t have time” to go pick up the rent money for them, they would have been extremely upset with me. If I had told my Armenian landlady that she couldn’t just let herself into the apartment whenever she felt like it, she would have been furious with me. She might even cite that she “didn’t have time” to tell me she was coming over and that she was entitled to the convenience of being able to drop in whenever it suited her, regardless of my plans. I wasn’t worthy of the consideration. I will grant that it would have been hard for the Armenian landlady to let me know she was coming over in 1997. At the time, cell phones weren’t widely available and landlines were notoriously unreliable. I could call the United States more easily than I could call across the street. But she still let her kid eat my pudding and leave the dirty dishes for me to clean up and she was still waiting for me to come home one night inside the apartment. She was entitled– it was HER apartment before it was MY home, and I was paying her a lot for the privilege.
Ditto to the fact that an awning that one of my ex landladies neglected to have fixed by a real repairperson could have seriously hurt or even killed me when it fell. She had no regard for the fact that my life could have been in danger because she “didn’t have the time or money” to call a real repairperson instead of getting her husband to do a free patch job. Instead, she felt “entitled” to force us to buy her a brand new awning, even after taking an insurance settlement. She failed to realize her own neglect and disregard for our safety and was focused solely on money she felt she was owed.
However, when we objected to her coming over to oversee the chimney sweep and check the smoke alarms, she was quick to lecture us about our “safety”. We weren’t objecting to the chimney sweep’s visit or the safety checks. We were objecting to her need to come over to our home and harass us. There was no reason for her to be in attendance for the chimney sweep’s visit. She just wanted to exert control. She had no time to send a quick text or an email to tell us when she was going to do yard work or clean the gutters, but she had plenty of time to hang around the house when the chimney sweep visited. She also had no problem demanding that I make coffee for repairpeople, even though she was overseeing them and had set up the appointments. Incidentally, the coffee always went untouched, so that was like money down the drain. OUR money… not hers. Hmm…
Likewise, she had no issues detailing the smallest of complaints about our “shortcomings” as tenants– issues that no one else has ever had with us. But she didn’t feel the need to hold herself to the same standards when it came to properly accounting for the condition of the house when we moved in and out, how she was billing us, or adhering to basic laws designed to protect tenants and their privacy. She clearly expected that we would simply let her get away with these oversights because it’s much easier and less expensive to give in to the fuckery than hold her accountable. WE were expected to be perfect, but she “didn’t have time for that”, nor were we worthy of that standard.
I’ve gotten to the point at which when I hear someone telling me that they “don’t have time” for something that is a simple and easily fulfilled request, or they “don’t have time” to respect a basic boundary, or they “don’t have time” to take care of something that involves someone else’s comfort, health, or safety, particularly when that person is someone who is especially vulnerable in some way (a child, someone who is sick or disabled, or an elderly person), I realize that the person is going to be a major league asshole and abuse their power over others. I can pretty much count on it.
Generally speaking, it’s best to just walk away from these types of people, although most of them dearly need to be taught a lesson by a visit from the karma bus. I seem to drive the karma bus fairly often… it seems to be my lot in life. It doesn’t make me very popular with these types of people… That’s too bad for them, isn’t it?