When life gives you rotting food…

Last night at 11pm I walked to the grocery store and bought cake mix, milk, and butter. The cashier said, “Are you baking a cake?” And I said, “Yeah.” Then she looked up, started shaking her head, and mumbled, “Please don’t come to my line, please don’t come to my line, please.” I turned to see who had excited her and saw a scraggly looking man heading from the entrance into the produce aisle. “He smells awful,” she sighed.

It’s a hard thing, I think, knowing when to just ignore or complain about something and when to step in and try to make it better. In the “Village Voice” this week, the big feature is called “Ten Worst Tenants.” They recently did their “Worst Landlords” feature, so I was excited to see who they’d compiled on the flip side. Here’s their clever cover graphic:

I was especially struck by the write-up on the Hoarder.  It goes into detail about a woman, Dolores, who moved into an apartment with the leaseholder.  Then, that leaseholder developed dementia and went to a nursing home, but Dolores stayed.  She began hoarding furniture, clothes, and food.  Neighbors began complaining about the smell, the fruit flies, and a “black sooty substance…creepy-crawling” on Dolores’ door. 

Without a doubt it’s bad for everyone involved.  Apparently it took the landlord seven years to get Dolores and her mass of rotting food and stuff out of the one-bedroom apartment.  But that’s when it got sad for me.  It’s easy to empathize with the landlord and the neighbors.  I can easily imagine being in their shoes.  But what about Dolores?  A reporter asked her about the mess after she’d been evicted and, according to the article, “She replied that living with obsessive-compulsive disorder was difficult.”  It goes on to say that after her eviction she found herself in a homeless shelter.

The part that really got me, though, was the quote from one of Dolores’ former neighbors that ended the write-up.  He’d peeked in her apartment after she left and had this to say of what he saw: “‘Once you saw the living conditions…you realized that this is a person who needs help.  She never got the help that she needed.'”

On that note, I’m going to go eat a slice of my cake.  Because what else can I do?

3 responses to “When life gives you rotting food…

  1. I’ve gotten cynical enough that my first thought was, “She probably wasn’t making too much money, and she was lucky to even have that apartment, so fuck her.” That’s partially because my own landlord is a hoarder who has putrid stenches coming out of her room and has obvious mental disabilities. But there’s no landlord to evict her. So, when I think about it more, I do feel bad for this Dolores, and wish she had gotten some help. Nobody looks out for my landlord because we’re all too busy trying to avoid getting ripped off by her. This Dolores had tons of neighbors, and I have to think that, if I were one of them, I would’ve at least referred her to a community mental health service, or something…

  2. madamelibrarian

    If I think about it for a moment, it’s not hard for me to imagine becoming someone like Dolores. Part of me feels like it’d be really easy to step off the edge and just succumb to all my obsessions and compulsions. I don’t know if that would manifest into an apartment full of stuff that I’m not paying for and refuse to leave, but who knows.

    I wish you and your landlord the best 🙂

  3. It would be easy to backtrack and say, “Why didn’t the landlord evict her as soon as the leaseholder had to vacate? Dolores wasn’t named on the lease.” And yet, as we can see from the article, the eviction process is time-consuming and less than cost-effective. Dolores does have a condition that needs treatment–she needs help and support. And while I don’t disagree with the landlord’s need to evict her, Dolores is not going to get what she needs in a homeless shelter. It may keep her from being able to hoard much, but it is not going to address her problem. Unfortunately, with medical care going where it appears to be heading, we are going to have more people like Dolores who do not get the treatment they need.

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