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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Netiquette and Plain Good Manners Revisited - Common Sense, Common Courtesy

This isn't really writing related, but it's been brewing for me for the past few weeks. I suppose it's all the hubbub of the holidays and that desperation that seems to grow between Thanksgiving and New Years. The days don't mean a whole lot to me personally. Mostly I look forward to them because they generally mean days off with pay. That said, I do respect the excitment most people have for those days. However, it seems to me that that time period brings out the "me-ism" in people. Add to that the world of social networking and 140 characters to talk about our lives, I think we've lost touch with people. Used to be you looked for a 500-1000 page book because you could sit with the characters and become involved in their lives a bit longer. Today's world has moved to shorts and novellas, in and out, to accommodate the limited quality time we have to enjoy ourselves. And by "ourselves" I mean enjoyment in general and in specific, enjoying our own selves and time.

So what set me off (this) time? Not just the pokes, prodes and constant invites on Facebook, although they add to it. No, it's someone angling for a lawsuit and a personal pity party in a very public forum.

Back in oh, I guess September, this person appeared on my radar. What caught my attention was she didn't see the problem in not paying her rent for the month and when, in the last week of the month her landlord/roommate told her to pay or go away, the renter very publically lamented how mean the landlord was. Hmmm, you move into a place, you agree to pay X number of dollars rent and then you don't pay and it's someone else's fault? Wow. Interesting concept. Of course the landlord was psycho for wanting the rent paid -- so said the renter. Oh, yeah, she has a job, but was having money problems and more disabilities than I've ever seen one person have. (I was a rehab therapist/counselor for several years, I'm familiar with how debilitating disabilities can be).

She suggested that if all her facebook friends sent her but $2 she could pay her rent for months on end. People sent money.

Well she moved out and away from the landlord who was psychotic because she wanted the rent paid. Renter found the perfect place to live. Life was good. Then a roommate moved out.

Then we had Thanksgiving and serious depression moved in because she was all alone. Interestingly, here in San Francisco, several venues (like Glide Memorial Church) had to turn volunteers away because so many people decided to give their time to help those less fortunate. Volunteer time was limited to 2 hour blocks. But you still got to spend time with people, give something back to the community and maybe make a difference just by smiling at some other person. I guess where she lives there aren't volunteer opportunities, I don't know, I didn't ask.

Apparently she was all alone on Christmas too and that plunged her even deeper into depression and suddenly she wants, excuse me, needs, a service animal. Now here's where I get into the common sense, common courtesy thing.

I am a landlord. I rent a room, bathroom and other amenities in my house. I realize people have life changing events. As a landlord I care about two things: pay your rent on time and leave the place in as decent a shape as you found it. I'm not your mother, your sister, your best friend, your therapist or any other personal relationship that cares. I rent the space and expect payments to be made on time.

When I rent the space I ask very particular questions. As a still licensed, although not practicing therapist, I don't want to share living space with someone who has a boatload of emotional problems. There is a reason I took down my shingle and went back to work as a legal secretary. So I ask about the renter's emotional health. I ask if they have allergies -- I do have 3 cats, one is a long haired persian and the other two have medium length hair. They are indoor so they poop in the house. If that offends someone, they don't want to live with me -- I'm not going to start letting the cats, especially the feral one, out so accommodate someone else's sensitive nose. If you know it moving in, you accept that's life. I insure they can pay the rent -- yes, I do job verification. But people can have money from other sources so as long as they can verify that paying the rent on time teach month isn't a problem.

I don't smoke, I'm allergic to it. No smokers -- and I've had two people move in who assured me they didn't smoke and then, when I saw (and smelled) them smoking out front they "clarified" they don't smoke in the house. I still smell it -- no smokers means no smokers.

There are other things that I do ask to make sure my lifestyle isn't going to have to change all that much to accommodate someone else in my living space. Someone "suddenly" developing the need for a companion animal isn't going to work with my cats -- there is a reason I do month-to-month with 30 days written notice.

So this person up above, the renter, decided she wants a cat...and is labeling it a service animal because that's not the same thing as a "pet". A pet is a choice; a service animal is necessary to maintain health and/or a quality of life. She didn't have an animal when she moved in, she didn't express she might need one. This just came up after having to spend Christmas day alone, talking to several therapists on the hotline throughout the day.

Instead of sitting down and chatting with the landlord about it, she's coming in with both barrells, threatening the ADA, suicide attempts, and lawsuits. She wrote this long piece about her various disailbities and how she would die, just die, if she doesn't get her way.

As a landlord, that wouldn't fly with me. There are criteria to be met in obtaining a service animal. They are trained a certain way. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for animal adoption. Last summer when Molly died I was going to adopt one cat, Bogie, as a companion for Mel (the persian). When I went to pick up Bogie, Missy insisted she lived with me, her bags were packed and she was ready to go. "No" wasn't an option, so they both came home with me. I like to say I have an oreo cookie at all times because Mel is white and Bogie and Missy are black. Get it? Oreo cookie! I wish all homeless and rescue animals could have good homes. Believe me, I would adopt more if Mel would tolerate having more -- and I almost did bring home Mollie, a black kitty born a few days after my Molly died.

BUT, I don't go for playing the system and relying on a disability to get what you want. She wants a pet; she's calling it something else to get what she wants. And offensive to me is using her disaiblities to get what she wants. And if she doesn't, she will sue.

If I were her landlord, I'd be looking at that 30 day written notice to leave. End of discussion. Like I said, as a landlord I care about two things: paying your rent on time and leaving the premises the way you found them. I don't care about your emotional state. (Cold, I know, but I don't) and if you start to tell me you are feeling suicidal because you aren't getting your way, I sure don't want you around to carry out your threat. (Even colder, huh? But the thing is, based on my experience as a therapist, if you are going to do it, you don't advertise it. When you publically state it -- for all the world to see on Facebook, chances are you want the attention).

But all this person's drama just brings me back to common sense and common courtesy. We get so wrapped up in our own desires, wants, needs, we sometimes forget, too often forget, that the other people in the equation also have feelings, needs, desires and wants.

Now, about the Facebook thing.....there are any number of us who wish we could say "block all invitations" because you don't just get the invitation, you also get hammered with updates and reminders. If you write someone to please not send them you get a message back that they just can't be bothered sending the invites to someone who might actually be able to or interested in attending. It's easier to just send it to everyone on your list and not care that they aren't interested. And boy, do people get defensive when you ask "please, don't invite me anymore." and explain why.

Well, as a writer, these are all characteristics that can (and will) show up in a character at some point or other.


  1. Interesting post, Regan, and reinforces to me why I don't ever want to rent anything to anybody.

  2. I'm allergic to cig. smoke, too. I really don't know many smokers. When my daughter and I took my grandson to Old Town San Diego last year, there was this one woman, and her friend, smoking. As I passed by her I covered my mouth and nose with my hand to avoid breathing in the awful smoke. She started walking fast behind me and puffed hard and many times just to spread the smoke in my direction!

    I really enjoyed your post, Regan.

  3. I don't think it is cold, if you stand by your principles and if you have stated your rules from the beginning. We all have met up with some kooks in our lifetime, and if you don't stand your ground they run over you. I would tell a renter that if they didn't like my rules, then they should find other accommodations. And if you have the need of an animal and can't keep one, how about becoming a dog walker or helping out at the shelter?

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