Last night was the annual meeting of members of my apartment building. Once a year, the building maintenance staff set up chairs throughout the entire lobby, and the vast majority of the building residents gather to watch and participate in the theatrics that ensue. The population of my building is predominantly elderly, crotchety and hard of hearing. The first time a friend of mine came to visit, she commented with confusion, “why do you live in an old age home?” They also have no other commitments making demands on their evenings and so are able to pick at points of order, raise unrelated queries and generally make the meeting stretch out for an inconceivable three hours.
The meeting started at 8 pm (this is due to the fact that people won’t come until after Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are over), although a few folks did start to head down 30 and 45 minutes early, to ensure that they got a good seat. They come with accessories, canes and walkers, pillows (to cushion the folding chairs) and tricycle-like push contraptions.
The big controversy at last night’s meeting was over the behavior of the nominating committee (they had refused to re-nominate a current member of the board) and the nomination of that individual that everyone knew would be coming from the floor. The building office, knowing that Mr. Smith was going to be nominated from the floor, took the time to print up a second ballot that included his name in the hopes of avoiding confusion (when we first checked in, we were given a green ballot on which to vote for the board of directors). When presumed nomination occurred, the office staff proceeded to take back the green ballots and hand out a new pink one. Who knew that 45 minutes later, we’d still be talking about whether it was fair to hand out a new ballot, and whether we should vote on the pink one or the green one. 45 minutes!
It got heated, and many building residents spoke passionately into the microphone about their feelings towards the green ballot or the pink ballot. Chaos ensued when one color-blind gentleman started referring to the red ballot. People got to their feet and started to shout about pink and red and green. It was at this point that the chair of the meeting turned to the man standing at the microphone and said, “Herschel, you’re out of order, sit down.” I turned to my neighbor Sherri, who was sitting next to me, and commented, “That’s not a sentence you hear often.” Sadly, she wasn’t nearly as amused by it as I was.
I spent the meeting sitting in the back (where you always find the cool kids) with the younger crew, the growing number of upwardly mobile 20 and 30 somethings that are slowly buying apartments in the building as they work their way up the waiting list. Unfortunately, hanging out with them makes me feel a little like I’m back in high school, as they dress better than I do (all the women were wearing heels! At 9 o’clock at night on a Wednesday! Who does that?), have more grown up jobs, and many of them were friends before they moved into the building. We did all bond a little last night though, when two of the old ladies sitting near us started to question whether we belonged there. We were told by a woman wearing a stripped suit and a bad wig that we were a disgrace. She followed it up with an under-her-breath statement that sounded a whole lot like “bitches.” I’ve never been called a bitch by an 80 year old, so it was a new experience for me. A little later on she wheeled by with her walker and cane, and I was momentarily terrified she was going to kneecap me with a jewel-handled walking stick.
I staggered back up to my apartment almost three hours after I had left it, feeling exhausted and completely grateful that this only happens once a year.