The Meeting

by Bella Rum

Can we all get along? — Rodney King 1991

In 1984, when we moved into a new community in Maryland, we got “involved.” We were in our thirties and had a kid. That seems to be about the time when people get all in a dither about making their little corner of the world a better place. So we served on committees and went to meetings and made suggestions, etc. It was all good, pretty much. There were a few grumbles along the way. One neighbor was angry when her daughter wasn’t approached to fill one of the vacated lifeguard positions at the pool. Another got her nose out of joint when her yard wasn’t chosen for Yard of The Month because it was so much more beautiful than her neighbor’s yard, who did win. You can’t avoid those things. Cannot.

So, my friend Patsy serves on the HOA board for her condos. I’ve never understood how Patsy ended up on this board. I think she wonders, too. She is not the type, but I think her friend Marian convinced her. Marian is the president of the HOA. One of the other board members, Carolyn, decided she no longer wanted Marian to be president. She didn’t only want her to relinquish the presidency, she wanted her off the board altogether. She felt that Patsy and Marian voted together too often, and that their court received more attention than the other courts.

Patsy and Marian probably do see things the sam way, and probably do vote the same on a number of issues, but their court did not receive favoritism. The records proved that their court actually received fewer funds than the others, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? Ask President Obama or any president we’ve had since 1960. Perception matters. But it turned out that Carolyn and two residents, Mr. and Mrs. Satellite, had their own documentation – a photo.

Many of the condos have trees in the front yards. When the condos were built, Bradford Pears were all the rage, and that’s what the landscapers chose. Bradford Pears are pretty when they bloom in spring, and that’s about it. They’ve since improved upon some of their shortcomings, but twenty-five years ago, Bradford Pears were short-lived, the limbs were weak and tended to break as the tree matured, the roots buckled the sidewalks, and they were just too darned big for condo application. Over the years, most of them were replaced with the much more appropriate and less destructive crepe Myrtle. Marian decided that she did not want a crepe Myrtle and requested an ornamental cherry, also an appropriate tree, but it was not a crepe Myrtle, and would prove to be the lightening rod for the attempted coup d’état.

It turns out that Mr. Satellite, several years ago, when it was first planted, took photos of Marian’s ornamental cherry. Um hmm. Aren’t you impressed? This is a man who plans ahead. He kept that photo all this time. Truthfully, I wasn’t clear on why the photo mattered so much. I mean, the tree is still there, right in front of Marian’s condo. The board could have simply taken a field trip to look at it in person. Didn’t the jury do that in the first O.J. Simpson trial? But they would use the photo in another meeting.

Carolyn and the Satellites requested and received a private meeting with the condo managers. They lodged their complaint, showed their photo and requested that Marian be relieved of her duties immediately. This did not happen. This private meeting was held before the regular board meeting. So they would try again then.

The board only meets every three months. All of this cloak and dagger stuff among Carolyn and the Satellites occurred between meetings. They were fired up and loaded for bear by the time the meeting rolled around. Marian, tipped off by another resident, had her own buckshot. She had written a three-page, single-spaced rebuttal to all the hoopla. Besides that, she had the “record” that proved that her court had not received more funds.

Patsy can’t get a head of steam up over these kinds of things. She’s a laid-back sort. She viewed the whole kerfuffle with amusement, but I know she did have a dog in the fight. She likes Marian and felt the Satellites and Carolyn should have talked to Marian directly instead of launching a private meeting.. The board meeting finally arrived. Patsy called to tell me she was leaving her condo, and if she didn’t call in two hours, I should send out the militia.

Marian gave her speech. Carolyn was straight-faced and stern. Marian explained that her ornamental cherry costs less than the crepe Myrtles. “But that wasn’t really the point, was it?” Carolyn countered. Marian got something different. She got to choose her tree. Marian explained that everyone could choose, and it wasn’t her fault if Carolyn got a crepe Myrtle, furthermore, knowing someone took photos of her tree made her feel stalked, and she found it more than a little creepy that a grown man would carry a picture of her tree around in his pocket, waiting to use it against her at a “secret” meeting with the managers. Carolyn declared that Marian and Patsy got more “stuff” for their court and their snow was always removed first. Marion denied this and called it nonsense. She maintained that she had served honorably, answered phone calls in the middle of the night, was always polite and helpful when residents approached her while she was walking her dog, she always tried to do the best for her community… and so forth and so on.

The upshot is that Marian was not removed and did not resign. She has until November before re-election, and she told them that she had not decided if she would run again, but if they wanted someone else, they should find someone to run. No one was shot or kilt. Nothing made headlines in the paper the next day. The world still revolves, Marian still has her ornamental cherry, and they all meet again in late September. Hopefully, tempers will have cooled. If not, I’ll have more blog fodder. I’ll always vote yea for that.