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The Apartment Manager Parable

Published: November 1, 2011

Author: Todd Mintz

One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.” …James Joyce, The Dead
About a week ago, I read the following “incredible” post and it reminded me strongly of a long-forgotten story I experienced firsthand…
Back in the ’90s, I worked for a company that managed apartments, and one day I was told to go visit a 20-unit complex in Oregon City where the owner was considering getting professional management services. My duty was to “inventory” the apartments, noting any damage or signs of poor management, which would be then written up and given to the owner. I was told that the owner wanted to get rid of the current manager but not do it directly (since he might have been a relative…I can’t remember).
So, I got to the place and met the manager, who was the prototypical middle-aged, chubby, surly, unhappy guy trapped in a job that he really didn’t want. He was totally gruff and very rude and if not for my job, I would have definitely bailed on the situation. He accompanied me on my task and as he encountered any of the residents, he snarled at them if he said anything at all.
About halfway through the job, we entered one apartment where a woman resident happened to be inside. There was clearly animosity between the two, and they happened to exchange words while I was working. As we walked outside, the woman’s husband approached the apartment manager and wanted to talk to him. The husband had a simple request:
“I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t use profanity in front of my wife.”
Normal people would have felt “put in their place” if such a request were made of them. Even if they felt it unjustified, they likely would have assented in order to escape the situation. Except, the apartment manager didn’t react like a normal person.
What followed was the most ridiculous, cringe-worthy 20-minute argument that I had ever seen that consisted entirely of the apartment manager trying to justify his untenable position. Even more ironic, the manager was almost “chest-bumping” the husband as argued with him, which wasn’t particularly smart as the husband looked like a guy who did a lot of weight-training and probably could have decked the manager in one punch.
After a painfully long period of time, the argument ended with the issue unresolved. The manager and I went away to help finish the job at hand (which couldn’t have ended quickly enough).
The last apartment that I had to inventory was the manager’s own, and as I did my duties, a bit of humanity came over him and he started talking about himself (which I really didn’t want to hear, but I couldn’t get out of there before completing my tasks). At that point, I think he knew how badly he had blown it with his behavior. I don’t remember the details of his life, but I do remember one thing: he used to be a male model, and he showed me a picture of himself from his modeling days. Though I don’t have a clue how successful he was (and in those days, I couldn’t go Google him to find out), what I remember is that he very much used to be a really good-looking guy who definitely had the proper “look” that one would see in certain types of advertising. The contrast between how he used to be and how he was now couldn’t have been more striking. I didn’t know what happened to him that caused him to spiral downward so drastically, and I’m not sure it really mattered…so any plausible story I could imagine would fit the bill.
Sometimes success, or at least the appearance or illusion of success, leads to detachment from the social and societal norms that most of us follow. Whether such detachment indicates an impending fall or delineates that one has already happened is an open question.
Todd Mintz, Senior Account Manager
– Questions? Comments? Email us at blog at ppcassociates dot com.

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