Condo Fairy Tale
By Susan K. O’Brien
The following fictionalized composite contains no references to any real person, living or dead, or any actual place.
Mr. and Mrs. Uncool were bored with retirement.
All the renovations were completed in their getaway condo: granite countertops, added bathroom, private workout, and outdoor fireplace. The unit was bloated with ski equipment and high-tech kitchen gear, giant flat screens and exercise machines.
They looked at each other.
Then one day it came to them. They were coming home from a shopping trip to buy more stuff when they saw a big parking lot full of shiny new motorcycles.
“That’s IT!” they cried, and before you could say Marlon Brando, two new motorcycles were parked in front of their unit, gleaming in the sun.
For some years now Mr. Uncool had been a member of the board of directors of the association. To say he “served” on the board would be misleading; he did attend meetings when convenient, but never went so far as to solve problems. He valued his relationships with the other board members too much.
As he had never read the bylaws—too boring—it was a nasty surprise when the Property Manager said, “It’s against the bylaws to have a motorcycle.”
To their relief, the Uncools did not have to give up their bikes.
“I won’t tell,” said the Property Manager.
“I won’t enforce the rules,” said the Board President.
So they zoomed around the complex on the common road, bullying the children and the pedestrians out of their way. At first they wore helmets, but that was boring—and too hot—so they got pirate scarves in bright primary colors and tied them on their heads. And rode, and rode, and rode, blasting past the 20 mile an hour speed limit, on roads that should have belonged to everyone in the complex for quiet walking and pleasure, but soon belonged just to vehicles.
One day, while watching a biker movie on their newest flat screen, they realized they had purchased bikes that were pretty quiet. That was boring, so they went back to the shiny motorcycle shop and bought bigger bikes. Then they opened the pipes so all the neighbors could hear them go by, every single time. Upsetting people and animals was fabulous; pathological exhibitionism was never boring, and the Uncools knew, after decades of stupefying jobs and dull lives, they had finally found their calling.
Geriatric adolescence was so cool!
Some people in the nearby town, including a family with young kids who lived on the main road, complained about that speed and noise, but Mr. Uncool took it up with the Board President, who talked to the Good Contact, who made sure the bikes could continue to roar and exceed the speed limit by many miles an hour. After all, as the Uncools pointed out, where would the ignorant locals be without the money the big city honchos, with their MBA’s and thick wallets, spent every weekend at the town businesses? (Never mind that the gas station closed a year ago, and all that was left among empty storefronts was a convenience stop.)
Real trouble came when another owner complained. His floors shook every time the bikes went by; he’d read the bylaws and learned it was against the rules. He’d bought his unit on the understanding he wouldn’t have noise like he had now, and he was angry.
“What a whiner,” said the Uncools.
“What a troublemaker,” said the Board President.
So the Uncools and Board President, ably assisted by the Property Manager, pushed through a new bylaw that allowed motorcycles. They did this through proxy votes and by failing to explain to the voters that did show up just how biker noise and pollution would affect adults and kids in the complex and wildlife all around it.
The bikes were safe again! Reveling in their latest victory, the Uncools brought new, even more uncool biker friends up to share the joy, stay at their condo and admire all the stuff. Their friends parked in spaces owned by others, but now that the bylaws had formally been rendered meaningless, it was no problem.
Now there were eight bikes, then ten, finally fourteen, merrily shattering the peace, sending flocks of terrorized birds rocketing into the once serene blue sky.
The Uncools became aware of the federal law prohibiting tampering with the muffler system on motorcycles, but they didn’t care. They lived by a higher law: getting rid of boredom and drawing attention to themselves. Who cares about disturbing the peace or a bunch of stupid animals? Anyway, they were doing a great job keeping the bears away from the dumpster.
Seeing the futility of raising any issues, the other owners, who realized too late what they had allowed to happen at their complex, shut themselves in against the noise, tightly securing their doors and windows when they might have enjoyed the cool summer breezes. Earplug sales at the nearby pharmacy went crazy.
A few owners occasionally did come out to laugh at the funny old Uncools in their weird getups, racing around like mad chickens. The Uncools thought they were being admired; their bikes were too loud for them to hear the jeers.
The owner who complained, now ostracized by the board, was not amused. His wife had high blood pressure growing worse from the noise. Realizing he was in a losing battle, he placed his unit on the market, and, when it failed to sell, he kept lowering the price.
When it dropped to half of the last selling price, a buyer snapped it up.
Who was at fault for this horrendous shift in property values?
“Not I!” said the Board President, folding up the bylaws.
“Not I!” said the Property Manager, driving away from the complex.
“Not us!” said the Uncools, revving up their bikes.
And all the other owners lived unhappily ever after.
Susan O’Brien has owned four condominiums, currently two in Canada. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. All communication is confidential.