The Civic: A true tale of boredom and betrayal
When I first moved to Portland, OR, I rented a tiny condo in a downtown building called The Civic. It was small and pricey, but it had a beautiful view.
The building was only 5 years old. Although the condo was a sleek and modern looking, it became clear shortly after moving in that it had been built using the cheapest cost-cutting means available. It had the beautiful appearance of luxury, but was a leaky, flimsy, facade balanced like a house of cards just long enough for the developers to grab their sack of money and skip town.
I truly feel bad for people who own places there. There were cracks in the walls, hot water that would go out almost weekly, a storage area that was frequently broken into, and an odd fish smell that never left the often clogged garbage chute. There were no common areas in the building except the lobby, which consisted of two couches and the most wonderful fake luxury of them all: a concierge desk.
...a concierge desk.
Now, I'm not a wealthy man. This was the first and only time I've lived anywhere with a "door person" there to greet me, open the door (duh), yell at the passing skateboarders, etc.
At first, I felt like royalty. A person to get the door for me? Well, aren't I fancy?!?
Most of the individuals working the door were cool, polite, and a pleasure to talk to. I would often walk my dog at all hours of the day, and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation with each and every one of the concierges...
There was one guy... we'll call him "Nick" (not to protect him, I just don't remember his name). Nick worked the night shift. He never spoke and no one spoke to him. He remained behind the desk, rarely opening the door and only occasionally looking up. When talking to my dog one night (as I frequently so), I casually mentioned that we had to hurry back to watch old episodes of Samurai Jack.
"I love that show!!!" Came a voice from behind the desk.
Without intending to, I had made a friend. For 45 minutes, we talked about Samurai Jack. Well, Nick talked, I listened. Man, did he talk.
From that night on, he was always waiting at the door to discuss the latest comic or cartoon news. Since he worked nights, I was often tired (I started work at 6am at the time), but that never mattered. Nick would consistently rope me into long, involved conversations about Power Rangers, Pokemon, and TMNT that I was too polite to escape.
Okay, that happens. I often encounter well-meaning and harmless people who drone on just a little too long for my comfort. If I were dictating this story instead of typing it, many of you would already be smiling and nodding, wondering when you could turn the conversation back to yourself (answer: NEVER). But this guy was standing between me and the door. Usually while I was holding a dog that desperately wanted to pee.
All that was fine. If the dog could hold in both her annoyance and her pee, so could I. So the dude's a little long-winded, so what?
This continued for months.
I began to grow tired of our interactions. What started as a fun exchange of nostalgia was turning into a repetitive nightmare where two adults do nothing but talk about tv shows they haven't watched since childhood. My polite conversation had turned from "uh huh," and "well, I'd better go," into "You told me that story yesterday AND the day before. I saw that episode, there's no need to quote it. I have to go now."
I wanted out, I needed out. This was my home, but there was no way to enter or leave the building without passing his watchful gaze. I tried to time the dog's evening walks for when Nick went on break, sometimes even sneaking out without being seen. But he would always be there when I returned.
There was nothing I could do but smile and wait for him to get the door. What options did I have? Go around him and open the door with my own hands-- like some sort of commoner?!?
No, I needed the interactions to stop, but how? We were "friends" now. I needed an excuse to break things off. Any excuse would do, even one as flimsy as the building I was living in.
One particularly late night/early morning, I finally got my wish.
I came out of the elevator with the dog, cringing at the sight of the concierge in front of the door. I tried to speak first, "Hey man, I can't talk now. I'm exhausted."
"Oh, I'll keep it quick, then. I was watching..."
"No, I really have to get the dog out. I'm in a hurry and I haven't been this tired since I moved in."
Nick's face went blank. He immediately let go of his death grip on the door, running over to his computer. "What's your last name."
I was a bit confused. "L-Lofvers... why?"
"Hang on..." He was typing something into the computer. "Oh, okay, you mentioned moving, and I just wanted to be sure you paid your move-in fee. A lot of people had snuck in here over the winter without paying that fee."
(The building charged a "screw you for having to move" non-refundable fee of hundreds of dollars. They charge it when you move in, they charge it when you move out. The practice is illegal in a lot of parts of the country, but this guy was making sure that his bosses had squeezed every penny they could out of me.)
And here I thought we were friends.
I tried to act all indignant. "Yeah, I paid it 7 months ago. But thanks for checking." I glared at him as I opened the door with my own two hands.
Nick stepped forward to help with the door. He knew what he had done, but it was too late. "I've got it." I said, not breaking eye contact. The message was clear...
When I came back, he wasn't in the lobby. I waited for the world's slowest elevator, but managed to get upstairs without a single reference to anime, Wolverine, or the Matrix.
From that night on, I didn't see as much of Nick. He would always be on a break when I came downstairs. One time, I thought I saw him out of the corner of my eye, but by the time I could turn my head, no one was there.
After months of not being able to avoid the guy, he was suddenly nowhere to be found.
In the final few days of living there, I was speaking to one of the other concierges about leaving. I said my goodbyes, but I felt a little bad. "Where's Nick?" I asked. "I'd like to say bye."
The day concierge looked a little confused. "To be honest, I don't think he wants to see you." he said. "I don't know what you were told, but he doesn't really care for cartoons or comics all that much. He was just talking to you to be polite."
This horrified me. I thought back to all those late night conversations, all those talks, all those times I thought he was just some irritant. I knew in an instant that I had been wrong all along, that my judgement was skewed, that I had missed the deeper person inside.
Nick wasn't just annoying... the whole time, he was a liar as well.
--Okay okay, I might've made that very last part up. The day guy's response was more along the lines of, "Who cares where Nick has been? He's a bit of a dick." This isn't much of an exciting twist, but I'm telling the story, so I prefer to set myself up as the hero, bravely standing up to the annoying liars of the world... That's how I came across, right? Right?!?