Big Ass Mess

Despelote is s great word in Spanish. It means chaos or, for some, a great laugh. For me, it perfectly describes the administration of my apartment building in Buenos Aires. A big ass mess. Another good word for them is crooked.

I went back for a meeting of apartment owners, leaving behind the pine forest for a few days. We met to discuss the administration’s decision (in cohesion with a select band of apartment owners, no doubt taking a cut somehow or other) to hire a security company to keep an eye on us, protect us. Armed rent-a-cops soon were sat on their big or puny asses in the entrance hall all night, fighting sleep and clocking our comings and goings. I’d always felt safe in the building. Not now with the rent-a-cops and an administration stinking of negligence, wrongdoing and crookedness.

I arrived to the meeting fuming, out to kill. It costs me to rent the cops. All because they – the administrators and their cohorts – say we need them. No way! We gathered in the entrance hall, about 35 of us – a record turnout, so I was told. The administrators came with their own lawyer, hired on our dime. The nerve! An elderly neighbor saw me fidgeting as the meeting got going. I was getting wrapped up in it, headstrong. Arguments broke out; people had their say and vented their frustrations with the administration. The elderly neighbor tugged my shirtsleeve and said, “It doesn’t pay to get worked up. Play it cool, son. Take my word for it.” Two minutes later he was shouting out, arms flailing, fingers pointing at the administration.

Then the son of one of the pro-security guard neighbors (that is, the enemy) came down. He stood in the middle of the proceedings, with a tank top exposing his muscles, arms crossed tightly, eyes beaming at us. Shit! I thought. They’ve brought him in to rough us up, stare us down and stir shit up. It makes you want to shout. Your money is at stake, and justice. So you do. But you’re drowned out. There are shouts and clamoring. Blood boils. But you’re in the majority and the ruffian is expelled – he has no reason to be here. It takes three men to push him out the front door, women screaming. The ruffian pushes back. A man almost falls over. The ruffian only gives up after his mother (the enemy) gives him the nod to back down.

Then a reasonable man stands up and beseeches for calm. Order returns – for two minutes. Then the shouting escalates again, arms waving, fingers pointing at the administration and their lawyer.

I lost track after a while – and steam. The situation came to a vote and we won. The majority voted against the administration and its cohorts. Justice reigned. In the end an elderly woman said to me, “We’d better be careful and watch our backs. There’s no telling what they’ll do next.” The ruffian was still out front, in the street. I took the elevator upstairs and locked the door.

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