Friday, February 08, 2008

I searched high and low for this one, goslings, a novelty print that could finish out blouse week with a bang; it took me hours to find this comma and semi-colon print.

40's rayon, cute little collar, great color. Covered in punctuation marks, this shirt would definitely help you to say what you mean. This is exactly what I needed to wear to housing court this morning. This is the novelty print that could have said: "Your honor, I find the petitioner's suit both frivolous and egregious."

I have written extensively on what novelty prints to wear to court, and punctuation has always been the chosen theme for the claimant. But what if you are the respondent?

Housing court is indeed a fashion challenge. Mom had excellent advice. She said: look poor. Easy enough to do. Just pick my most pathetic, well-worn vintage dress and pair it with an acrylic sweater. I had an appropriately cheap purse and carried all my legal documents in a Russian briefcase, that is to say, a plastic bag. I topped it all off with braids and a headscarf. Just to keep it downtrodden, or in case a low budget production of Fiddler on the Roof needed an extra. But then I started over-thinking the whole thing, as I tend to do. If I am really to look poor, then I must look like I'm trying not to look poor, right? I settled on a silk blend turtleneck and a pair of decent boots to add a little class to the schmatte and the headscarf. As if I dressed up to go to court.

"Tell it to the judge!" shouted my landlord's scumbag attorney during our last meeting 2 weeks ago.

We had gotten off on the wrong foot, he and I. Because of the masculine sound of my name, he presumed there was some Mr. Sam Sara somewhere and kept asking about my husband, and if I was there to represent him. This did not endear him to me. Plus I had the flu, a high fever and it was all I could do to keep from throwing up.

"I'm too sick to be here and I need an adjournment," I told him, "I have the flu."

"What has that got to do with anything?" He asked indignantly, "Tell that to the judge!"

And so, two weeks later, I was prepared to face the judge and this schleppy, heavy-set white guy, my landlord's attorney. And I was prepared to do it dressed as the Little Match Girl.

For those of you who have tuned in late, my landlord, Pinnacle Management (who received a special mention last year in the Village Voice's 10 Worst Landlords) took me to housing court over a rent credit that they promised me. We've had this intermittent problem of fumes from the boiler getting into the apartment the whole 11years I've been there. Off and On. But the chimney finally broke in late September. Smoke and black ashes were coming into my apartment for about 2 and a half months. I had to move out while the chimney was repaired. The Building Manager promised me a credit for the time I couldn't be in the apartment, but of course no one would put anything in writing. Which brings us to Housing Court, at 9:30am today.

The Judge was direct from Central Casting: a poker-faced, African-American woman in her late 50s, glasses perched on the end of her nose. I listened to her on the cases before mine. She didn't put up with nonsense. She silenced a long-winded attorney with a lifted eyebrow. She adjourned to give an elderly lady time to hire a lawyer. Tough but fair. I was so excited that she would be my judge. And I had so many things to tell her. About the broken chimney. About the evil landlord. So many things. Things that filled two folders carried in a plastic bag. And this woman, clearly, could set all wrongs right.

I sat in the pews and awaited the bottom-feeder lawyer, like we had a date. Every time that court room door opened I was hoping it was him and my heart beat a little faster.

But there was no court room drama for me, legal beagles, and probably for the best reason. The landlord withdrew the lawsuit. I guess it was costing them more than I owe them to litigate. I have a current outstanding balance of $144.

And so I signed the Stipulation of Settlement without really realizing that I had waived my right to sue the landlord. Now, I've got mixed feelings about that, but the unofficial legal advice I've gotten all points to the impossibility of winning any legal tussle with my landlord. And shelling out a lot of money, which I obviously don't have or I wouldn't have been in this position to begin with. And that my case would only be compelling if I were to die from the fumes, or be permanently disabled (Gawd forbid!). In addition, the chimney has now been replaced, and it would be very hard to file suit for conditions that have been ameliorated. And so, all things considered, I will simply Get On With My Life.

The first thing I saw when leaving the Civil Court was an ad for something called "Moving On".

I went to The Vegetarian Dim Sum House to celebrate. Last night being New Year's Eve, Chinatown was littered with confetti and still asleep. (I lived in Chinatown eons ago and normally the neighborhood is up and at 'em pretty early, but not today.) Everything was shuttered. I found myself on Pell Street at 10:30 am without any vegetarian options and decided to follow the throngs trooping in and out of Delight 28 next door. A hand-written sign said dim sum and it was clearly the place to be this morning. Elderly men in baseball caps handing out red envelopes with money in them. Good-looking young men with sleepy expressions. Old ladies on canes and women who talked on their cell phones during the entire meal.

Of course, dim sum is a dangerous business if you have any dietary restrictions. My dear friend, Spartacus, is allergic to shell fish (like go to the hospital type allergic), so he has to opt-out. I was happily seated near the kitchen. An excellent vantage point to see what was on each cart. The first cart-lady assured me that she had seafood dumplings. And they were. Seafood mixed with pork. I ate them anyway.

And everywhere, everyone was saying Happy New Year. Even to me.


Blogger midafternoonsnack said...

Gung hay fat choy, dear Samsara! I am pleased to hear that your evil landlord has opted out of litigation. It does suck that the right to sue is waived, but I think that you and your advisors are right to think that it might be more trouble than it's worth.

Congratulations, by the way, on surmounting the sartorial challenge of Housing Court.

Love reading the blog,

2:04 PM  

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