Cry Me A River
Last night the head of my condo association made me cry. 

He yelled at me and I cried. I cried because I hate being yelled at, even when I deserve it. Which, in this case, I sort of did, but not really.

Here’s a piece of homeowner advice you all should take with you to your graves: never, ever, ever buy a condo on the first floor of an old brownstone. You’ll get stuck with all the common building systems in your utility closet and be forever at the mercy of every other owner’s whim. Need your meter read? Furnace replaced? Circuit breakers flipped? Hot water heater drained? Just barge on in, folks. I’m used to it.

The latest maintenance indignity inflicted upon my humble home is the replacement of the building’s water meter. The City of Boston has been running around for the past six months replacing every old-fashioned water meter in the Back Bay with something they call a “Smart Read” system, which enables the meter-readers to scan usage levels from the street without having to beg their way into everyone’s apartments once a year. Basically,  it’s a newfangled way for them to help themselves to more of our money without having to get our permission to do it, and, while I’m as civic-spirited as the next guy, I personally couldn’t care less how convenient or inconvenient the process is for them. All I know is, the Smart Read Project is creating a massive disruption in my own life, and, as you can imagine, I am highly annoyed by the whole thing.

Our existing water meter is located behind a tiny access panel in my bedroom wall. The access panel is not big enough to allow the old meter to be removed. I know this, because the water meter guys have been in my apartment on two occasions to try to remove the thing, denting my wall, chipping my paint, and gouging a nine-inch scratch in my shiny hardwood floor in the process. And, rather than try to make my life easier by figuring out another way to accomplish their task without wrecking my home further, Boston Water & Sewer, in all its customer-friendly glory, has demanded I devote several hours of my valuable time and several dollars of my valuable income to hire someone to come into my home, cut a hole in my wall, and create a larger access panel. Then I will be required to waste even more of my valuable time sitting at home babysitting their klutzy workers to ensure they do not do any further damage to my property, followed by another long and expensive day spent having the giant hole in my wall filled in. In other words, one gigantic pain in the ass that I have been avoiding dealing with. For, like, eight months.

I’ve been pretty good at evading the phone calls, letters, and random BW&S employees who show up at my door to try to trick their way in. But last week they finally decided to get tough, and they sent a letter to the head of my condo association telling him if I don’t schedule the appointment within seven days they'll shut off the water for the entire building (which is a pretty empty threat, by the way, since in order to do so they’d have to gain access to the shutoff valve which is--duh--in my apartment). Anyway, that letter is what led to the phone call, the yelling, and the subsequent crying.

I only cried because I was outraged at the injustice of the whole situation. That, and the fact that he told me I was “irresponsible,” which I pretty much am but don’t like admitting. Luckily, I managed to hold back my tears until I got off the phone (after fervently promising to take care of the situation immediately), but the minute I hung up I let loose.  It actually felt kind of good, because I really can’t remember the last time I had the luxury of getting in a good long cry in the privacy of my own (soon to be waterless, because I still haven’t gotten off my ass to schedule the appointment) home.

I usually only cry at totally inopportune moments. Never when it could actually do me any good, like when I'm at a funeral or am trying to get out of a speeding ticket. No, I merely scoff at sad or scary events. Death in the family? Feh.  Sappy movie? Here, have a Kleenex while I buff my nails. If you ever experience a major tragedy in your life and need someone by your side, I’m your gal, because I handle enormous grief with great aplomb and composure. But give me one petty, trivial situation or a minor inconvenience and I dissolve into a howling mass of sobs. Usually in public.

The last time I cried was the day I got fired from my most recent job. You may think this was an enormously stressful event that warranted a tear or two, but I actually welcomed the news. I’d been trying to get them to fire me for months, and I’d done everything I could, short of setting the office on fire, to force their hand. My boss was a tremendous idiot with a greasy comb-over and the revolting habit of hacking up giant mouthfuls of phlegm every seven minutes with no regard for whom he happened to be grossing out. He was also not even my real boss, just a washed-up consultant who had been hired to run the sales department until they could find a real Vice President of Sales. I hated him with the fire of a thousand suns, and the feeling evidently was mutual, because his last official act as Temporary Vice President of Sales was to come all the way up to Boston from Providence to fire me. I think he actually stayed on an extra day pro-bono just so he could do it in person.  Anyway, he called me up on a Friday afternoon and told me he wanted to review my sales pipeline with me the following Monday and could I reserve the main conference room for the meeting. When he showed up with the head of Human Resources and a skimpy severance package I realized what was really going on and promptly burst into tears.  Not because I was getting fired. But because the outrageousness of the whole situation had finally sunk in:

They had made me reserve a conference room for my own firing!

That was what opened the floodgates, and it was totally humiliating. I was crying so hard I couldn’t even choke out the haughty speech I had been practicing in the car for the past month in preparation for this inevitable event. I just sat there, blubbering like an idiot, thus depriving myself forever of the pleasure of telling Mr. Phlegm-Spewing Comb-Over exactly what I thought of him and then flouncing out of the room with my head held high.  Instead, I left sniveling, my face so red and swollen everyone immediately knew what had happened (I did get a lot of nice sympathetic e-mails, come to think of it, but I would really have preferred to have left with a bit more dignity). Of course, the minute I got home with my little cardboard box full of pilfered office supplies the tears dried up and I promptly washed my face and went off to see a movie.

I’ve cried at work a lot. Several jobs ago, I worked at a Very Large And Very Evil Mutual Fund Company based in Boston, and while I was working there I cried on a weekly basis. I kept an extra tube of mascara in my desk drawer as a precaution. I even had my own favorite crying stall in the ladies’ room, all the way down at the end on the left. I cried regularly at the Very Large And Very Evil Mutual Fund Company because the men I was working for were mean and incompetent individuals who had no business being in the powerful positions they held. Especially the Finance Guy, who had caused me endless grief during my two years there by never missing an opportunity to remind everyone during our staff meetings how many revenue targets I was missing (thus deflecting blame from the person who had set the unrealistic targets in the first place…himself). So, of course, the day I quit and walked around to say goodbye to everyone, guess whose office I was in when I finally broke down?

Relationship stuff doesn’t really make me cry that much anymore either, although this was not always the case. When I was in my twenties I was engaged to this guy my friends and I now refer to as Larry the Loser (and, boy, was he). Larry the Loser used to make me cry for fun. Just because he could. All he had to do was look at me a certain way, the tears would start to flow, and he’d walk away laughing (shut up--I know he was an asshole!) The day I finally wised up and dumped his sorry ass (horrible story that I can blog about now because enough time has passed that I can laugh about it) I left dry-eyed and utterly composed. Since then, I can count on the fingers of one hand the guys I have cried over, but, as with Larry the Loser, those tears were usually shed in response to acts of overt meanness on their part, as opposed to any residual sadness over losing them. On the other hand, I weep freely whenever I’m dumping someone, but I think that’s just because I'm so irritated that I feel guilty for not liking him more.

And I guess that’s what it all boils down to. I can handle sadness, fear, regret, and pity--but annoy me, give me some random grievance to rage against and I’ll stand there, sobbing like a two year old, until the wrong is righted. Kind of like a weepy-eyed superhero. The Teary Avenger! Raining her tears of vengeance down on all who slight her! Washing away injustice with the blink of her bloodshot eye!

Which gives me a good idea.

Screw Boston Water & Sewer. We don’t need their filthy river sludge sloshing around our pretty brownstone. The Teary Avenger can handle this matter herself.

Because I guarantee you: enough people are going to piss me off in the next 24 hours to keep my neighbors and me under water for a long time to come.