So, I haven't had the greatest impression of our legal system as of late. I've witnessed injustice and smarmy tactics. I've seen the toll the system can take on people. It hasn't always been pretty. But then I moved in with two lawyers, and today I had a disagreement with my former landlord, and now I'm starting to see the benefits of a litigious society. Thanks to some lovely person a long time ago who got all gypped by their landlord, I now get to reap the rewards of Accountability.
It all started almost 2 months ago, when we had to move out of our old house. You may remember my constant ramblings (and witty banter, and hilarious commentaries) about that time. All the cleaning, all the painting and repairing and sweating. It was hellish. But when we were done, Geo and I left the place in far better shape than it was in when we moved in three years before that. We felt good. We felt proud. We felt exhausted.
Cut to a few weeks later, when our (fairly sizable) deposit check still had not arrived. I had already sent my landlord one email, when I was all charming and thankful and lovely, and gently reminded her we needed that big fatty check so I could book a trip to Alabummer to see Geo. Didn't hear back. I waited another week or so, and sent another - less patient, more pleading - email reminding her again that the check had not arrived. Could I come pick it up? Did she send it to the correct address? Had she run out of checks and did she need me to send her one of those check order dealies that I get in the mail all the time? Blah, blah, blah.
She eventually responds "You're my top priority". Well, I feel bad for her other priorities, because ANOTHER week went by, and these plane tickets I'm looking to get ain't getting any cheaper. So, GEO sends an email this time. Voila! The check arrived today.
A mere (not mere) $300 short. Apparently there were some repairs that had to be done. No details, just a quick mention that she just kept some of our money, and thanks for your time. I was all uppity and stomping around my new place, complaining to no one in particular. That's when Claire and Andrew chimed in. "UMMM...you moved out of there like 2 months ago, right?" I nodded, angrily. "Pharon, you have to get your deposit back within three weeks, or the landlord has to pay you double. Plus interest."
Say whaaaaaaaaaat? Natch, I immediately challenged their combined years of about 15 years practicing law and said "That sounds crazy." Then Andrew informs me that apparently HE SPECIALIZES IN THIS SPECIFIC AREA, and comes at me by stating an actual STATUTE. Whatever that means... And then Claire and Andrew start doing math, so my brain starts bleeding, but eventually they say all kinds of big ol' numbers that are apparently owed. TO ME! Yay for the law!!
Okay, so I sit down at my computer, and pull together an email I'm ready to send. I quoted statutes (again, whatever those are), wrote out the math I didn't understand, peppered in a few niceties, included a fairly detailed timeline of events - including references to specific times of previous emails - and I'm pretty proud of what I've got. Then Claire, the very successful lawyer, sits down and says "Can I make a few tweaks?" Ummm...exsqueeze me? You want to tweak MY eloquent letter? Pretty sure it's perfect, and there's no room for improvement, but WHATEVS. But I say "Sure, uh, I guess go for it."
Five minutes later, I have a document ready to go that should be transcribed on parchment paper, framed, and hung in the halls of the Supreme Court. Claire had taken out all my "I feel like", and "It seems to me", and "If you don't mind" statements and replaced them all with "This is how it is. This is what you have to do to make this go away." Then she gives me a brief, but firm, lecture on how I need to not be so Minnesota Nice.
MOI?! TOO NICE?! Excuse me while I wet my pants laughing. I'm not widely known for my pleasantness. But reflecting on my first draft, I realized that yeah, I was going very easy on her. This woman not only ignored me for 2 months, but then had the nerve to essentially steal a plane ticket to Alabummer right out of my hands!? Um, rudemuch?!
So I took off my kid gloves and deleted "Thanks so much for your time" and replaced it with a very curt "Thanks". Take THAT.
I sent the email, and immediately started freaking out. I didn't want this woman to HATE me. I didn't want her to be mad at me. It didn't help that after informing Geo of my ballsy - albeit completely JUSTIFIED - email, he told me I shouldn't have sent it, and I should have just let it go. But then Claire's all "Dude, SHE'S the one screwing YOU out of money. If you let her get away with this, she'll do it to her next tenants and then, essentially, you'll be screwing THEM out of their money. Can you live with that, Pharon?! CAN YOU!?"
No, America, I can not. I felt better immediately, and Geo later retracted his initial hesitance at my super heroic actions. Where do you think one would go to get a cape and spandex suit?
As any good Good Deed Doer, I didn't end up requesting that this woman pay me all the interest and late-payment penalties. I simply said (and this is a loose translation) "Listen here, see, you're going to pay me what you owe me, see. And there won't be any problems, see." I'm not greedy or selfish or anything, so I figured that with the compromise I offered, it should end up happily.
I haven't heard back from her yet, but I'm both terrified and excited to hear her reaction. Knowing that the law is (finally!) on MY side is a wonderful thing. I'm assuming she is researching all the super smart lawyer talk I used (and now actually understand). But I'm also terrified because, even though I play the part very frequently, I absolutely HATE being the bad guy. I didn't want to have to argue with her about money. It makes me uncomfortable. But I realized that what made me MORE uncomfortable was being broke and flying in the cargo space under the plane in a duffle bag.
Now we play the waiting game. I hate waiting. And even though I wrote "I look forward to your immediate attention to this matter", I feel like she doesn't have the same sense of urgency to pay me my money. All I know is that I'm right in this situation. And though you may be tempted to call me a hero, I am but a humble, average American, fighting injustice and stopping The Machine from keeping us down. Also? I just seriously need to book my flight...