So, I haven’t posted a lot lately. Partly because I’ve been busy and partly because pretty much everything I wanted to post was a negative reaction to negative incidents going on in this country and I just didn’t want to go there constantly with this blog. Sometimes is fine, all the time, not so much. I’ve been having a hard time being optimistic and did not want to go all curmudgeon, all the time. Then came the weekend of the 4th of July. I took a couple of extra days off from work and spent the long holiday weekend with my family. On the day of the 4th we went to a place for lunch here in Dallas, off of lower Greenville, called the Truckyard. It is an outdoor seating area with a bar on one side and several food trucks to choose from on the other. We had lunch and a couple of drinks sitting outside in the shade enjoying a warm but beautiful day. Next we made our way to Northpark Mall to watch dinosaurs snack on unlucky humans in Jurassic World. It’s amazing how a couple of mojitos make that more funny than scary, lol. It was the perfect way to beat the heat of a Texas afternoon in July. After the movie we jumped on DART and went down to Fair Park to watch the fireworks in the Cotton Bowl. We got there well before dark and had a chance to sit and do a bit of people watching. It was fun and as the crowd got larger as it started getting dark the “wave” made it’s way around the stadium a few times. The fireworks were good although they played some really cheesy music with them. Someone seriously needs to work on that. One of the issues with riding DART to an event like that is that while it may be a bit crowded going, it’s not too bad because people arrive at varying times, but everyone leaves at the same time. So there was a huge crowd waiting for the DART trains. And here finally, I come to the point of this post. The first is that it was a very mixed crowd of people. There were lots of white people, lots of black people and lots of hispanic people. All enjoying a community event together with no issues whatsoever. Brings a bit of perspective. Because even though there is institutional and systemic racism rampant in this country, when it comes right down to it, most people are happy to live and let live and that is encouraging for the prospect of changing the course of things in this country. But this is what really struck me. I was standing a bit behind the others in my group and was looking around people watching again while waiting for the train. And I’m not exaggerating when I say there were hundreds of people waiting. Off to my left were two old gentlemen. I’d say in their late seventies or early eighties, both white haired and clearly elderly. They were both wearing the ubiquitous old man summer outfit of short-sleeved button down shirts, with knee-length shorts and white socks with sneakers. And they were holding hands. They were clearly solicitous of each other in the crowd of people, hanging on tight, making sure the other was ok. I focused on their large, gnarled hands intertwined and it brought me to tears. Not because they were holding hands, but because they COULD hold hands. These were two men who not only felt it was safe to do so, but were completely ignored doing so as if it were the most natural thing in the world. This is not something that has been so for very long. I don’t know if it was the SCOTUS same-sex marriage decision that made them feel safe or if they had felt so before that, but I know that while I have seen some young gay and lesbian couples showing affection in public I had never seen two older men doing so. It was unsafe to do so for so very long. Men holding hands in public not so long ago would have been at the very least verbally attacked and more likely physically attacked. And I stood there in that crowd, waiting for the train, watching those old guys just be a couple and do so without harassment or disgust or whispering and pointing or any other negative reaction and I was proud of my country. Proud that it is finally realizing that love, no matter it’s form is a good thing and everyone deserves it and deserves respect and dignity no matter who they love.
Congratulations to all LGBT folks in here in Texas and across the United States on this historic day! I’ve had tears in my eyes all day watching elderly same sex couples who’ve spent their lives together finally being married in the eyes of the law. And seeing young same sex couples take that leap of faith with their partner that they will be together for life. Thank you to them all for sharing their joy with us. There is still much to do, for example, in many states you can still be fired from your job for being gay. But this was a HUGE step in the right direction! Below are the amazing words of Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 5-4 decision:
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
I didn’t watch this when it actually premiered, I watched a couple of days later on HBO Go, so I had seen a lot of reaction to this documentary before hand. Most of the chatter was terribly negative toward Scientology, some going so far as to say the documentary gave them nightmares, and many people were downright appalled at what was going on in Scientology circles. My reaction to that is, they must not have been paying attention because Scientology has been getting lots of negative press for years and years and years. This documentary was directed by Alex Gibney and written by Gibney and Lawrence Wright. It was a well done documentary and sustained my interest throughout. It was like watching a sordid soap opera, one I just couldn’t quit watching, but there was really nothing new under the sun. And therein lies my problem with everyone’s horror over Scientology, which I will try and explain.
This documentary made clear the absurdity of the “beliefs” of Scientologists and the clear mental health issues of its founder L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard was a prolific writer and did very well in the science fiction genre. Much of the bones of his Scientology religion was taken directly from some of his early science fiction writing. He was an abusive husband who kidnapped his daughter when his wife tried to leave, took her out of the country and told his wife he had killed her. She ultimately got her daughter back and was able to divorce him, but it is clear he was a dangerously troubled man. He threatened suicide regularly as well. Hubbard began agitating early on to have Scientology classified as a religion in order for it to be tax exempt as he knew that was the best way to make gobs of money, however it was not until after his death that Scientology, under the leadership of David Miscavige, managed to bully the IRS, through thousands of lawsuits by its members and by brilliantly making public the folly’s in the agency’s own actions, into classifying Scientology as a religion. Even Hubbard’s writings were classified as religious texts and cannot be taxed.
One of the main points of the doc was that Scientology is more of a cult than a religion, citing the fact that it is ruled over by one enormously powerful man, David Miscavige who assumed leadership at Hubbard’s death, who brooks no argument or dissidence from his flock, and who uses intimidation and outright abuse to keep them under his sway. The people in the inner circle who do all of the hard work to keep it running are paid something like $50 dollars a week. Scientology also takes enormous sums of money from it’s adherents and makes it extremely difficult for members to quit if they wish. Some of the ways they make life terrible for those wanting to leave is to threaten to, or actually follow through with making public very private admissions made during “auditing” sessions. There were accusations of people being held against their will, their children being taken from them and worse. They also harass and stalk people who manage to get out, especially if they speak out against Scientology.
So basically, Scientology is a set of gobbledygook “beliefs” made up by a mentally ill man, that uses intimidation and quite possibly illegal treatment of it’s members to keep its secrets and is making a privileged few very, very, very rich. And that very wealth is what keeps the average person from being able to afford to fight back.
I believe that Scientology is a scam. I believe that it has suckered intelligent and basically decent people into following tenants that serve mainly to keep them in line and oppressed. I believe that its members are not what is important, it’s the money that’s important. The thing is, I believe those things about religion in general. And I am not an atheist. Just completely not down with organized religion. And that is why I have a problem with everyone’s horror over Scientology.
Firstly, we live in the United States of America. We are a free country. We are free to believe whatever we want to believe. We have freedom of religion. And boy do people believe lots of different things here. And while I may upset some people by saying this, I’m going to anyway, ALL religions have some weird ass shit they want you to believe, do, think about, follow through with and convert others into believing. ALL of them. And most of them have precious little leeway in condemning the practices of other religions when most of them have huge, clanking skeletons in their own closets. As to the uproar over Scientology being tax exempt by being classified as a religion, I think that is outrageous and should be changed immediately. The problem is I believe all religions should have their tax exempt status revoked. They all blatantly break the law by using their platforms for political gain and while I know there are small poor churches that struggle to get by, there are far too many “mega-churches” rolling in the dough while people starve. And don’t get me started on the wealth of the Catholic church. Such wealth would not be a problem if there weren’t people starving, or going without medicine or any number of other things, but there are and that is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Every ex-member who spoke in this documentary about Scientology, spoke of their shame in having been a part of the religion, many of them for decades. Once they were out of the bubble of Scientology influence, they couldn’t believe what they believed for so long and what they did in order to protect it. That to me is the main takeaway of this documentary. People must think for themselves, never allow others to dictate how they should behave and should run for the hills the second anyone tries to make them believe hurting another person is “right” because it is for their own good. It’s all common sense to me, but I know how being a part of something greater than yourself can be so alluring. And when you have charismatic, manipulative “leaders” who are able to make people think they know better it can be hard to discern what is off. But again, every one of those people who have left spoke of a little voice they ignored telling them something wasn’t right. Learn to trust your instincts. Learn to think for yourself. Learn to be discerning. Step outside whatever bubble you’ve allowed yourself to be enclosed in and see how other people live. No matter what you call that bubble. The prison of belief is one of our own making.
I should start out this post by saying I am angry. I am angrier than I have been in a long time and I’m having a hard time letting it go because I feel so powerless in this situation. I don’t just feel powerless, I AM powerless. And that feeling has led me to act in a way that I don’t like. I’m hoping writing it down, getting it out of my head and my gut and my heart and down on paper will help. It won’t resolve the situation, but maybe I can just let the anger go. We’ll see.
I am being fucked over by a corporation. This isn’t the first time either and although the last time the circumstances were different the end result is causing hardship for me, while said corporations steal and cheat their way to profits on the backs of working Americans. So, I guess I should start at the beginning. In 2008 I moved into an apartment complex in Dallas. It was called Camden Glen Lakes. While I had the usual issues of apartment living, management was always helpful and accommodating and worked to make sure things were right. In October/November 2014, the complex was bought by another corporation. The changeover was not smooth. The resident portal (where we paid rent, put in maintenance requests and had access to our past leases, which were all done virtually) was taken down without warning giving residents no time to print said leases etc. It was not restored before I moved. The new management/office personnel were unfriendly, snarky, rude, you name it. And it’s not just me, when you look at reviews online, that is being said over and over. The complex is now called Lakeside at Northpark. I have tried and tried to find out the name of the corporation that now owns the complex, but have been unsuccessful. Camden has many properties and has an easy system for contacting their corporate headquarters, but Lakeside at Northpark has no such transparency. My workplace moved its headquarters and since my lease was up on Feb. 3, 2015, I thought I might like to move too in order to be a bit closer to work since the office move increased my commute time. The ill manners of the new management made the decision easier and I was lucky enough to find a place a tiny bit cheaper than what I was already paying (and they raise the rent every year, so it’s even more so) in a nice area, very close to my new workplace. Also per the lease agreement you have to let them know you are moving out 60 days before you do, and finding an availability 2 months in advance, in your price range, in the area you are looking can be a challenge. So, I was happy with the change I was making.
When I moved into my previous complex in 2008, I paid a $200 deposit on a 2 bedroom and a $400 pet deposit for my cat, of which only $200 is refundable because they have to get rid of all the nonexistent fleas and grossness of my totally indoor cat. It’s a ridiculous amount, but the apartments have all the power, especially in a red (R) state like Texas that is completely pro business, completely fuck you consumer. So, if on move out there is no damage and the apartment is left clean I would be looking at a $400 refund on deposits. Since I had to pay a $250 deposit on my new 2 bedroom with a $300 pet deposit for my cat, you can understand why I’d be looking forward to getting that back. The last year of my old lease an addendum was added that upon move out the renter would be charged a $70 cleaning fee, no matter what the state of the apartment at move out. Just another way to soak the consumer.
Anyway, when I paid my last month’s rent in January, I went to the office and found out how much the prorated rent for February was since my move out date was Feb. 3rd. I added that to my rent check along with the water/gas/utilities that I paid every month. When I turned in my keys, I wrote a check for the $70 cleaning fee and I asked the office how long it would take to receive my deposit refund. They told me my refund depended on the state of the apartment. I told them I knew that and I still wondered how long it would take. She looked up my information and told me that I had paid a $200 deposit and it would take about 30 days to get a refund. I said I also paid a $400 pet deposit, $200 of which is refundable. She said Camden did not give us that information. I said well you need to get it from them. She said we will contact Camden about the pet deposit. She reminded me that I would be receiving a final bill for water/gas/trash since those were always billed a month or so behind. I received that bill a little over a month after I moved out, wrote them a check for it and then called them to ask again about the refund. I was told they were working on it and that they were going to waive the cleaning fee since I left the apartment in such good shape. They never deposited that check.
After 5 weeks had passed, I called Lakeside at Northpark to check on the status of my refund. I was told that it had been sent to corporate for approval and my refund amount was $41. I was all like how did you get to $41 dollars? She said well you had a $200 deposit and you still owe the cleaning fee and utilities and that was taken from the deposit. As you might imagine I was a little hot and it apparently sounded in my voice because when I said, I paid $600 in deposits, $400 of which is refundable, I wrote you a check for the cleaning fee that you never deposited because you said you were waiving the fee due to the awesomeness of my apartment and I already paid the “final” utilities bill you sent; she said, in that smug, patronizing tone of voice that is designed and perfected for the sole purpose of pissing someone off further; ma’am, there is no reason to be rude. This is a professional conversation. So I proceeded to tell her that her professional assessment of what I owed and the amount of the refund was bullshit. More faux outrage about my use of foul language and how it wouldn’t be tolerated ensued at which point I said, you told me 5 weeks ago that you would find out from Camden the true amount of my deposits, you told me you were waiving the cleaning fee and in fact did not deposit the check I ALREADY WROTE for that purpose and I’ve paid what you told me was the FINAL utilities bill! So she said, ma’am if you can’t have a professional conversation without that tone of voice, at which point I repeated what I said before, more faux outrage, I repeated it again at which point she decided I wasn’t going to just go away so she said, well I will just go ahead and wave the cleaning fee. I said what about the utilities? She said well they are always billed a month behind. I said this is 2 months later I paid the month behind bill you sent 3 weeks ago, I have the deposited check as proof. She said, yes that payment shows in my ledger but my ledger shows you still owe $100 in utilities (it changed 3 times in the course of our “conversation” from $99.something to $103.something to “around” $100). I told her that her ledger was full of shit. She started again with the ma’am at which point I interrupted and said what about the deposit. She told me she would call Camden and find out and call me back. This was at 4:45 in the afternoon. I gave her until 1:30 the following afternoon. She did not call back.
I called Lakeside at Northpark back. Spoke to Lauren which is who I spoke with the day before. I said you never called me back. She said, (and this is in quotes because it is verbatim) “Yes. You’re $41 refund is at corporate for approval.” I said did you not call Camden? She said I think we are having a miscommunication, I’m going to transfer you to my manager. I said please do. I’m not going to go completely through the back and forth with Lisa, the manager of Lakeside at Northpark. Suffice it to say her condescension, patronizing tone and downright rudeness made Lauren seem like a stellar customer service employee. I was told that she was not going to call Camden to fix the mistake, she didn’t have time to check on every little issue that every person had and if I disagreed with their records on the amount of deposits I paid, I would have to prove otherwise. I asked her how I was to prove it when they closed the resident portal and I had no access to my lease agreements she told me I should have printed them out. I said you have access to my lease agreements all you have to do is look at them and she told me it is not my responsibility to fix your mistakes. Her tone and absolute unwillingness to work with me even a little, frankly had me very flabbergasted. I said, ok you’ve told me I still owe “around” $100 in utilities in spite my already paying the “final” utilities bill you sent me. I want a bill for those charges. She said I’m not going to do that. I said, you can’t charge me for something and not tell me the dates of service and for what. She said I can and I have done. Again, her tone was, I don’t even know how to describe it, just as if she was talking to a worthless piece of shit that she couldn’t wait to get off the phone with. That combined with her flat-out telling me she could take my money without invoicing or billing for it shocked me so badly that what I said next just flew out of my mouth. I have never spoken like that to anyone’s face. (I have thought it more than once) I truly believe that no matter the situation, name-calling is utterly off the table. And yet, “you are such a bitch” came out of me and I was so shocked that it was barely above a whisper and then I slammed the phone in her ear. And the best part about all this? Not only is she trying to cheat me out of money owed to me, I have felt terrible, TERRIBLE ever since, for the way I acted and for calling her a bitch. I still feel terrible. I feel GUILTY for bad behavior and I know for a fact that my behavior just reinforced her belief that the way she treated me was correct. Allowing someone to upset you to the point that I allowed her to upset me never works in your favor.
Of course I’m not going to just bend over and take it. I sent an email to the corporate headquarters of Camden telling them the problem and hoping they could send proof that I had paid the pet deposit. I also called my bank to find out if it was possible to get a scan of the original check I wrote in April of 2008. They didn’t automatically scan them then like they do now, but she said a photocopy of it could be made that would cost me $5 and would take 5 to 7 days to be mailed to me. 1 piece of paper, what, about .45 cents for postage? And they charge $5. I suppose it could have been worse. Banks are notorious for how they screw people. Anyway, that’s where things stand for now. I’m also going to dig through old paperwork this weekend and see if maybe I still have my original lease from 2008 that I did have a hard copy of. I know I can prove that I paid the pet deposit, but I’m damned if I know what to do about the “utilities” that she refuses to send me a bill for. How do I keep her from cheating me that way? Any ideas, I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t live in the Lakeside at Northpark apartments in Dallas.
ETA: I just got a reply from Camden telling me what I already know, that I paid a $400 pet deposit, $200 of which is refundable. I have no idea if that is enough to convince the fine ladies of Lakeside at Northpark. I think I will wait until I receive the copy of the check from the bank as well as see if I have a copy of my original lease from 7 years ago (unlikely but maybe). The more proof the better!