Ahh to live in that sunny DeSantis fairyland on Presidents’ Day 2023 in a state where anything the least bit disturbing, discomforting, upsetting is kept far out of sight or hearing, stuffed away in closets, kicked under rugs, definitely out of classrooms, except for one perennial, persistent agitator ever present in those occasional war zones called condos: P O L I T I C S !
WHAM! The Flagship Funnel, the condo’s outspoken, no holds barred newspaper, lands with a slam against front doors of apartments with this angry editorial blazing across its front page:
SHOULD TIM AND HIS CHIROPRACTOR SIDEKICK CARLA
STAY PUT WITH SO MUCH AT STAKE AT THE FLAGSHIP?
Sure, he holds pleasant meetings. Constantly reminds we’re all neighbors, to be nice in elevators, stay calm if they stall. Tim’s a good life coach. But he fails miserably to mention one thing: what in the hell has he accomplished? He and Carla have zero understanding of pressing issues. Instead, all we ever get is Fake News!
We get fake treasurer reports without facts, no mention of a million-dollar assessment coming any day. Meanwhile his VP, Carla, a chiropractor, “oversees” (joke) the vastly over-budget balcony project. Can we expect a different result in the upcoming front entry planter project when overseeing it is as far from a project manager as you can get! A chiropractor! What’s Carla going to give the planter, acupuncture?
Then an email slams across hundreds of computer and laptop screens throughout the fidgety Flagship now in the throes of a fiery, hotly contested election of six new board members. It bears the subject line: REFLECTIONS ON LAST NIGHT’S MEET THE CANDIDATES. AND TODAY WHAT’S HAPPENED TO TRUTH?
First, I’d like to congratulate the few brave souls who showed up for the Third Meet the Candidates last night, our biggest owner turnout yet both on the Q and A side, this time with all the candidates there except, of course, the two heavyweights currently running the board who apparently fear questions that will illumine their ineptitude.
I suppose our president and vice president prefer to stay safely up a tree, or in the clouds and not show up to answer questions from a live audience of owners. Perhaps at handling matters of money they’re lightweights. Consider all the cost overruns on projects they’ve presided over, and now facing gargantuan projects, which I promise, if I’m elected, won’t cause the gargantuan assessments they seem to have in their overwhelmed minds.
Then on the Flagship Community TV channel appears a distraught Eliza, whose candidacy for the board has become a nightmare with accusations abounding that she’s emotionally unstable, unfit for office. Teary-eyed she looks straight into the camera and declares:
Let me tell you, I climbed, at times I clawed, into the “C” suites in the most competitive, male-dominated world of finance, New York City. So, I know how to fight for what’s right, even amid the smelly armpits of Wall Street. What’s fair? What’s practical? It is not easy! But I’ll fight for the Flagship to my last claw.
“Oh, how I admire that woman with her claws,” said Bud to his brother, Lou, as the Costello brothers sipped coffee, watching TV in the lounge on the eve of The Super Bowl Party there later that night. “Someday I’m going to ask her to tell me confidentially what she really thinks of our Carl who apparently reminds her of that male dominated world she had to claw her way through. No, he’s definitely not Mr. Warmth.
“We’re trying to warm him up as he has much more to offer in managing and controlling costs than those gentler males poor Eliza prefers. But I’d sure like to have her claws digging into my back some naughty night under a full moon.”
Meanwhile, inside luxurious apartment 1802, George and Millie are just having breakfast on their balcony overlooking the ocean. Yes, you work hard, don’t squander your money or go crypto crazy and life rewards you like it has them.
You wind up like George living high on the hog in a beachfront condo apartment in sunny Florida, with two bedrooms and a sprawling balcony overlooking the deep blue ocean sending celebratory white waves toward his castle.
George and his still, a tiny-bit gorgeous wife Millie made their heroic getaway from hectic Manhattan to serene, sunny Florida little over a month ago.
This was after his patented invention the “Knife and Forklift”– utensils sticking out of dumbbells—that help you exercise while eating, and eat less while exercising, made him financially fat.
Yes, Georgie boy earned himself spectacular ocean and intracoastal views from the stately, twin-towered Flagship condo in warm, sunny South Florida except when an occasional hurricane strikes. Then residents are first asked politely to consider departing inland to a sturdy high-end hotel, or wait to be ordered to, excuse the unsettling term, evacuate!
Still, most days it’s serene and peaceful, a heaven on earth that George has earned as ocean breezes kiss him and Millie on their sunburn cheeks and the salt air clears their sinuses so delightfully as they stroll daily on the beach down to the Boca Raton Resort and Beach Club, they’re considering joining, and back.
Yes, he felt truly rewarded until one day he was going down the hall outside his luxury apartment to throw some spent oyster shells and tidbits of caviar down the chute when one of his anxious neighbors, Joel, nervously approaches him.
The profusely perspiring agitated Joel asks him which candidate he’s supporting for president, not of the country, but George’s newfound Shangri-La, where he lives happily now on the eighteenth floor with unobstructed views, unlike where they were once huddled on a lower floor in a crowded Manhattan apartment building overlooking the East River.
Then all hell breaks loose out of Joel’s mouth quivering in the wind of politics.
He says he’s anxious as hell about the condo becoming unglued in the upcoming election for that all empowering position of board member. Being elected to the board is a steppingstone to his or her majesty’s royal throne–the penultimate, all-powerful office of Condo President.
“Isn’t it disgusting?” he snarls.
“Gerrymandering Tim, our president, waltzes in an hour late to financial committee meetings and doesn’t even attend sessions that the new property management company is having with our employees, now their employees technically,” growls Joel.
“Where’s the oversight? This is exactly why we need to replace Tim with a hands-on guy like Frank at the helm, for right now we have a helm missing, most likely out playing golf badly instead of overseeing management rightfully as he should. No, he’s not minding our store. And we’re all going to pay a heavy price!
“I wish I could reignite the fire in my belly, I’d run for the board myself,” declares Joel. “No one’s managing our managers to see whether they’re applying their alleged cost-cutting expertise to pare down our soaring expenses. So ridiculous! Who are you for, George? Did you vote yet?”
New to condo politics, and now looking for just rest and peace and a golden tan in his new sanctuary by the sea, George says he has just moved in and he’s not sure, but he’ll check out the candidates’ credentials, then tells his perspiring neighbor, “Excuse me, I have some chores to do” and escapes back into his paradisal apartment. Whew!
So, who’s running for president, George wonders. And what’s the big deal?
Suddenly his cell chirps and its candidate Carl calling.
You’re not going to approve of my methods, George, as methinks you’re too much a gentleman for the rough and tumble, down in the weeds, politics needed to get the best candidate elected, declares Carl. And that’s me!
Hope you’re not afraid to vote for long shots with mares like Mary Ann shooting down stallions like me because my semen doesn’t produce enough real estate offspring for her real estate biz. When the war’s subsided and I’m victorious maybe we can huddle in my foxhole for a drink. Click.
Then suddenly, right on cue, a flyer creeps in under his door from another candidate in his hotly churning, cantankerous condo now awash in politics. A note paperclipped to the flyer welcomes George and Millie to The Flagship.
Then it contains presidential candidate Ronald Crump’s planks, itemizing the platform upon which he’s running, including pointing out that he’s way smarter than all his other opponents trying to steal the election, to which he’s urging “Stop the Steal.”
Crump cites a prominent Realtor in the building who is backing his opponent, the incumbent president, “because she’s getting whatever she wants from him, but I am the only one who can Make A Flagship Great Again! MAFGA.”
Then another flyer comes sliding into home plate.
This candidate is saying that despite what his critics are spreading about his standoffish manner, including a prominent Realtor in the building, that he has just completed a course in friendliness, which he passed with flying smiling colors.
Then there’s a knock on the door.
George opens and finds Joe Dryden, who cordially introduces himself as a candidate running for the Board seeking his support.
If you like our Bagel Wednesdays, George, you’ll vote for me as I’m proposing we bring back lox onto the bagels. Bagels and lox is much more satisfying, while high in protein and with key nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, iron and calcium, plus it’s delicious!
Don’t believe me? Here’s one, and he hands George a bagel filled with cream cheese reunited with lox. He smiles, salutes, and scoots.
Then there’s a knock on the door, but when he opens no one’s there. He sees an envelope on the floor addressed to him in apartment 1802.
It’s a copy of an open letter written anonymously to the current board president saying in large bold type:
Are we at The Flagship not an open society allowed to criticize our leaders? Or are we a monarchy forbidden to do so? When it comes to elections, are we America or China?
With so many costly projects ahead, why has the Flagship become so closed to open discussion and debate? How are we going to pick the best people if we don’t ask questions? Have open meetings?
Tim, in your recent edict you say unit owners have access to social rooms for gatherings, but as long as it’s not part of the election process? What? Why not part of the election process when we want to hear more from candidates like yourself running for reelection to the Board?
George crumples up the letter and heaves into the trash, which he’ll dispose of later down the chute when the hallways are clear of politicians. Now desperate for a break from the political turmoil weighing on the otherwise fabulous Flagship, George goes to his computer to check his email. When he opens the screen, he finds he’s in an email chain receiving Emily’s irate message decrying what a terrible past president was Andre, berating his audacity to run again.
It was Andre who did not allow open discussions. It was Andre who not only sent legal letters to unit owners, but threatened board members, shut down unit owners who dared to speak out or ask questions he did not like or didn’t want to answer. I was muted several times on the Zoom meeting when he did not like my questions or comments.
Then George sees that he is included in an email response to emboldened Emily’s email from conciliatory Hilary.
Thank you, Emily. Andre will respond to you shortly, I’m sure. For now, I would simply say it’s apparent we had a professional in charge then who was maybe a little too abrupt or impatient with amateurs in his field.
Next time around he’ll be more friendly and respectful at listening to naïve and even dumb suggestions.
I’m sure Andre will do this even though he knows better from experience the right direction to go to save us two important things, time and money.
Still, you’re right, we need to respect one another, even if it means listening to impractical, imbecilic ideas.
Suddenly two emails slide into George’s home plate. One’s from Carmelo.
I’m embroiled in politics, but trying to clean up that dirty word so we can get the most competent people elected to run our condo.
I heartily agree. I will not send anything out unsigned or knowingly false. I’m not running a political campaign in the traditional sense, but just doing what I can to make voters aware of what I believe they need to know to make an informed decision. With all our infrastructure needs, there’s so much at stake this time requiring the best possible leaders who have the courage and knowhow to exercise oversight on our management company so spiraling uncontrolled costs won’t leave us all broke, destitute, and homeless.
That’s it! George had enough. Disgusted, he shuts down his computer, pulls out the power plug and goes to bed.
That night, exhausted from all the tension, the hallway meetings and messages, visits, deliveries, emails and entreaties from candidates, George took a shower, brushed his teeth, and went to bed a little earlier than usual.
Soon after falling asleep, he starts to dream . . .
Menacingly coming toward him was this rough-looking bunch of guys all wearing white robes and hoods inscribed with the letters KKKK.
One is carrying something that looked like a rope. Another a flag that said Ku Klux Klagship Kondo. They ask George if he knew where the yellow-belly candidates were hiding.
“I don’t know”, George replies.
“I honestly don’t know these people. I’m new here. They must be snowbirds, maybe they’re back in New York, or wherever they’re from, Switzerland? Bulgaria? Russia?
“I don’t know anything about this election process. I thought a condo in Florida was a place to live, to retire, relax . . . not a campaign headquarters, a polling station, a battlefield.
“Believe me, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t . . . “
Suddenly George wakes up in a cold sweat.
He sees Millie asleep beside him, taps her on the shoulder and says, “Honey, honey, I love you. I love you dearly. I love the beach. I love the ocean too as much as you, but I think we should move inland . . . to a private, heavily gated community.”
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Tom Madden has been a condo combatant for over 30 years after leaving New York City where he launched the international PR firm TransMedia Group now headquartered in Boca Raton, Fl. When not promoting clients, he’s writing books like King of the Condo, his murder mystery whodunit thriller with an ocean view based on his nightmarish time as president of a Palm Beach condo and his most recent book WORDSHINE MAN, about how to make writing inviting. And don’t forget, he his weekly blog at www.MaddenMischief.com.