Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Crazy Cat Lady Game

I just want to thank Box Top Vintage in Tacoma for supplying me with best board game ever! Yesterday I scored "The Crazy Cat Lady" board game which is going to help me heal from my five year personal encounter with a cat collector. They say you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends. But ya know what you cannot sometimes choose? Your neighbors! And let's face it. No matter who is in your family, you love them anyway. That's what family is for. But neighbors, well, you have to tolerate them but perhaps love is pushing the envelope.

She seemed benign enough at first. An elderly woman moving in downstairs. I had this majorly cool apartment that overlooked Commencement Bay in Tacoma. Sure, it was only 500 square feet, but who could argue that a water view was not a major score? Plus I had an attic where I could just store stuff. And a pull down ladder so I could get into the attic to retrieve stored stuff. Besides, I am not sure anyone really needs more than 500 square feet if they live simply enough. As a longtime Quaker, this is my lifestyle choice.

My elderly neighbor seemed okay at first. But then she started to walk past me and say things like, "You are weak." I thought she might have attributed this to my handicapped parking space. Sheesh, that didn't make me feel very good. One day I opened up my door to get my mail and she said, "I have been looking at the garbage and the reason you are gaining weight is you eat pizza." Sheesh. At least I had a heads up she was searching my garbage. And those extra pounds, well I wasn't feeling too well about that either.

One day she walked past me and said, "People just don't understand me." I was speechless. Then the entrapment started. She'd stop me on the sidewalk and start telling me these horror stories about her life. Everything from foster home placements to abusive relationships to an ongoing battle with poverty. But she had a major number of cats. She was plucking them off the streets and taking them home. I guess it never dawned on her that all of those cats belonged to someone else. I don't think she cared either.

So, being the nice person I am, I listened to these tales of woe. I have since found out that it really doesn't help a person to listen to their tales of woe. It is far more helpful to direct them to things that will change their present or even their future. Plus, she started attacking my other neighbors about their garbage. "Those shoes," she said to my very nice neighbor, "could go to someone in need! I object to your throwing them out!" My poor neighbor was as frightened of this person as I was getting.

It got so bad that when I came home, she would listen for me, head up the sidewalk and bang on my door to say something outrageously unkind. I chose not to fight back for the longest time. It was not until she banged on my door and asked me if me or any of my friends had stolen her cat I decided a line had to be drawn. "No," I said, "I believe it is you who steals cats." Oh, the downhill slide from there.

Fortunately or unfortunately my kitchen sink stopped working at that point. My elderly landlords were not going to fix that sink. I was told to wash my dishes in the bathtub. Sure, I could have employed the use of all sorts of landlord tenant laws to get the sink fixed, but instead I fled from the entire situation to the east side of Tacoma where my kind partner, Jay and I have joined households for a year. It took me months to get my deposit back from these landlords. It was the only battle I ever waged with them during my nine years as a tenant.

During my move out, though, which I tried to accomplish without the neighbor noticing, she came up the sidewalk to warn me about how Jay was going to beat me. Well, in four years he had never beaten me so I figured this just was not going to happen. She said all of this in front of poor Jay. I had to draw the line with her. "Okay," I finally said, "I am not a therapist. I do not play one on tv. You need to remain five hundred feet from me at all times from now until all eternity as you are now crossing the line."

Months later I get a certified letter from my old neighbor who had successfully tracked me down. I never signed for it. It presumably got sent back to her. "Aren't you at all curious as to what that letter said?" someone recently asked me. Actually, no, I am not. I doubt a certified letter one signs for is anything nice. I wanted her words to go directly back to her. Perhaps it was some kind of threat about her missing cat that I had, in her mind, snatched. I don't know. One must pick and choose battles.

I am just glad she never ran into my car. She told me about fifteen claims she had made regarding her car. Most of us just walk away from scenarios where someone accidentally scrapes our car. Not this person. She bragged about how much money she had made making all these claims. Then she told me how dangerous people with schizophrenia are. "Geez," I thought, "more dangerous than a cat snatching sociopath?" Oh my. "The Crazy Cat Lady" game indeed. Let the healing begin! -Alison Whiteman

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