Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Portia's influence.

I used to be a pretty confident individual. I needed to have a fairly large degree of it in order to work in my former profession, that of a NYC paramedic. I found myself in many a situation where having a "take charge" attitude was as much a professional necessity as well as a survival tool. It's something that I lost somewhere along the way over the past 15 or so years. Why? I think I allowed it to be beaten out of me, to a degree. Not physically, but mentally. A decade plus worth of loss in many forms simply took its toll.

It took a lot of therapy, and striking out on my own, free of a dying marriage, and learning to survive by my own devices that has allowed me to rediscover that confidence in my own abilities, my own attitude. Call it a certain cockiness that goes along with knowing how and when to use it.

Today was the first day in a long time that I used it to help a friend. I helped myself even more than her.

She was being railroaded by the owner of a public storage facility for $40, for a mess that she admittedly left just outside of the storage area she was renting. Out of ignorance, she never read the contract she signed that made her responsible for that space. Out of stupidity, he never read his own contract that he was trying to enforce.

I was along to help her move the last of her things in the storage area, but I know she also wanted me there to support her against this business lightweight. He's a mental midget who thinks that his bulky size and bald head and mouth will get him over on people. Now, my friend is not a dumb individual, but sometimes her common sense can be lacking.

I said to her, "$40? Is it written in the contract? That amount, specifically?" She didn't know. When we got to the storage facility, she immediately got into it with Quasimodo, peppering him with, "Where is it in the contract?" He, starting to get so angry that he stuttered more and more than Roger Daltrey did while singing "My Generation," beckoned us both into his office to peruse said contract.

He started looking it over, and in a childlike, frustrated manner, put it down on his desk, and pushed it in my direction. In essence, he threw down the gauntlet, daring me to find fault with this piece of paper.

I picked it up.

I stated reading through each section of the terms, and while doing that, my friend and said owner started getting into it again, with the owner finally going over the line. "I wouldn't have to charge you if you weren't being such a bitch!"

My head snapped upwards from my intensive study of the contract, and in a voice I had almost forgotten I had, looked straight into his face, and with every ounce of my Brooklyn/Bronx attitude at my command, said, "HEY, THERE'S NO NEED TO GO THERE!. YOU DON'T NEED THAT ATTITUDE, IT'S NOT GOING TO HELP YOU." It was my version of Dustin Hoffman's famous "I'm walkin' here, I'm walkin' here!!!"  My only real surprise was that I didn't curse at him. I didn't need to. I was expecting his response to be one of either anger, or sarcasm, but it was neither.

He simply sank back in his chair, and apologized.

One look at me, and I could easily be mistaken for an accountant, or some other meek individual. I don't think he was expecting what came out of my mouth, the accent that accompanied it, and having my eye locked in and boring in on him in such a way that told him I was not what I seemed. At that moment, I was the alpha make, and if he screwed with me, he would pay for it. That's the message he got driven home to him. Could I have taken him in a fight? Probably not. But I put enough doubt in his brain, and that's what mattered.

I resumed reading the contract, and found that indeed, my friend was responsible for keeping the  area around her storage place neat and clean. However, there was no mention of a specific dollar amount that would be levied if this was not done. I pointed out that unsettling fact to him, and saw a look of resignation cross his face, but, in the interest of compromise, I said, "Look, I see what you're saying as far as the contract statements, but there's no indication here that you can charge $40." ("This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood") So, why don't you drop it down to $25, and call it a day?"

He quietly, somewhat meekly said, "Okay." Case closed.

We got my friend's things out, and all through the ride back to her place, I couldn't help but feel very good about myself, and what I just did. Yes, I helped a friend get through an imperfect situation as best I could, but even more so, I found my voice again.

I need to hang on to that feeling, and let it propel me forward.