We left that apartment in July of 2001 wanting nothing more than to close that annoying chapter in my life. Little did I know that we'd be turning the short story into a Tolkien-esque trilogy.
I called Fred, son of Frederick, son of Fredonia, son of a...gun, Keeper of the Security Deposit, on the day I moved out, to give him my new address. Massachusetts General Law (get used to hearing that phrase, or MGL for short) states that he has thirty days to return it, or to return a portion of it along with a specific list of damages for which he has made deductions. I was definitely worried that he would make up some damages to try to steal our deposit, so it was with some relief that September 1 came and went without a peep from Fred. The thirty days was past; according to MGL, he could no longer keep any portion of the deposit, even if we'd burned the place to the ground. (In hindsight, we're pretty sure that's what his plan was: to drive some tenants to the point where they actually burned the house down, so he could then collect the insurance money. Had we only known, we could've avoided most of this trouble, because we would've cheerfully set fire to every house he possessed, preferably while he was in one of them. See how important communication is to any relationship?)
Then I realized that thirty days had passed and we hadn't gotten our check yet. I gave him another week, then called. Fred had "lost the address" and apparently didn't trust the postal service to forward our mail. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, as well as my address (again), and he assured me that he'd send the check out that day.
42 days and one written, certified, return-receipt-requested notice later, I was in the county courthouse for the first time in my life (honest!), filing in Small Claims Court. For the paltry sum of $19, I made my claim against Fred and was scheduled to appear in court.
In January, four months from now.
"Speedy trial," my butt!
So I waited. And I worried. I prepared myself by going home during lunch and watching reruns of "Law & Order" on TNT. (And this is the point in the narrative when I look at my life and say, "Geez, you'd think something would've changed in the better part of a decade.") When the trial date finally arrived, I was pretty certain that I was not only going to get the security deposit back, but I was probably going to be able to get him for conspiracy and grand larceny, as well. Of course, I'd let him plead to Man 1 to save the taxpayers the expense of a trial, and hope that Briscoe and Curtis didn't give me too much guff.
January 28 dawned clear and cold, a perfect day...for justice! I arrived at the courthouse half an hour early, found my way to the Small Claims Hearing Room, picked a seat in front, and waited.
And waited some more.
At ten minutes to showtime, a bailiff meandered in, and I checked to make sure I was in the right room. He assured me that I was, so I went back to waiting.
Can you feel the tension building yet? I was sitting in a puddle of armpit sweat, and we hadn't even gotten started.
Eventually, other people started filing in. I studied each face as it entered, but since I hadn't seen Fred since he showed us the apartment, I had only a vague recollection of a balding man with a walrus moustache that rather matched his walrus-shaped body and walnut-sized brain. However, I didn't see anyone with that description walk through the door. Had Fred sent an attorney in his place? Was he wearing a disguise, or possibly a bad toupee?
I began to look about me suspiciously. Any one of these people could be the enemy! I needed a pair of sunglasses like "Rowdy" Roddy Piper had in the movie They Live. You remember, the ones that let him see which people were actually homicidal aliens in disguise? Sigh...once again, Hollywood has created a consumer need that it cannot fulfill. Perhaps I could still spout some incredibly catchy action-antihero lines, just as Roddy did when the sunglasses were broken.
I was spared the opportunity to embarrass myself by the arrival of the magistrate. He began by calling the cases one by one to see if, indeed, both parties were present. When he got to the case of Mike Morrison vs. Fred Moland, I piped up, "Mike Morrison!"
And only silence answered for the defendant.
"OK, Mr. Morrison, because you are here and the defendant is not, that means you have won your case by default. Go downstairs to the clerk's office and tell them that, they will give you a copy of the judgement and schedule a payment review session. The defendant will be given 30 days to pay, if he hasn't paid you in that time then come back at the payment review session."
That was it? I didn't even need a catchy line like "I came here to chew bubble gum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubble gum"?
Wait a minute...that was it! I'd won! I'd won! This whole painful tale would soon be behind me!
Good thing *you* all aren't that naive.
Next post: Oh, we're just gettin' warmed up!