I turn the corner and drive down a palm tree-lined private driveway passing a gold and white billboard with the golden scripted Serenity Towers logo on it. I follow the arrow at the bottom of the sign and stop my car at the checkpoint tower in front of the tall white gates.
Charlie, our guard smiles at me as I punch in my private security code and flash my ID card. As the tall white mechanical gates slide open and I drive up the quiet cobblestone driveway, I peer up at one of Downtown Burbank’s most exclusive condo tower complexes. Three gleaming skyscrapers with a great view ocean view on the East and Downtown Los Angeles on the West. A gated community safe from the criminals and crazies who run amok in L.A.’s counties. Unfortunately, no one can protect us from ourselves.
The cobblestone driveway transitions into a black asphalt path as I drive past the fountains and manicured lawns of the front yard into the parking lot in the back. I drive down rows of top-end luxury cars find parking space 3C between a white Range Rover and a Blue BMW 7 series. When I shut off the purring engine, I hear the hiss of a seething woman.
Standing on the sidewalk in front of my parking space is Our Condo Association President and resident busybody Lori. The short, pudgy blonde woman dressed in an Italian tailored black business suit peers down at her clipboard as she scowls at my car. I wonder how long she’s been waiting for me to get back.
I get out of my car and get my groceries and gym stuff out of the trunk. As I approach Lori, she scowls at me then at my car. I’ll do my best to keep the peace.
“Good afternoon Lori, What can I do for you?” I ask easing my bags onto the sidewalk.
“Marilyn, I’d like to talk to you about the condition of your vehicle.” Lori snarls. “The other tenants don’t feel it reflects the image of Serenity Towers.”
I wonder who these “other tenants” are since I never hear anyone complain about my car at any of the tenant meetings. I just love how she projects her opinions onto everyone else. I’ll try to explain to her why I can’t buy a new car. Again.
“Look, I can’t afford a new car right now-” I reply.
“We understand your financial situation.” Lori continues. “But we feel you could use some of the equity in your apartment towards the purchase of a new vehicle-”
Hold on. Let me get this straight. I’m supposed to take out a second mortgage on the condo I paid off to buy a new car that reflects her image of Serenity Towers. Does she even listen to herself?
“Hold on Lori. You want me to go back into debt because you feel my car doesn’t fit in with the other cars around here?”
Lori gives me an indifferent look. “It’s part of the rules of occupancy. Code 13. Section 8. All tenants must keep well-maintained vehicles in the lot.” She parrots.
Lord give me strength. The parking lot rules were written to keep tenants from parking old rusty Junkers in the lot and leaving them. Our cars have to be in drivable condition. If I can drive it in and out of here I’m good.
“My car is well-maintained I just took it to the mechanic a few months ago.”
Lori walks around my car, peers down at the odometer and sneers. She strolls over to me and starts writing a summons. “Compared to other vehicles in the lot, this is not a well maintained vehicle. There are 185,667 miles on the odometer, the paint on the bumper is scratched, the body is faded and your headlamps are yellowed-”
“That’s normal wear and tear on a daily driver. I wonder how beautiful all these luxury cars would be after ten or eleven years up and down the freeway every day.”
“In order to maintain a good quality of life for all our tenants we need everyone to follow the Community Standards-”
Community Standards. She uses those two words to justify oppressing everyone around here with her totalitarian rules and regulations. If something doesn’t fit in her twisted interpretation of Community Standards it doesn’t belong here. She’s so caught up in enforcing her rules she’s forgotten the people she serves.
“I can’t believe you’re going to write me up over a car I’ve driven in out of here for over fifteen years-”
“Look, this isn’t the set of All About Nikki. You have to follow the rules around here just like everyone else.”
Dammit, it’s like talking to a brick wall. “You know I can’t afford a new car right now-”
Lori rolls her eyes. “If your financial situation prevents you from conforming to Serenity Towers Community Standards, then perhaps you should consider relocating. You have 45 days to buy another vehichle or we take you to the board. Good day Ms. Marie.”
Lori glares at me and hands me a pink copy of the ticket. She turns and struts down the driveway. I clench my fists and point daggers at her. Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven…