Monday, July 16, 2012

No Means No ... Doesn't It?

As a relative outsider to T&T, I find myself in the unique position of observer to Trinbagonian customs that may seem normal to other nationals. Some of these customs have become relatively normal to me over the years, while others remain baffling and infuriating to my New York sensibilities. When I find myself confronted with one of the latter, I generally take to Facebook and/or Twitter to vent my frustration and seek explanation from other Trinis who, with the benefit of local upbringing, might be able to explain things to me in a way that I can understand. This time, I figured I'd blog it. Because I doubt that I know anyone to whom the following story will make a lick of sense:

I live in an apartment building with an ever-shifting roster of tenants. I've been here two years and only five of the 13 apartments are currently inhabited by the same people that were here when I arrived. This has less to do with the building than with the kind of tenants it seems to attract. Lots of folks show up, sign the lease, pay rent reliably for a couple of months and then become a problem. Most of them are simply the can't-seem-to-pay-the-rent-on-time kind of folks, but occasionally we get a really interesting character, like the people who called our landlords in Canada when I played an Alicia Keys CD or the couple who seemed to hold Friday Night Smackdown in their apartment every other evening, or the woman who put a padlock on the outside of her door so the landlords couldn't evict her for, like, a year of non-payment.

None of those people have ever been a problem for me, for I keeps myself to myself and I maintain a nodding acquaintance with almost everyone. Hell, some people have moved in and out and never met me, as our schedules didn't match up and I never even knew they were there.


Every so often, we get a special tenant (or two). The kind of tenant who would make it his/her business to get to know everyone in the building, not because he/she is a nice friendly person, but because he/she is going to want something. And they want to know who to ask.

Here's where the problem begins. Time was, freeloaders avoided me like the plague. Not because I don't like to share, but because friendship ≠ taking and taking and taking. And because I made it clear that I wasn't running a charity from early on. And once you make a loud example out of one freeloader, none others dare approach. But I don't do those kinds of things anymore, especially in this building. Because, though I was quite happy to live in an apartment building in Brooklyn for 13 years knowing just one neighbor, that's not the safest way to live in T&T. So, no loud examples.

This, of course, seems to signal that I'm a mark.

Which is why one neighbor knocks on my door periodically to ask if my boyfriend is home and, when I look over his shoulder to my boyfriend's empty parking spot, tells me, with a hopeful look in his eye, that he was planning to ask him for a loan.

Or why another asked me if he could "work" my car on the road.

Neither of these people knew my name, by the way.

 The most frequent request I get, by far, is to use my internet connection. Not a one-time deal, eh. One guy showed up at my door, netbook in hand, and flat-out asked me for the password to my wireless network. Another time a woman said, all nonchalantly, "I need your internet" and then, when I pretended not to remember the network password, showed up once a week to "remind" me. And then, when she was brushed off for the fourth time, simply jumped onto my network using the admin password (that I'd never bothered to change). She never did ask anything after I changed all the passwords and the network name, though.

Since then, I've had two just requests, but they've both started in the exact same way: "Hey, do you have internet? Oh yeah? What company? Ok, what speed? Oh, I see. How much do you pay for that?" And then comes the pitch: "Well, I was wondering whether you'd be willing to share your connection..."

No offer of compensation,  no sense of shame for being an adult who either can't figure out how to hook up a utility or who managed to screw up his/her credit so badly that the company wants nothing to do with them.

The first supplicant backed down after a simple "No, sorry, I don't share my connection". The second pretended to back down, asked a whole bunch of follow-up questions about how to get his own connection (Step One: You call the company... Step Two: they come hook it up) and disappeared.

Until today.

Imagine my surprise when, as I was on my way home, I ran into my neighbor. He saw me going into a side street and pulled up in front of me as I completed a (flawless) three-point-turn and began yelling ...  'jokingly' ... from his vehicle: "Gimme de password nah, gyul!"

I tried to laugh it off, said "I can't, sorry!" and prepared to drive away. He (still in his vehicle across the street, by the way) then decided to yell: "Oh gosh, I won't use it when yuh usin' it! I'll only use it at night! Why yuh treatin' meh so bad, gyul? Yuh treatin' meh rell bad!"

Me: "What? No, I just, I can't... ok, gotta go, have a nice day!"

As I pulled away, he said (with a laugh): "Ah go get yuh, eh!"

Here, I'd like to mention that he was wearing a uniform and driving one of these:
Image source. Ironic, isn't it?
Not intimidating at all.

So here's my question to any Trinis who made it to the bottom of this rambling post:

Why does it seem like so many folks here are particularly unwilling to take "no" for an answer (especially when they're asking for something to which they are not entitled)?

On the off chance that the answer to the above question is: "Because so many  folks here are particularly unwilling to take "no" for an answer (especially when they're asking for something to which they are not entitled)", I'd like to follow up with this question:

How do you advise I deal with the pushy policeman who lives in my apartment building and seems to think he can convince me to give him the password to my router?

Seriously, I'm asking.

So, if you don't want to see me on the 7pm news being dragged into the nearest station for cussing a police officer, leave your advice in the comments below. (If you do, leave your encouragement below.)

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