THE GUY IN THE RED CAR
“58% of commuters have experienced road rage while driving to work, and 9% have gotten into a fight with another driver.”
– Wall Street Journal, 8/15/12
Fifty-eight percent seems kind of low.
I was doing the speed limit, 35 mph, on North Park Boulevard at North Woodland in Cleveland Heights. A guy in a red sports car tailgated me.
Not only did I give the guy the finger, I jumped out of my car at the light and yelled, “Thirty-five! The speed limit is thirty-five!”
I’m not sure the guy in the car was a guy; it was somebody with tinted windows and vanity plates 1KAP, and the driver was aggressively tailgating me.
Whoever it was, was nice, aside from being a bad driver. The person didn’t jump out of the red car and come after me.
Maybe I looked threatening. I had on shades!
I hesitated telling my wife about the incident. I knew she would get mad. She would call me hostile. Correct.
I had never jumped out of my car before and yelled at a driver. Do I have any explanation for my behavior?
My best explanation is I was on my way to visit Michelle, my number-one employee, who was dying of cancer at 40. She couldn’t talk, and she was on all kinds of tubes.
I’m not sure who I was mad at.
My top building manager was Michelle Orozco. I’d visit her first. She was always upbeat and set the mood for the day. She had problems — a lot of physical ailments, but she didn’t complain much. She was my assistant. That was an official title. She got paid a little extra. She had grown up in Los Angeles and dropped out of high school.
She was a School of Hard Knocks honor student. When the city said I needed to cough up the names of all my tenants and their move-in dates for my annual housing license, I thought, “What’s that about? Big Brother?” That’s what I thought. Michelle said, “They want the names for RITA.” The Regional Income Tax Agency.
I paid Michelle to supervise my newer custodians. She showed them how to do evictions notices, how Tarnite was better than Brasso.
Michelle moved back to California and left me. She wanted to try her hometown again, the Golden State and all that.
She came back, because California was too expensive. She moved into one of my buildings as a tenant. I said, “I’m not promising you a job. And whatever you do, don’t undermine the custodians in here now.” (I’ve had ex-custodians who stuck around and pestered the new custodians. The ex-custodian would call me and say, “The new guy isn’t cleaning. He’s drunk. He’s swearing at the tenants.”)
Michelle — and her husband, Manuel — kept to themselves. They waited and eventually got their job back.
She was my spy. I wondered if other custodians checked their boilers regularly in the winter. Did they “blow down” the valves? I asked Michelle, “How do we know they’re doing it regularly.”
She said, “They’ll do it because it’s more of a hassle to have the boiler go out than blow it down.”
I hired Michelle when she was 25. Her mother worked for me. I hired Michelle’s niece, also from California. I hired Michelle’s sister.
Michelle didn’t steal or lie. She was a good cleaner. She could rent apartments. Sounds basic, but it’s not.
She called just-looking apartment seekers “looky-loos.” I never did understand that. I heard it as “Lucky Lous.” She called air fresheners “smellies.”
Michelle knew the ways of Home Depot rental trucks, and how to access the junk yard with proper ID. More basics, but again, somewhat tricky. And which apartment buildings I allowed satellite dishes, and which I didn’t.
She was an optimist. She had a bright personality. She kept things on the sunny side — no small feat in the real estate biz.
Michelle Orozco, 1971-2012.