Monday, August 6, 2012

What Lies Beneath

I was hired by a 75+ year old Eastern European woman to do an inspection of her Park Avenue  co-op apartment. We’ll call this woman Louisa Trachtenberg.  It was supposed to be a quick job with “just one or two rooms”.  According to Louisa, the resident above had been renovating their apartment and accidentally caused a leak into Ms. Trachtenberg’s home. Apparently the people upstairs are very wealthy, and happen to head the co-op board. As a result, Louisa was extremely frustrated because the board insisted she was crazy and that she has nothing to worry about. While Ms. Trachtenberg may not have been wrong about real water damage, I would definitely not say she wasn't crazy…

Typically when residents feel ignored, they absolutely LOVE venting to me in great detail regarding how they've been wronged, why they're not crazy, and all the ways in which their health/apartment/lives have been ruined. This often adds an extra hour or two to an investigation. Louisa classifies as one of my most extreme examples.

I was in a huge rush that day with several other appointments following her investigation. Just as I kept thinking I was ready to wrap up the inspection, Louisa would mention another room she thought needed testing, all the while talking my ear off about her upstairs neighbors. While Louisa herself was quite a character, her husband was a whole other story. I don’t make it a habit of ridiculing those with physical or mental disabilities, but there was definitely something off with Louisa’s husband. He most certainly was deaf and generally seemed checked out of reality. He silently shuffled around the apartment in his slippers observing me as I worked. Eep!
Throughout the investigation, Louisa was particularly fixated upon some slight discoloration of her dining room wallpaper. I attempted to pacify her by saying that staining is normal and it was most likely a result of water interacting with the wallpaper dye or glue. As an afterthought, I offered to peel back the paper and take a look behind. This is what I found:
Before: Slight blueish tinge to the wall paper
After: Jackpot!
Gross? Yes. Worthy of a meltdown? Apparently. At the sight of this mold, Louisa proceeded to shriek, collapse on the floor, and cry hysterically. Seriously lady, it was my face that was 6 inches away from this, not yours! Ms. Trachtenberg insisted on having her daughter come over immediately to discuss. She claimed to be in no state to recall anything said beyond this point and needed a witness. I was forced to sit with Ms. Trachtenberg until the daughter arrived. 
While Louisa clearly did have water damage throughout her apartment, the levels of airborne mold spores were completely normal (mold growth on a wall, especially from an old leak, doesn't necessarily mean mold in the air). Despite this, she had me write and rewrite her report not once, not twice, but FOUR times before it met her needs. Here's hoping the co-op board finally fixed her apartment! Cheers!

Photo credits: The Simpsons,

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