ONE YEAR IN THE STRATA COUNCIL


Canada day is coming up. It’s time to evaluate my year of living in my townhouse complex and of being a strata council member. The pool is in full swing, although the new signs that I drafted together with the pool man and completed on May 8, are for some reason not yet ready to be put up around the pool area. Hurray, they at least have arrived, a few days short of two months after the draft was forwarded to the powers that approve and produce signs. No one else has been reinforcing the old rules, so here I am, biting my lip and stopping myself from commenting on the most obvious infractions around the pool.

You ask what could be so bad that I bite my lip? Well, let me get started. In any place there are always some people with a habit of taking over a space without consideration for others, also also in the pool. Such as: one family inviting friends with a number of kids, then hanging a hammock between the only two suitable shade trees, and dragging lounge chairs for each person, thereby occupying one whole side of the pool for them alone.

Parental supervision of their brood is mostly absent, in this millennium of jellyfish parents, who are raising little princes and princesses. Yes, do let your boy of four years old pee on the law. Why bother to take him to the bathroom, or point out to him he should stop and do his number one where he is supposed to? Oh such a darling. I have to watch, like his dad, what a good boy! At least he is not peeing in the pool, thank god.

Also a good parental role model is to let the kids swim alone in the pool. One doesn’t even have to get wet, or put your beer down: just trow a football at them, play fetch/catch, while daddy is standing on shore a fair distance away yelling at the kids.
That other adults are swimming and fearing to get the ball in their face (which happened to me) is no consideration at all. Oh, bully me: I actually dare ask one kid to stay out of my side while I swam my pool lengths.
Although the smaller kids cannot swim yet, that is no problem: just strap them in a life jacket and set them free. Voila, no parent in the pool needed!

This was what happened one afternoon within a one hour window. I only stayed that time for an hour. I waited for the kids to get tired and get out of the pool, but that did not happen, so I cut my swim time short from 30 minutes to 15 and then left.

On other days there were “guests” in the pool without the host (strata occupant) present. So what’s the problem with that? If there are no rules around “guests”, any stranger could use the private pool, as if it was a public pool, but for free! What an opportunity for the wily! We strata residents pay for the privilege of our amenities, handsomely too, I would say, so the rule that guests can only visit the pool in the company of a resident was instated.
The identification of who is who is still a problem, as our strata has 74 units with a lot of people using the pool. It becomes rather difficult to keep strangers out if residents just lend the pool key to their friends. On council we have batted the idea about of introducing resident’s bracelets, similar to what vacation resorts do to secure the pool areas.
Another idea was to hire a sturdy, responsible university student for the high traffic times, on weekends, to check the bracelets, as self-policing does not happen much.
As this is a conservative council, none of those ideas passed.

A year after my start as council member I threw in the towel. I could no longer stand behind the laisser faire attitude of council and the patronizing treatment towards the (2) women that tried to change things. I did no long want to be associated with it.

As a volunteer council, its members are not professionally trained. The dynamics were quite unworkable: one person who had been in there off and on for years, was making the decisions in effect. He did not follow through with council decisions, ignoring them completely, especially if he did not agree with it, and frequently wiping other’s assigned tasks off the table, taking over and changing the course of decisions. Often I thought this person has mental health issues, or at least information processing problems. Of course, I had several run-ins with him: it felt like talking to a wall.
It had been done on council this way for years and there was no need to change, according to the main “boss”, also called the treasurer, with slow responses from the new president and other council members.
During the year, we had one elected president quit who did not deal well with dissenting voices, and another council member quit as well, who supported the president blindly. The new president was more collaborative, but slow, and could not keep up with the bossy treasurer. However, when council finally made a decision, and the execution was delegated to the strata manager, he in turn was very slow in following up on council’s directives. At the time I quit, I heard he had quit as well.

Now I can just be a resident again. Easier said than done! I had already acquired a reputation as the rules enforcer and made enemies, apparently. It amazed me that not everybody admits that we residents, all live under the same rules, adults that signed up to the Bylaws when we moved in. The principle of having Bylaws seems a concept not underwritten by a good segment of the residents.

As a result of my year long council job, my initially friendly neighbour had received some complaints against her and blamed me for all of them, after council had sent her notices. One came from me; other complaints come from different residents. Nevertheless, our happy living together had ended, in fact, although we agreed to be civil. But not her boyfriend. He found it necessary to ring my doorbell each time he arrived. By the time I had reached the door coming from the second floor, there was nobody at my door: he had entered the door next to mine. Oh well, it is bearable. I used to do that trick myself when I was in elementary school together with one or two friends: exciting and naughty!
More recently he stopped doing that, I think because we run into each other a lot, since the May pool opening. We seem to pick the same times to swim in the pool.

Last Saturday, I got the wrath of another resident whose guests I did not recognize as occupants. I struck up a conversation with a youngish man at the BBQ, who was completely killing the chicken breasts by repeatedly poking and cutting the tender meat during the cooking process, to see if it was cooked. I asked if he lived here. He did not; he was together with a pregnant you g woman at the pool. I asked if their host was in the pool as well, and whether I might know her, but no, she was not. I shared with them that one of the pool rules is that the resident should be in the pool with their guests. They called the unit occupant who arrived in a huff, addressing me in an angry tone.

She was also (highly) pregnant. She clarified her absence by saying she is pregnant (really?) and had been at home in this heat, making a salad, and that I had no right asking her guests questions, that she had lived here much longer than I had. She concluded that I was extremely rude for asking questions. I had questioned other guests as well. She left with her guests in a huff.

Over the year on council I noticed that there is a difference between me and born Canadians, in this respect. This must be a cultural thing: we Dutch people seem to share our thoughts easier, even if it may possibly lead to a sort of confrontation. It turns out I was the only council member to EVER question and confront people about obvious infractions of the rules and Bylaws that took place right under our noses.

So, now that I am a private resident again, I feel that I might be a little slower with confronting others with their infractions, but I fear I won’t be able to stop that completely. It is part of who I am. I was been taught in elementary and secondary school in The Netherlands to be a responsible citizen, an active community member, and a social being. Rules are needed to govern societies and keep the peace and order. We have in high school a mandatory year long of Nation Building and Law classes that explains how government works at all levels in the nation.
Besides, that, yup, I am a policeman’s daughter as well. You can’t beat that out of me.

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About BABYBOOMER johanna van zanten

My name is Johanna van Zanten. I am a baby boomer, interested in writing and connecting with other writers and readers to engage in discussions and information sharing, to share a point of view about current global issues, writing, and publishing, diversity, immigration, travel, music, life, specific baby boomer issues, and dating/relationship issues. I have written a novella, ON THIN ICE about baby-boomer Adrienne and will link this blog with the information website for this novella. Right now, I am trying out the blog.
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