Ramona and The Cowhide Rug
A Day In The Life . . .
This next story, submitted by a property manager in San Antonio, really touched my heart. It’s a great example of how onsite personnel often rely on their intuition to go the extra mile for their residents.
Ramona and the Cowhide Rug
Our leasing office had a wonderful chime on the front door that would let us know when we had a guest. I was in my office in the back when I heard the familiar chime accompanied by a booming, “Hello..."
Recognizing the voice of our onsite police officer, David, I greeted him back with my own happy hello.
“Do you have a moment?” he asked.
“Sure,” I replied, motioning him to the two guest chairs in front of the leasing desk. As we both sat down, I noted David was in uniform, and although he often popped in for a friendly chat, I could tell that today he was here in an official capacity.
“I just wanted you to be aware that we responded to another domestic dispute last night in unit 312,” he said, shaking his head. “Those girls should not be living together.”
I nodded in agreement. In the past few days we’d had numerous complaints about loud arguments coming from apartment 312. The unit was leased to two young women who’d moved into the one-bedroom together. They had been in a relationship, but as of late, it appeared things had turned sour between them.
“Last night we arrested the taller one,” explained David. “She beat up her roommate pretty badly. Her girlfriend is pressing charges. Just thought you should know.”
I thanked David for coming by and after he left, pulled out the file for apartment 312. I remembered the first time I met these residents, they’d come into our office holding hands and appearing to be very much in love.
Loud In Love
Some of the complaints we’d received from irate neighbors were concerning the girls’ loud lovemaking sessions. I let out a sigh, recalling how awkward it’d been when I had to confront the couple about disrupting others and advising them to keep the volume down. While I hadn’t gone into specifics about what their neighbors had heard, it was still very uncomfortable. Fortunately, the two knew exactly what it was I was referring to and had the grace to look embarrassed about it.
As I remembered, both women were on the lease agreement that had expired and was now running on a month-to-month basis. I contacted our legal department about the situation and it was determined that we’d serve both residents with a 30-day notice to vacate the premises.
I completed the paperwork and was preparing to walk over to their apartment when I noticed some interesting activity going on outside my office window. There was a petite, young blonde wrestling with something in the back of her car. It took a moment, but I realized it was Ramona from apartment 312.
I continued to observe her as she pulled a long, lumpy object from the trunk of the vehicle and hoisted it up on her shoulder. The roll looked quite cumbersome and she struggled to shut the trunk with her free hand. With what looked like an enormous effort, she started toward the office.
Baffled, but curious, I hurried to open the door for her. After barely stumbling into the foyer, Ramona unceremoniously dumped the heavy load onto the tile floor with a grunt of relief.
There was a loud thud as the heavy item made contact with the ground and the two of us watched in silence as it became partially unrolled. It was then I realized it was a large cowhide rug. Ramona used the toe of her boot to spread the thing out to its full length, exposing all of the strangely-shaped edges that in a previous life, had covered some unfortunate bovine’s backside.
What Happened To You, Girl?
I looked over at Ramona and finally took note of her appearance. It was hard not to recoil in shock. Her left eye was swollen and completely shut and she was covered in bruises and scratches. Her roommate really did a number on this poor thing, I thought, trying to conceal my alarm.
Still looking down at the cowhide rug, Ramona said in a small voice, “I need you to keep this here, please.”
“What do you mean ‘keep it’?” I asked. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’m glad you’re here. In fact, I was just heading over to your apartment. Let’s go in my office where we can talk in private.”
Our assistant manager, Marie, had come out of her office and I asked her to roll up the rug. I didn’t want the thing sprawled out in our entryway if a prospect or another resident arrived.
“What am I supposed to do with it?” Marie asked, as she frowned down at the rug.
“Just, please roll it up and call Steve (one of the guys on our maintenance staff), and have him take it into the clubroom. He can just lean it against the wall for now. We need to move it out of the entryway,” I explained.
I went to talk with Ramona. She was sitting in one of my side chairs, looking frail and pathetic. She’d covered her beaten face and was slumped slightly forward. I could tell from the way her shoulders were shaking that she was crying.
Taking the seat across from hers, I waited until she was ready to speak. At last, Ramona said simply, “The rug is not mine. It’s hers. I bought it for her. It was a Valentine’s gift. It cost me over a thousand dollars.” After a couple of sad sniffles, she added, “It was a symbol of our love.”
The $1,000 Rug
I didn’t respond for a couple of minutes, because honestly, I was thinking: This poor young girl, beaten up by her girlfriend, who was probably going to be released from jail on bond any moment, is worried about a cowhide rug—and how can a cowhide rug be a symbol of love?
Another sniffle brought my attention back to the young woman sitting across from me. “Ramona,” I started, “Our onsite police officer told me about what happened last night. I’m really sorry that you and your roommate are not getting along. Since this is not working out for any of us, we’re serving you with a 30-day notice to vacate. You and your roommate will be responsible for rent through this period, and if you leave the apartment in good condition you’ll recover your security deposit.”
“I’m actually moving out today,” she informed me in a soft voice. “My parents will be here soon and they’re going to help me pack everything up. I’m going to move back home with them.”
“I think that sounds like a good plan,” I said, sympathetic to her situation. “I hope everything works out for you and I wish you the very best.”
Ramona left shortly afterward, taking the vacate notice with her. I was so overwhelmed with sadness for her about her situation, I had let her walk out, completely forgetting about the cowhide rug.
Ramona’s family wasted no time in moving their daughter out of the apartment. I’d walked over to the unit to post another vacate notice on the front door for the roommate to find. By the time I arrived, the apartment was almost empty. A pickup truck, loaded to full capacity was parked in front of the building. Two young men were securing the cargo with ropes.
As I approached the front to door 312, I realized both of the men had stopped what they were doing and followed me to the apartment.
“Hey,” said one of them.
“Hey,” I said back.
“Ramona told us were the manager here. I’m her brother Rick, and this is Matt,” he said, indicating with a quick nod of his head to the other guy. “We’re going to take our sister away and then we’re coming back to deal with this "*expletive". No one beats up our sister and gets away with it!”
I looked from one brother to the other. They were bristling with fury and set on avenging the injustice done to Ramona.
No Time For Vengeance
“Look,” I told them. “I understand how angry you all must be, but this needs to stop here. Your sister is pressing charges and her roommate is in jail. She’ll be held accountable for what she did and it’s not going to help your family if one—or both of you, end up in jail, too.”
They looked at one another and I felt I was making some sense to them. So I continued, “Please, just go and help Ramona move on with her life.”
The larger of the siblings looked me square in the eye and said flatly. “Okay, but we want that rug!”
“The what?” I asked.
“We know you took the cowhide rug and we want it back. Ramona should have that after all the *expletive* this *expletive* put her through,” her brother insisted.
“I beg your pardon,” I replied indignantly, and probably pretty loudly. "I did not take anyone’s rug. Why on earth would you think I’d taken the rug?”
Just then Ramona appeared from inside the apartment with a laundry basket full of clothes. An older woman was beside her that I figured it was her mother.
“Stop it!” Ramona shouted at her brothers. “That rug stays where it is. It doesn’t belong to me. It was a gift that she wants us to store and that’s the end of it.”
Her brothers immediately shut up. One rolled his eyes at the other and reached for the basket in his sister’s arms. “Let’s see if we can get this in her car,” he muttered under his breath as the two headed back downstairs to the loaded truck.
A Sad Goodbye
After they’d gone, Ramona looked at me. “This is the last of it,” she said, taking a small box from the woman standing beside her. “Mom, I’m just going to lock up and I’ll meet you downstairs in a sec.”
Ramona waited until her mother was out of earshot before she said, “I’m sorry for the trouble we’ve caused you. I’ll try to pay our rent through the next thirty days. It may take me a while, but I will pay it in full.”
I was taken off-guard when after locking the apartment, Ramona reached to give me a hug. As she pulled away, she whispered into my ear, “I left a note for her. She’ll come to your office for the cowhide rug, but please don’t tell her where I am.”
I assured Ramona that I’d never disclose such information and wished her luck. I watched as the family departed, hoping I’d never see any of them again—especially her brothers, seeking revenge on her ex-girlfriend.
It turned out the ex-girlfriend never came for the cowhide rug. In fact, to our knowledge she never returned to the property at all. The vacate notice remained on the door for several days. I had Steve in maintenance keep an eye on things. After a few days, he informed me that the ex’s car was no longer parked in its reserved spot.
Eventually, we changed the locks and sent maintenance and housekeeping in to turn the unit. I was told there was very little left in the apartment. No furniture or household items, just a few clothes hanging in the bedroom closet.
A Message Never Opened
Steve brought the clothes to the office in two garbage sacks. He also presented me with a sealed envelope he’d found on the kitchen counter. I saw the roommate’s name handwritten on the front of it and knew it was the note Ramona had left her ex-girlfriend.
I looked up at Steve, Marie and our young leasing agent who were all gathered around my desk. “You’ve got to open that note...” Marie said. “We’re dying to know what it says.”
I looked at their faces and although I was curious to know what the letter said, there was no way I was going to open that envelope. I told everyone to get back to work and stuck the note in my locked desk drawer.
Nearly six months later, when I was working alone in the office, I heard the door chime. I walked into the front office and there stood Ramona. Frankly, I was really surprised to see her, but also thrilled she’d come back. I told her how great she looked—healthy and glowing.
“I want to thank you for working with me on paying through my notice,” she said. “I know you went out on a limb for me and it means a lot.”
It’s true. I’d explained her situation to our owner and he agreed that as long as Ramona made regular payments, she could pay out the last thirty days. She’d done so in weekly checks until the balance was paid in full. We’d even refunded her security deposit and would be able to give her a solid rental history reference. She’d done what she said she’d do and we all respected that.
The Cowhide Rug Goes Home
We talked for a while before Ramona finally shared the reason for her visit. “I was just wondering what you did with the cowhide rug?”
I laughed. I couldn’t help it! That huge, silly cowhide rug had been at the center of so much drama between my maintenance staff and me.
You see, after the rug had been stored in the corner of our clubroom for a while, I’d eventually asked Steve to move it to the maintenance garage. This area was filled to capacity with everything from paint to tools. We could barely park our golf cart in there.
The cowhide rug had consumed more real estate than Steve was happy with sharing. Besides being in his way, I know he’d had also had his eye on it since the day he’d first seen it in the office. Steve had asked me several times if he could have it and I continually told him no. I always felt that someone would come back for it.
That day had arrived. I buzzed maintenance and asked Steve to bring the rug up to the office. The three of us worked together to load the hide in Ramona’s car and I hugged her goodbye.
As she was driving off and Steve and I were walking back toward the office, he said disappointedly, “You know, I really wanted that damn rug.”
“Well,” I sighed. “It wasn’t meant to be. After all, that cowhide was a symbol of their love.”
Steve had started heading to his truck, but he stopped and looked back at me in confusion. “A symbol of their what?” he asked, clearly puzzled.
Shooting him my brightest smile, I replied, “Exactly!”
From the book I Have a Complex, But I'm Managing It!, stories from property managers compiled by Monica E. Simmons.
Monica E. Simmons, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for JDC Enterprises, LLC, has worked in the multi-family industry in several different capacities since 1987. She is a published author whose books include; I Have A Complex, But I’m Managing It!, It Happened in The Hill Country and 30-Love.
Contact her at: Monica@TheVendorGuide.com