Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Inside The Mind of Harry Pitts: Feudal (Land) Lord

By Patricia Lefave, Labeled, D.D.(P)

This is a fictional piece about some of the thinking and behavior of the landlords of poor and/or psychiatrically labeled people. It may have a very familiar feel to it, for the psychiatrized and others, so much so that if you ARE such a landlord, you might even believe that I am talking about you.

Please be assured that any resemblance to any real landlord, living or dead, is purely coincidental. I have created this fictional landlord solely to make a point for all of us who are forced to deal with them as best we can.

Harry Pitts had big dreams. He wanted to be more than just a nine to five guy. He wanted to have money and prestige. He wanted to be ‘in’ with the ‘in’ crowd and he was determined to work his way into that life through the aqusisition of real estate and through making the proper social contacts. So, Harry got started by buying old houses and dividing them up into very small apartments, which he rented to the poor.

His tenants were a variety of the very young, the working poor, the old, the disabled and the student population. Harry regarded many of his tenants with disdain but he didn’t let it show on his face; at least he thought it didn’t show. He at least tried to find out who his prospective tenant’s families were first, in case it mattered.

Actually, his contempt was perfectly visible to many of his tenants, especially those who were not so young, like the students were, and who had some life experience behind them. A guy like Harry was pretty obvious to them but Harry didn’t know that. There wasn’t any point in telling Harry that either. Some had attempted to do that, even making it quite plain, but Harry didn’t hear it. Harry was living in his own little fantasy world and the reality of his tenants was beyond his personal radar.

The Invisible Man By Salvador Dali

Harry spent a lot of his time trying to ‘fool’ them as well as he managed to fool himself. If only he knew how foolish he looked; how foolish he was, he might be motivated to give up his nonsense. But, he didn’t know and it was unlikely that he ever would. Harry, like many people was living in his own little world, constructed of his own need to be ‘somebody’ and in order to DO that, he needed to be able to compare himself to those he considered to be ‘nobody’, so he could gauge how well he was doing, compared to ‘them.’

The first people to whom he compared himself in this way were his tenants. He played little mind games with them, he ‘fooled’ them, and because he was frequently, but not always successful in doing so, it validated his beliefs about his own stature. He was becoming,
Harry Pitts: Real Estate Tycoon!

The fact was, Harry was not all that bright and many of the people he was trying to impress were very aware of that. though they did not let on to Harry that they knew. They did like to have a little fun with him sometimes though. They ridiculed him behind his back quite a bit and sometimes even mocked him to his face without his being aware of it. They sold him crap and he didn’t know it was crap. One of his older tenants suggested to him that he do some consumer research on things he didn’t understand about housing and repairs etc. so that he wouldn’t get taken so often, but Harry didn’t think that was necessary, so he acted agreeable(as he always did, appearances were important ) and then went his own way.

Harry ‘acted’ a great deal. He had developed a ‘reasonable’ façade that looked and sounded ‘classy’ and that was what he was after, but it had little substance. He left a lot of people wondering exactly who he really was behind that facade. He was middle aged and single, worked a nine to five job, and had a series of girlfriends that made hm look popular, but the relationships never lasted very long and his emotional façade never seemed to change. He didn’t seem to be connected to other people’s reality except p his own terms,, often basing his ways of relating on what HE thought other people thought or meant, with no real communication between him and them at all. He was totally frustrating to talk to in any real way, but he remained unaware of his lack of understanding, preferring to believe he was right on top of things, despite any evidence that he was wrong.

His biggest problem was his utter lack of personal boundaries and his willingness to lie and manipulate for the sake of appearances of for effect. He frequently lied to his tenants when it would have been just as easy to just tell the truth. Yet, Harry couldn’t see that because Harry needed to believe he was ‘upper class’ material and Harry needed the world a large to accept the façade he had created so painstakingly for himself, as ‘reality.’ Harry may have been a fool, but Harry was a fool who looked and sounded successful on the surface.

Amongst his tenants, the people who always went along with Harry’s idea of himself to his face were also the ones who talked about him behind his back, just as they with Harry, talked about the other tenants behind THEIR backs. It was the tenants who were the working poor (usually older women) or the ‘psychiatrically disabled’ who understood Harry best, and they were also the ones he patronized the most.
The patronized ones talked about Harry’s manipulations amongst themselves. The ‘superior’ tenants, ironically the ones who acted more LIKE Harry, didn’t even notice the manipulations, nor did they notice the other tenants except as the ‘weird’ tenants, or the ones who were said not to ‘socialize’ like they did.

One day, in a restaurant, a few of these tenants, and a few former tenants, ran into each other and spent a couple of hours having some well needed laughs by sharing Harry Pitts’ stories. Here are some of the highlights shared on that afternoon about Harry’s manipulative ploys and head games of which Harry remained unaware, they were aware.

Harry liked to sneak into people’s apartments when they were at work or otherwise not home. He tried to keep track of the schedules of some of them so he could find out when it would be ‘safe’ to enter without their knowledge. He was always careful to have an excuse at the ready as his reason for being there, should he accidentally get caught, however lame an excuse it might be. He always carried all the apartment keys with him. He would sidle up to the tenants’’ doors, listen to see if he could hear any movement inside, then rap on the door just to be sure. Well, he often rapped on the door but not always. Once inside, he would look all around the place, look at their things, their books, their letters if they had been foolish enough to leave them out in the open, and some believed that he was looking for were signs of ‘romance,’ so to speak. Often though, someone else was home in another apartment adjoining, and could clearly hear Harry whistling and humming to himself as he snooped about.

Harry would pretend it was just easier to drop in unannounced than to call first. If he accidentally caught someone in when he expected them to be out, he would use his lame excuse for the surprise visit. He acted much like the building police service or social director, seeing himself as in charge of his tenants’ lives, yet strangely, when something was really wrong and required attention, Harry was oblivious to it.

One woman once reported to him the case of a tenant abusing his girlfriend, but since the woman reporting it was considered by Harry to be stupid, Harry didn’t believe that for a minute. At least he SAID he didn’t believe it. In fact, he huffed, and sighed, and said in the tone of a parent talking to a naughty child, “Oh, he is NOT an abuser. He is a real nice guy.”
As it turned out in that case, further complain or concern was unnecessary since ‘the real nice guy’ was convicted and sent to jail for beating up a series of girlfriends in his apartments.

But as I have said, sometimes Harry’s door listening didn’t work out and he got caught walking in on someone who was sick in bed, or in the shower. It didn’t matter to Harry though. He just lied about it and told other people that they really couldn’t trust anything that such tenants had to say.
The strangest part of that was that Harry sometimes performed his ‘covert’ entries with other people accompanying him while he did it, then forgot who it was and lied about the tenant’s complain of it TO the person who had been in there WITH him! You just had to laugh when he had no idea how foolish he sounded. You see Harry was confident that he had how he looked and sounded under control, so he had no idea he was obvious. One could tell him outright to stop assessing one’s life or mental health for other tenants or trades people, and he would go right to other tenants or trades people to complain about your attitude, with no sense of irony at all!

The weird thing was though that he could fool some people, often those who considered themselves to be classy types too, lie with the ‘Brand New Stove’ switch that he pulled off successfully.
When one of the tenants moved out, he went to work with glue and paint can. He glued the broken stove handle back on to the drawer. Then, he painted the stove top with an enamel paint that was better quality than the cheap original paint on the rangette. Once finished and dried, he placed it on a hand truck and hauled it down to the first floor where he ‘casually’ asked a female tenant if she would like to switch her older model for the newer one. She agreed to it. A few days later, Harry had someone come in to record his ‘improvements’ to the apartment, pointing to the ‘Brand new Stove’ as one of them. In fact, he announced it with a wave of his extended arm as if he were on the ‘Price is Right’ or “Let’s Make a Deal’ revealing to all what was about to be revealed behind curtain number two! At that moment, his tenant knew why she had received the freshly painted stove from the upstairs apartment. She wondered if it had been counted up there as well.

Harry was good at suggesting possible stories, he just wasn’t so good at understanding that the people he was telling the stories to were getting way more information from him than he thought. Even after he occasionally found out, he didn’t change. He would just alter his story a little bit more even while the occasional tenant’s jaw would drop as he did it. Usually Harry didn’t know what that meant. He just assumed it meant that THEY were stupid and didn’t understand him, which they didn’t. They didn’t understand why he even TRIED to do that.

Like the Three Year Leak story. Water was pouring down through the ceiling of one of the apartments for three years before Harry did anything. Right up until the time he did something though, Harry had created a series of alternate versions of ‘reality,’ most of them blaming the tenants’ perception of a leak, and each one also denying the report of the leak by a previous tenant. He would tell others the tenants were ‘exaggerating’ the leak, imagining it, etc. each tenant who rented the apartment warned the next one (there were four of them) either in person, or in writing, not to put anything valuable there or it would be ruined by the leak and to put a bucket under the spot to collect the flood waters. Two of them told Harry what they thought the source of the leak was. With each tenant, Harry pretended it was new information being heard for the first time.

Finally after three years of water pouring through the ceiling, and the walls of the house, from the top to the bottom, the last tenant to keep a bucket under it started to insist that he look. After saying to her, “We never had a these problems before YOU moved in,’ (a bold faced lie that she knew about) Harry finally had a plumber take a look. The drain pipe was off the bath tub on the third floor and had been for three years. That day was the first day that Harry admitted there was a real leak, even though all the tenants up until then had passed the news along to each other. So, when Harry was telling the last one that he knew nothing of such a leak, she and all the others before her knew that he was lying and trying to avid fixing it. Of course, Harry NEVER understands that his duplicity is perfectly obvious, and he likely never will.

Most of the tenants don’t bother to tell Harry that he is obvious Landlords like Harry are prone to use their petty power to get back at those who do and their tenants know that. Instead, they talk about him behind his back, just like he talks about them behind their backs.

The people who understand Harry best, are those for whom the has the most ‘covert’ contempt; the poor working women and the psychiatrically ‘disabled’ and labeled people. Dealing with the Harry Pitts of this world is the story of their lives.

So, in the restaurant that day, the group of Harry’s tenants, both current and former, enjoyed themselves telling Harry Pitts stories. For most of them it was the only way they had to release the emotion built up by their frustration with him. Had Harry walked in on it, it is not likely that Harry would have had any idea why the group was laughing. Guys like Harry Pitts, who believe they are ‘fooling’ their ‘inferiors’ never do. One of the most amusing things about watching guys like Harry perform their act, is in the recognition that others are doing the same kind of thing to them, but they don’t know it.

Harry is frequently sold a pile of garbage, both literally and metaphorically speaking, and he consistently believes that he has made himself a great deal by fooling some con man who has actually conned him. Occasionally, one of us ‘inferiors’ have tried to warn him of it but it never works. As Harry likes to tell third parties, ‘You really can’t go by anything they (tenants) say.’ (‘Cause we aren’t smart like Harry) So we don’t bother saying anything much anymore since Harry won’t believe it anyway.

Besides, Harry is very busy these days, climbing the social ladder with the kind of people who really matter; people with titles, prominent people, people who own real estate, like him.

Currently, some of these people are speculating with others about Harry’s sexuality. It is apparently something the ‘people who really matter’ like to spend a fair amount of time doing. I wonder when, or if, Harry will come to understand the reality of himself? Or myself?

Well, personally I have given up on trying to penetrate Harry’s self delusion or even trying to inform others of the reality of Harry.
I am, after all, ‘nothing but a whack job’, as many members of the public who like the stories like to define me. As everyone knows, we ‘whack jobs’ tend to see things that the ‘normal’ people do not see.

With that particular assessment, I find myself in complete agreement.

Whether you see that statement as a positive or negative judgment, as true or false. Depends, as always in these situations, upon your perspective on this reality.

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