Inside Stories

Inside Story: 5 things about my super, Rambo

By Josh  | September 21, 2010 - 7:01AM

1. My super was an Indian man in his mid-60s. He asked that we call him Rambo. He never shared his actual name with my wife and I (although, certainly, we saw it on his mail).  Possibly because he didn't think we could pronounce it, but more likely, he just didn't want us to know his name. 

2. When we first moved into the multifamily house in Brooklyn, we were immediately greeted by a roach problem.  This was my conversation with Rambo on the topic.

ME: Hey, can you call your exterminator?
RAMBO: Exterminator?
ME: Yeah, we have roaches.
RAMBO: No bug problem here.
ME: What?
RAMBO: We don't have bugs.


And that was that. He staunchly refused to hire an exterminator.  Eventually, I called my own. Rent was low enough that it wasn't a problem. After a few visits from the exterminator, Rambo poked his head in, and asked if I could send him up to his place.  I didn't.  After all, he didn't have bugs.

3. The ceiling fan wobbled in such a way that it seemed like it would go flying off into the wall, or one of our heads.  I pointed it out to Rambo, and his response was, "It does that." Then he walked out. He never fixed one thing while we were there. Instead, he pretended it wasn't real, or was just something so intrinsically unfixable, that it was what it was.  Like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  It does that.  

A friend of mine and I fixed the ceiling fan.  It now does something else.

4. My wife often saw him in the backyard relaxing in a lawnchair slowly thumbing through "Penthouse."  Something he had the right to do in his own backyard, certainly, but creepy nonetheless.  

5. This to me was the worst. I always thought he was negligent, but not malicious.  The rent was cheap, the place was huge, and once we realized that he was never going to do anything ever, we made our peace with it and took care of problems as they came up on our own.  

One we could not fix was the building's janky wiring.  Rambo had converted the basement into an apartment as well.  Like a lot of old places, the building suffered from "can't have three things on at the same time"-itis.  If the hairdryer and the microwave were on at the same time, the circuit breaker flipped.  Air conditioner and coffee-maker?  Flipped. TV and a candle?  Flipped.  Okay, maybe not that bad, but a pain in the ass.

But, at that point, we had lived in New York for 10 years, and we knew that some things were beyond our control.  We weren't electricians, and we weren't going to pay for one out of pocket.  And we knew that if we asked Rambo, he'd shrug and walk away.  So I will accept a certain amount of laziness towards the issue, but by that time, we were so inured to the place being goofy that we didn't care.

Besides, about 6 months in, we decided to move to L.A.  We bequeathed the apartment to friends, explaining to them that Rambo did nothing. Except read "Penthouse."  A few months later, they called us in L.A. to tell us they were moving out.  Why?  Well, my buddy had a little electrical know-how, and was sick of not being able to run the AC and other household appliances simultaneously.  So he went to the basement to get a good look at the circuit breaker, and also, talk to the family in the basement.  

Long story short, the reason why the wiring was so problematic was that Rambo had wired the basement apartment in such a way that it was feeding off the same breakers as our apartment. The family downstairs didn't pay their electric bill. They paid Rambo directly.  We, on the other hand, paid their electric bill.  

"Now," you're asking, "Didn't you notice that your bill was unreasonably high?" And in retrospect, it might have been. It was never, like, $500 a month, or anything so crazily inflated that it would have made us take notice.  Probably it was more like $20 or more a month, and we just sort of blindly paid it.  But it was illegal, it was a fire hazard, and it was scummy management on Rambo's part.

So that's Rambo.  A terrible superintendent.  But anyone who loves Penthouse can't be all bad, I guess.

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