Roughly nine months ago the kids and I made a batch of cookies. There wasn’t anything particularly special about those cookies. It was the Christmas season, we had some spare time and a bag of Betty’s M&M cookie mix in the pantry was enticing us from behind the cupboard doors.
(Yes, I know homemade is better, this was before we began overhauling our kitchen.)
We added the eggs and butter and they baked up beautifully. We nestled them among two pieces of parchment paper inside a super-cheesy, red plastic Christmas container from the $1 sale section at Walmart. A cookie or two (or three) may have detoured to our bellies instead. I’m not sure – I’ve slept many nights since then and the details are kinda fuzzy…
Anyway, that one dollar bag of ordinary cookie mix just saved us $300 on our rent.
Too good to be true? Oh contraire mon frere, tis not. I speaketh the truth.
From the day we moved into our townhouse, our property manager didn’t like us. Or at least she didn’t seem to like us. She always smiled at the neighbors, had full-fledged conversations and even laughed with them. When she saw us, we got the obligatory “morning” with a brief wave of the hand.
We asked her how she was doing, gave big smiles and even went out of our way to check the mail when she was outside making rounds to increase our chances of a true conversation.
It was considered a good day if we got to see teeth.
This went on for over a year and at the end of each encounter we asked ourselves the same question: Why is she so mean to us? Did we do something to offend her?
If we had offended her, we wanted to know so we could apologize and not repeat the vile action. But considering we saw her mostly through our windows and our conversations were non-existent, we couldn’t figure out why our budding friendship never really bud.
So Mr. Crumbs made a suggestion – bake her cookies. Looking back, the man was a genius, but my are.you.crazy/im.not.baking.that.woman.cookies reaction at the time was certainly not on board with the idea.
“Maybe she’ll be nice to us” he continued. “Maybe she’ll smile! There’s bag of mix in the pantry and it’ll be fun for the kids. Why don’t you bake them up sometime this week!”
And being the unfriendly yet wanting-the-husband-to-feel-special-type of wife that I am, “make cookies” was written down into the planner while my eyes gently rolled back in my head.
(There is indeed shame as I write this as my husband is fully aware of my tendency to shoo away his brilliant ideas. It’s a character flaw that I’m working on. Thanks for putting up with me babe!)
So you want me to brown-nose our property manager and bake some cookies, eh? Fine, I’ll do it. Who knows, maybe it’ll actually work.
The kids and I made a trip to Walmart for inexpensive cookie tins to house our special gift. After all, a bunch of cookies dumped into a gallon ziploc bag looks more haphazard than impressive and slap-it-together-last-minute wasn’t the impression we were aiming for.
We came back with our 3 plastic tins for $1.08 (after tax) and got busy making the cookies. The difficultly of adding a stick of butter and an egg was nearly overwhelming, but handing out spoonfuls of cookie dough to each helper (including myself) made the job more bearable.
The cookies baked, the cookies cooled and the cookies were packaged up to be delivered.
And then they sat. On the counter, for three days.
It wasn’t until when Mr. Crumbs’ asked if we had made the cookies yet that I remembered we hadn’t delivered them!
Three sets of eyes peered out the front window with anticipation for our manager’s arrival at home (and since she also happened to be our neighbor, it was easy to see).
Moments after she drove up, the kids and I grabbed the box and headed out the door. We rang the doorbell and cheered “Merry Christmas” when she cracked open the door. The Boy stuck out the box, nearly shoving it in her face as I explained that they had made her cookies (isn’t it just cuter to give the kids all the credit?). She accepted the gift with a half-smile and closed the door.
One week later, while checking the mail, she called my name (huh? you know my name?!) and gave thanks again for the cookies, saying they were really good (wait, are you really speaking to me?!).
And it’s been pleasant greetings filled with real smiles and how-do-you-do’s ever since.
My husband’s idea worked. We baked our property manager cookies and she starting being nice to us.
Over time, our relationship slowly grew from the occasional “oh hello there” to real, full-fledged conversations. Our topics of discussion were never serious, nor really that interesting, but we weren’t picky. We found contentment in our meager dialogue after many months of non-existence.
And then one day, while talking with my husband in the garage about something unimportant, she asked him a question that nearly made him stumble – would we like a reduction in our rent?
Um, do you really think I’d say no to that question?!
She was moving outside the complex and needed an on-site manager to collect rent and to be a point of contact for any emergency that happened after hours and couldn’t wait 7 minutes (the approximate time for her to get her shoes on, get in her car, drive over and hit every red light before arriving).
Mr. Crumbs ran (literally) into the house, shouted up the stairs and asked if we could be property managers in exchange for rent reduction. The look on his face told me that this wasn’t exactly a topic up for discussion – he was asking me only because he’s a good husband. He did the quick math in his head: a) collect rent and b) manually crank the gate if the complex loses power. Do all that in exchange for $300 off rent? He was sold and the excitement in his eyes wouldn’t let me say no even if I wanted to (not that I did).
For the first time in years, I wrote a check for September’s rent with a smile. We have a cute little squeaky mail-drop box built into our door that the kids think is cool. The Girl likes to open the slot and peer outside, and they race to see who can pick up the deposited envelopes from the floor first. Every now and then the creak of metal on metal will startle us while we’re snuggling on the sofa at 9:30 at night, but a few days of “excitement” each month isn’t really a bother.
The moral of the story? When life gives you a grumpy property manager, bake him/her cookies and hope they move.