Tales from the
- What Supers Wish
Those of us who are resident managers and
multi-family building superintendents work daily with a sense of the
precariousness of our situations, doing our jobs day to day at the pleasure
(or displeasure) of the boards and management companies who hire us.
As such, we are often infinitely more
circumspect in what we say to our residents than to each other on staff, and
internalize much of our thought processes on resident/maintenance worker
This is, for the most part, because most of
us have been hired less for our communication skills, more for our handyman
The super who can verbalize well, and put on
paper what he or she is really feeling without also feeling intimidated, and
without alienating the buildingís population, is in the minority.
All of us who have worked in property
maintenance for any length of time have a short list - either abstractly
and only in our heads, or more concretely on paper or in our PDAs - a
catalog of items that we wish those people for whom we work truly understood
about us and our chosen vocation.
We all wish we could express it briefly,
succinctly and with a sense of humor about it all, and that those around us
could read our list and internalize it to the point where everything we say
to them is heard, and everything we do for them is seen, as highlighted by
Not a list of commandments, but of ďrulesĒ.
Not written in stone, but in caring and with humor, and with some
sensitivity to ourselves as well as the humans we work for in particular,
and the human condition in general.
What follows then is one very unoriginal
list, gleaned from many years experience and from long associations with
several of the best of Manhattanís long time supers and resident managers:
a. If you ask a
question you donít want an answer to, expect an answer you donít want to
hear. b. If you demand an honest answer, donít be surprised when you get it.
Itís only logical, folks.
If you think youíre
calling after hours, you probably are. Donít call and ask ďAm I calling too
late?Ē Itís a no-win situation for a super to answer that question honestly.
If you run out of
hot water while taking a shower, itís not ALWAYS the superís fault, indeed,
it is hardly EVER the superís fault. Learn to blame the plumbing and heating
gods without a second thought and without smirking, just like we do.
You can either ask
us to do something OR tell us how you want it done, not both. Remember: most
supers already know infinitely more about how-to stuff than you ever will.
Get thee to the
local hardware store, buy a toilet plunger, and learn how to work it. And
get to know your way around a circuit breaker box. If you donít know these
things and really do want to know, ask us - weíll teach you. Otherwise wait
until 9am tomorrow morning - we donít like being interrupted at dinner (or
bedtime) for these non-emergency items.
If something is not
a life-altering emergency, we consider crying to be cruelty. Enough said?
Ask for what you
want. Understated hints donít work. Strong hints donít work. Really obvious
hints donít work. We're grownups - just say it Ė we can take it.
Come to us with a
problem only if you want help solving it. Itís what we do.
Bob Vila didnít
need directions from his audience; neither do we. If you want to watch us
work, shut up and watch (emphasis on SHUT UP).
you think you MIGHT be too cheap when doling out the holiday tips, you
definitely are Ė by at least 50%.
11. If you think your
superís salary is too high, spend a week following him around and watch him
work. Youíll be shocked at his awesome responsibility, and will quickly
understand that whatever heís making, it isnít nearly enough.
12. ďVery handyĒ does not
equal ďmiracle-workerĒ. Supers are by definition very handy, but most of the
time we are NOT miracle workers, in any true sense of those words.
13. If in
doubt, if all else fails or you've run out of options and youíre tempted to
blame the super again, see rule number 3.
Other Articles by and for Supers