Many, if not most, apartments in France come with a basement space for storage. They are called caves. I discovered last week that someone was squatting in my cave. Not in person, but with their junk. How did someone get into the nook, which was locked with an industrial-strength serrure? She simply ripped the hardware off. After making my shocking discovery, I saw a box marked “Lettres” and opened it. Inside was an envelope with the name and address of the person who turned out to be my suspect. I found her in the phone book, called her, and left a message. To my surprise she called back. NOT to my surprise, she claimed innocence, saying that an old woman with Alzheimer’s in our building has said she owned it and the culprit could use it. I asked the suspect if she would care to move her shit off of my property, and she sputtered, in French that kept increasing octaves, that she was about to leave for vacation and it was inconvenient for her. Rolling my eyes, I expressed sympathy for this intrusion into her life of leisure.
The only thing worse than a vandalizing, squatting French person is a syndic. That is the name for the company that “manages” a building. I have other names for the syndic, but they are not printable on a family blog such as this. Heading to the syndic in person–its employees don’t answer the phone–I asked what I could do in my predicament. “We have no idea,” the clerk told me. I stepped backwards and looked around me. “Hold on–am I at the syndic?” I asked. “The company I pay to manage the building’s affairs?” “Yes,” the woman said, setting down her 11th espresso for the day, “But this is a personal affair.” Ah. A personal affair. The syndic woman had just one piece of advice for me: “If you touch her belongings, she can sue you.” I decided that lying would be the only solution to the problem. I called the squatteuse back and informed her that the syndic rules called for a 48-hour grace period during which she had to move out. “After that, I have the right to put your stuff in the garbage,” I lied. Well, it worked. Her crap is gone. And now I have to buy and install a new lock, and pray no one else eyeballs my 5 square meters of land.