This fall, I went to my first annual Assemblée Générale des copropriétaires, or General Assembly of Co-owners. We were summoned to this General Assembly meeting by an official convocation. Sounds like the shareholder meeting for Coca Cola, or maybe a third legislative branch, right? Well essentially, it’s a homeowners’ association or condo association meeting. Furthermore, we are only six owners in total and only four showed up. Apparently this was a record turnout too, as I was told it’s normal for just the owner of the 4th floor to show up and no one else.
I was quite interested to see what this meeting would be like, but also a bit nervous. I had never met any of my neighbors, as I had not yet moved in. My move-in date was planned for the following week, as renovations had (of course) gone past schedule. So not only was I meeting these people for the first time, in addition they were all going to hate me for the five months of noisy renovations they had endured because of me. To make things worse, the 5th-floor neighbor sent a 2-page purported addendum to our 21-point meeting agenda, complete with illustrative photos, by e-mail the morning of the meeting.
The meeting was held in the offices of the syndic, somewhere out in the bowels of Belleville. The syndic is the person or company designated by the General Assembly to manage the building and its common spaces on a day-to-day basis.
Following instructions, I took the elevator to the top floor, but then saw only a door marked “Architect” so checked my calendar again, but as I was doing so, a frail woman appeared and ushered me in, assuring me I was in the right place. But when I got inside, I was still not so sure.
The long, narrow conglomerate of offices was lined with papers stacked to the ceiling and odd metal cabinets with 1970s-style mirrors. The office of our property manager was even more eclectically construed. The décor was a cross between 1970s office building, aquarium, Wild West lodge/safari, metallurgy workshop and lawyers’ office (i.e. lots of papers everywhere). And the icing on the cake was the head honcho himself – he claimed to be an architect/property manager, but I am quite certain he is Santa Claus’s long-lost French brother.
The setting was odd, to say the least, but somehow it gave me a feeling of relief, as a one-in-a-million (technically, one-in-25,000 give or take) American in Paris could not be seen as more of an oddball than this character!
As we made our introductions and I made mental notes of which owners lived in their units and which rented, and of course, which seemed nice and which seemed like potential trouble-makers.