Schadenfreude. Pleasure derived from the misfortune of others, as defined by our friends at Wiki. A conjunction of two German words, Schaden for damage or pain, and Freude for joy, though you’d never know it by Sigmund’s preoccupations. I’m just finishing Richard Smith’s book on the subject, and he nails the fact that there are gradations of and variations in Schadenfreude. In our small condo association on Point Pleasant Beach we’ve been living with Schadenfreude, though it wasn’t that way at the outset. If you’ve read this blog before, or visited with us here you know how idyllic the physical trappings are. When we first bought here, the idea was that the physical surround would confer idyllic states of mind as well. Which was true, for the first year we occupied our little piece of heaven on earth. We had bought the developer’s unit on the upper level, with the other four units occupied on the lower level, and were the last of the five unit owners to move in. We delighted in each other’s good fortune at rimming Little Silver Lake, a short walk to the Atlantic Ocean.
Among many other things, including the spaciousness and floor-to-ceiling views, one of the attractive features to us was that the monthly condo fees were divided evenly among the five unit owners, irrespective of square footage. Consistent with this, each unit owner had equal voting privileges and an equal number of parking spots. Each of the other unit owners agreed to this arrangement when they purchased their units, two years prior to us moving in. Then, without warning, a couple of the other unit owners decided to become Schadenfreudists with our Master Deed. Seeing that the monthly condo fees were rising, they decided that the deed should be changed so that monthly condo fees would be assessed by % of square footage, thereby cutting their fees in half and effectively doubling ours. They had no concern for fair play, relying on bullying tactics. To the victors go the spoils? Not so fast …
We retained our own legal representation because the condo attorney was not acting in our best interests. Thankfully, one of the other unit owners abstained from voting, thereby blocking the amendment to the deed from passing. Life went on, the surround still idyllic, but the bitter taste of spoiled Schadenfreude lingered. Then Superstorm Sandy hit, and the four lower units were awash in flood waters while we, elevated were left intact. There was no template to follow for recovery, and the bullies having worn out their welcome were more like petulant children this time around. Rather than pulling together with the other unit owners, they jumped up and down about making sure their “upgrades” were accounted for. Blatantly self-centered, they bitched and they moaned serving only to alienate others in the process. Meaningful movement toward rebuilding was delayed. We moved forcefully this time around, the way one always handles a bully – focused on what was best for the Condo Association rather than on individuals. The bully resigned her position on the board, the threatening and harassment that she and her partner engaged in having accomplished little – not that this curtailed their reflexive accusations and finger-pointing. Reading the handwriting on the wall the bullies decided to sell their unit, the closing having taken place this week.
Not sure where the bully pulpit will land next, but I pity their new neighbors. Schadenfreude is a bitch, isn’t it?