Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My winter war

Well, let's just get right to it: there's a squatter living in the apartment above me. No one else knows he's there. During the day, when I and my roommates are at school, he sneaks into my room and steals my underwear and food.

My upstairs neighbors were evicted approximately a month ago. Since then, their apartments have been supposedly deserted. But somehow, a fiendishly clever hobo has found his way into one or both of those apartments, and has quickly made himself at home.

I'm sure you want evidence, and I have lots.

First: I heard him. At six AM, someone bumped around in the upstairs apartment. There is not supposed to be anyone in the upstairs apartment.

Second: My stuff keeps disappearing. Most notably my underwear. I noticed this when I began having to do my laundry with increasing frequency. I used to be able to wait weeks between loads of laundry. Now, I'm lucky to make it five days. It's not just underwear, though. Food too. Nothing huge, but a slice of bread here and a frozen Roma pizza there. Almost certainly enough to appreciably supplement a hobo's diet, if not sustain it altogether. And just the other day, my scarf vanished.

Third: He has a key to the house. I know this because, for a span, we were forced to leave a set of them in the mailbox (one of the roommates had lost his pair). And then that set of keys disappeared, too. Two days later, it reappeared, for no discernible reason, back in the mailbox. Why would anyone steal a set of keys for only two days? There's only one conceivable explanation: someone copied them, and thus obtained unlimited and prolonged access to our house.

I'm sure this sounds perfectly ridiculous, but I assure you it isn't. If you think it through, every element of his plan makes sense. It's complex, but when you put the pieces together, it becomes apparent that this man is something of a tactical mastermind. He's the Rommel of squatters. He is an individual of tenacious intellect, crushing problems with cold, calculating detachment. He's proving to be a formidable opponent.

Why, for instance, does Hobo Rommel refuse to steal something truly valuable, like the Xbox, or television, or a computer? To a lesser mind, those would certainly appear to be more attractive options. But stealing a major item would also instantly reveal his presence, and he would be forced to choose between flight or capture. Fencing a laptop would be hard, and risky, and would earn him, at best, a few hundred dollars. That buys a lot of MD 20/20, but it would also kill the golden goose. As things stand, he has access to comfortable living quarters, hot showers, and unlimited clean underwear for the foreseeable future. In the harsh Minnesota winter, those things are surely more valuable than consumer electronics. Being a master tactician, Hobo Rommel knows when to roll the dice, and when to opt for predictability over short-term gain.

It's also worth pointing out the manner in which Hobo Rommel has avoided victimizing anyone in my apartment besides me.

Some among you might say that this is implausible. But it's actually the most devious part of his scheme. Like any good field marshal, Hobo Rommel is well-versed in the strategy of divide and conquer. By limiting his depredations to me and me alone, he knows he can isolate me from the pack. He can take more from me while arousing far less suspicion among the majority of the apartment's occupants. And though I have, of course, noticed that something strange is afoot, there's simply no way for me to relay my plight without sounding slightly crazy. And he knows that too. If you're thinking I sound paranoid now, think about it a little harder: your suspicion is only a testament to Hobo Rommel's genius. I sound paranoid because he's targeting me, and he's targeting me to make me sound paranoid. And you -- you're a pawn in his game.

At present, we're in a stalemate. My antagonist can't show his hand, and neither can I. If he discovers that I'm aware of his existence, he might opt for the smash-and-grab, taking everything I own, loading it into my car, and driving to Mexico or Canada. But for his part, there's no way to step up the game without betraying his presence. There is no clear path forward for either of us.

So here I am, future uncertain, locked in a battle of wills and wits with this interloper. Soon it will surely come to a head. I may not have asked for this fight, but fight I must. Friends, wish me luck, and god willing, I'll see you on the other side.


  1. Does he look like this?


  2. http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/FileGnomes-plan.png

  3. Call the landlord, call the cops, they're raping everybody.

  4. Seriously though, call the landlord tomorrow, and ask him or her if you can call the cops right away. Does your liberal conscience really allow for thefty squatters?

  5. I think you are overly paranoid.