By Debbie Dale – Originally Published – DEL Condominium Life – Spring Issue, 2009

The phone rang in the office on a quiet afternoon as I worked on my monthly Board Report. I was really quite pleased with myself because the Report would be sent early! It was likely this inner pleasure with my accomplishment that started the pot to boil. I should have known better, but alas, I did not and the pot simmered, boiled, and flowed over!

Mrs. Jones was crying at the other end of the phone. Her husband had disappeared while she was having a shower. Pardon me? Yes, she sobbed, he had just disappeared without a word. As she calmed herself and I prodded with a few questions, it became clear that Mr. Jones may have wandered off, as he had ‘escaped’ some years earlier and been ‘captured’ that same day. After concluding that his disappearance was not something he had planned with full presence of mind and that Mrs. Jones seemed upset but stable, I set about establishing a search plan.

I gathered the staff and implemented the emergency plan, ensuring that all exits were covered, grounding the elevators, and reviewing the security videos. Meanwhile, Mrs. Jones joined me at the security desk to assist. No, she told me, her husband had no favourite spots to hide. No, he wasn’t wearing a coat or shoes, from what she could tell. But he was wearing his slippers, pyjamas, and a bathrobe so should be easy to spot. No, he had not taken the car keys. Yes, he moves slowly with a cane. Excellent, I thought, a slow-moving, easily-identified target somewhere on the common grounds! Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

A methodical sweep of the building from top to bottom turned up nothing. The videos gave no leads. Half an hour had passed. Mrs. Jones agreed that it was time to call the police. We headed to my office to make the call after selecting a recent photo of Mr. Jones to give the police. I picked up the phone to make the call but instead heard a tense, frightening voice whispering on the other end. I have learned that adrenaline-charged situations are always a moment away, and I prayed that there not be two such situations at once. But, inexperienced condo manager style, I have learned to multi-task.

‘Oh, Debbie, help me, help me! Call the police quick!’ Here we go, I thought, two emergencies at once. Both distraught residents were senior women with health conditions. My mind raced to the defibrillators on-site and I allowed myself the humour in realizing there were two such cardiac rescue devices and several trained cardiac responders on hand so, really, two events at once was just fine! LOL or laugh out loud, as my grown kids say.

My whispering caller was easily identified, thanks to caller ID. She reported a strange man in her home. Mrs. Jones was listening and leapt to her feet with the speed of a teenager. ‘We found him. That’s my husband! Let’s go rescue him before he realizes he is in the wrong suite.’ I briefly described the missing hubby to my caller and she started to relax. Yes, she assured us, she would stay out of his sight. Yes, she would be very happy to receive us. Off we went, post haste!

Upon entering the caller’s home, she pointed to the closed master bedroom door. I instinctively tucked both women behind me and slowly opened the door. There was Mr. Jones, sleeping comfortably on the king-size bed. We gently woke him and he asked his wife where all the new furniture had come from and how much it had cost. He also asked me to explain what I was doing in his bedroom during his afternoon nap and teased me about the impropriety of the situation, with a wide grin and sparkling eyes. Mrs. Jones retrieved his slippers from under the bed, slipped them onto his feet, and led him back home after expressing much appreciation and apologizing for the disturbance.

My whispering caller was clearly overcome with relief and needed to sit down. Eventually, she was able to tell me what happened. Her afternoon nap had been disrupted by finding a strange man in her bed! We joked about this little midday adventure hitting the community communication web in true neighbourly form. She began to worry about how all of this would appear to her neighbours. I assured her that she could send any busy-minded persons my way.

All in a day’s work, eh? Mmmmm. Don’t tell me I am out of chamomile tea!

I resumed my Board Report preparation and realized that more than an hour had passed. Darn. No early submission for me. At that moment, I started to chuckle at my foolishness. Five hundred residents, 23 floors, eight-plus staff, a building over 20 years old, two pools, seven swans-a-swimming, and a partridge in a pear tree. I reminded myself that just being on time with the Board Report was quite enough, given the mix of possibilities.

The monthly Board Report. A written relay of data from management to the Board that helps enable the Directors to make sound decisions and issue directions. What information goes in? What information stays out? As condominium residents, you can surely imagine how long the list of possibilities is from one month to the next. The information that is usually left out may, however, be the very information that portrays just how fluidly the site staff can complement one another, serve the community, and perform under emergency situations. I believe the smaller events such as the safe return of Mr. Jones are the ones that matter the most in life and have a place in the data relay process on some level.

The ideal condominium property is really just an extension of who we are. Each and every one of us. The level of resident involvement with the site staff and residents’ reliance on their support is evident in the little things.

I encourage each of you to note the seemingly small but significant ways you can make a difference. Feel the community spirit. Join a committee. Gather food for the homeless. Help a neighbour recycle. Give thanks to the cleaners, the superintendent, security guards, contractors, management teams, and others while you encourage them to give back and be their best. Everyone needs to be appreciated and encouraged to create a win-win scenario that benefits everyone.