May 02 2007

Anniversary of an insult…

As it was one year ago today that our former Landlady from Hell called Dr. Darling a degenerate sub-species (“avarter” in Swedish) as she was turning in the keys to our old apartment, it seems appropriate to post an update on where we are with the mediation that is ongoing via Sweden‘s anti-discrimination bureau.

Basically, we’re in what I’m very kindly calling a “procedural stall.”  (There are plenty of other choice words for it but I’m trying to keep this entry R-rated.)  Turns out Cruella DeVille’s participation in this little exercise is completely voluntary at this point (something she’s probably not even aware of), and the attorney for the anti-discrimination office has no authority to force her to cooperate.

Which is why, a year later, the Wicked Witch of Southern Sweden has yet to explain her use of that particular word when telling Dr. Darling how happy she was to be rid of her as a tenant…even though my ever-vigilant Swede happened to record the entire conversation.

Surprisingly, the recording…our “slam-dunk” piece of evidence…has played a significant role in the delay. We sent it to the attorney as an mp3 file, not realizing at the time that ALL documentation we provide in the case would be forwarded directly to Cruella…who we are fairly certain does not even know how to turn on a computer.

So she has requested a transcript of the recording…even though her offensive comment has been written out in virtually every piece of correspondence we’ve submitted since Dr. D filed the initial complaint. Sadly (but not surprisingly) the anti-discrimination office is not too keen to do this since it will involve paying an independent transcription service. We’re hoping to get around it by providing the recording on both a regular CD and a cassette tape in our next response.

In the meantime, the mediation rule requiring that all of our documentation and evidence be sent directly to Leona Helmsley has given our main supporting witness a case of seriously cold feet. This former neighbor was prepared to provide an affídavit stating that she had referred to us as dykes and had asked him if we were “reliable” when she learned that he and his wife were friends with us.  But when he found out that this document was going to end up on her kitchen table, he said he couldn’t cooperate out of fear of harrassment from her.

On the one hand, I understand where he’s coming from…she really is a nutjob and she’s got a lot of resources to draw on if she decides to cause him trouble. But on the other hand, both Dr. D and I feel he’s being excessively whimpy since it’s not a given that she’ll retaliate…only a slight possibility. And of course any harassment could be reported to the police, something that would completely mortify her.

He further feels, and I agree with him on this point, that Cruella should have to explain her use of the word “avarter” before Dr. Darling is required to provide evidence of why she interpreted it as specific commentary on her sexual orientation.  He just can’t see why his testimony is necessary at this stage of the game, and it’s a reasonable question to be asking.

But this is where it gets a bit dicey. In addition to handling the “mediation” (such as it is), the anti-discrimination office is also trying to decide whether or not it will file a lawsuit on our behalf if a resolution cannot be reached. And needless to say, our former neighbor’s non-cooperation is not exactly inspiring the confidence of their attorney.

Which doesn’t mean we can’t still go after her with a private lawyer (who won’t have to produce his testimony unless and until the case actually ends up in court). But that will also mean shelling out attorney fees and court costs, so if it comes to that we’ll have some serious thinking to do.

A further option is to forget about the sexual orientation issue altogether and just file a police report on the incident itself.  Insulting someone that way is a crime in Sweden…though law enforcement typically doesn’t spend a whole lot of time on such cases. (I get it…there are plenty of other criminals that are alot more dangerous than Cruella, though few who are as stupid.)

But even so, we would probably get some serious satisfaction out of filing it since Cruella’s latest response to the anti-discrimination office indicated that she was thinking about reporting Dr. Darling to the police for recording the conversation in the first place…something that was perfectly legal for her to do. This really brought out the viking in my gentle Swede, who has responded (in Swedish of course):

“Go ahead…make my day.”


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Feed my ego!

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