As I watched him walk up the sidewalk that morning, my antenna automatically began to sound warning signals inside of me. As that very small, white-haired fellow with the bright blue eyes and the strange bounce in his walk entered the foyer and looked into the office, I made eye contact with him . . . and I knew instantly that something was just not right about him. As he entered the office and extended his hand and introduced himself, I felt chills run up my back just being near him. I immediately recognized he was very well-educated, but sensed he was off the charts unbalanced as well. Let me explain my story with you about Marvin . . .
I had just assumed control of a lovely apartment community designed for the elderly . . . located just to the south of San Antonio. That morning was my initial visit to the property. Of course, I had called the on-site manager a few days earlier and scheduled an appointment with her to get acquainted. That is always an important time for me as I evaluate the property, the management system in place, the on-site staff, and tried to make a decision if any or all could continue on and work for me. Actually there are a number of things I am alert about at that time . . . including signs suggesting certain things . . . such as things suggesting a relationship between the staff and a resident . . . other than just that of landlord’s representative and resident. Other such relationships can become quite problematic for me at the property level. For some reason, I quickly sensed that something was going on between Sally and Marvin . . . in spite of there being at least a 30-year gap between their ages. My first indication of that was a look I saw passed between them, and then strengthened by him addressing me by name, and telling me how happy he was to have me in control, and he even named my company by name and commented on “our wonderful reputation”! He could only have known that information by someone telling him. I filed a mental note with my suspicion of who had informed him.
As Sally guided us into the Community Room, the front door opened and a man pushing a cart tried to make his way into the room. Sally explained that it was the local Meals-on-Wheels program delivery, and excused herself to go assist the gentleman. As she left, Marvin, obviously pleased to have a moment alone with me, said that he was terribly concerned about his older neighbors and their declining health. I remarked that was certainly a sad part of the life process. He came to an abrupt halt, and said, “It does not have to be!” I replied something along the lines that there had been those in search of the fountain of youth as far back as Ponce de Leon, but it had never been discovered. He smiled the most peculiar, weird smile I think I have ever seen, and said, “I have made the discovery!” Thinking he was joking, I chuckled. He was offended and informed me that he had spent forty years as a chemist with Dow Chemical, and that his life-work was on that very concern. He further announced that if I would permit him to spray his magic potion on the Meals-on-Wheels’ lunches before they were disturbed to the residents, he would personally guarantee me that in forty-five days everyone in the complex would be able to walk without the need of canes, walkers, wheel chairs, and such. I recall telling him that was a bold claim, and his assuring me that it was absolutely true. I suggested that if that was true, he ought to pursue a patent on his discovery. He said that was his plan, but first he had to have a study group involved and he was proposing that his neighbors be his study group.
I asked him if he had discussed the matter with his neighbors and local health officials. He said that he had discussed it with his neighbors, but they were all negative on it. I asked why they were negative and I will never forget what he said, “They refuse to use my product because they are all crazy . . . and they all seem to think I am crazy!”
I told Marvin that I would be interested in seeing the list of ingredients in his miracle cure . . . he stopped and looked at me like I had lost my mind, and said “Well, if I was willing to share that information with just any Tom, Dick, or Harry, I would not have much a secret anymore, now would I?”
I chuckled and reminded him that there were laws about tampering with folk’s food without proper disclosure. I asked Marvin if he was aware that Federal Law required that everything for human consumption required a label identifying ingredients. His response was that there were far too many laws today.
A few weeks later while I was on the property, Marvin made it a point to walk over and inform me that I was a huge disappointment to him. He said he had had high hopes for our friendship, but now felt that I was a most unreasonable fellow and he was unable to waste any more time on me.
Over time, several things about Marvin rose to the surface, including:
- That he was originally from New York City;
- He had, indeed, been a chemist for Dow (and he had retirement funds from Dow);
- His primary source of food came from the dumpsters behind the local supermarket;
- That he and Sally had developed a relationship much like that of a father/daughter and he often loaned her money;
- That his neighbors did believe him to be insane; and
- He was a hoarder . . . like those we see on TV (my first experience with this).
There was a rumor that a great tragedy had happened in his family and had left him all alone and disturbed in South Texas . . . far from his home in New York. I never saw any evidence of that, but it was a rumor many believed.
Soon the condition of Marvin’s apartment/housekeeping became an issue . . . and a serious issue at that (almost health-department-involvement serious). It finally reached a point that I had an official notice sent to him by Certified Mail, advising him that some of our company officials would visit the property and inspect his dwelling, along with a warning that if his apartment failed the inspection, he would be required to move out. I remember it all happened during the time the USA was involved in the war with Iraq (Desert Storm). Our military was desperately seeking the location of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) that had prompted our initial invasion. There was great frustration and they seemed to have disappeared into thin air.
About 10:30 p.m. the night before the inspection-team was scheduled to inspect Marvin’s place, my home phone rang. It was Marvin . . . wanting to make a deal. He asked me if I wanted to become a very famous man and an American hero. I advised him that sort of thing didn’t seem too attractive to me. He said, “If you will call off the inspection, I will tell you where the WMD are hidden and you can help the President!” Through the course of the conversation, he disclosed that under the cover of night, he, personally, had secretly and privately observed the storage of those WMD in a storage warehouse belonging to his former landlord in far West Texas. I told Marvin that there was no deal to be had and the inspectors would be there as planned. He said that he did not believe that any reasonable judge would force an old man to move over a few housekeeping issues. I said that he might be right and suggested that he offer the same WMD deal with the judge. He assured me that he would do that very thing!
When all the dust settled, Marvin failed the inspection and we had been awarded possession of the apartment in the local court system, and our folks entered the apartment with the court order in hand and began to clean up and move Marvin’s stuff out to the dump truck, they made the startling discovery of nine (9) dead cats in Marvin’s freezer . . . individually wrapped in freezer bags.
I have wondered through the years about just what the ingredients in Marvin’s miracle potion might have been . . . that stuff he wanted to secretly spray on his neighbor’s Meals-on-Wheels lunches. I suspect that I know what one of the ingredients was.
I learned recently that poor old Marvin had passed away. As I thought back over time, I am certain that Marvin was certainly the most peculiar individual I have ever encountered . . . and that is covering a lot of ground quickly . . . as I have encountered some really peculiar people over the years.