Pop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Why are people so awful sometimes?

I’m going to be a little off-topic today, and it’s because I am upset.

As our regular readers know, I spent the majority of this month on a long conference/research trip in preparation for finishing my dissertation and submitting around the end of this year. It was, all told, a lovely and productive time. At least until I got home.

As you can see down there in my bio, I have a cat. He wandered into my apartment a year ago and became mine, despite the fact that my rather frequent and extended trips out of town make having a pet a sort of logistical nightmare. This time, I thought I had found a solution in an acquaintance who was looking for a sublet while in the process of moving. He agreed to live in my place (rent-free!) and look after Roy while I was gone, so I wouldn’t have to worry about boarding him or otherwise changing his environment.*

Everything seemed just peachy when I left, but it took only twenty four hours for me to get a text message from strangers who had found my escaped kitty. When this happened a second time two days later, I began to get really upset. And while thankfully Roy never managed to get out of the apartment again during the trip, nothing could have prepared me for the disaster I came home to: nothing had been cleaned in weeks (including, seemingly, Roy’s water bubbler), kitchen covered in grime and food stains with all the pots and pans coated in a mystery substance, trash and empty bottles everywhere, and best of all, all of my bedding soaked in cat pee and stuffed in laundry bags (with my clothes), just waiting for me. To add insult to injury, the sitter had also removed my mattress protector and thus allowed Roy to pee directly on the mattress instead of, oh, I don’t know, closing the bedroom door.

Coming home after a 20 hour travel day, about the last thing I wanted to do was eight hours of cleaning just to be able to sleep in my own bed. The sitter skipped out as I went to pick up some cleaning fluid, but managed to leave a suit hanging from my curtainrod that then pulled it out of the wall and broke a lamp. At least, I thought, nothing more could go wrong.

But after almost a week had gone by and most of the damage was undone, the sitter showed up unannounced at my door to collect his things, and taking advantage of my distraction with things on the stove, used the opportunity to swipe my phone from where it had been sitting on the couch. The phone I had used to photograph a manuscript in Venice that I had not yet had a chance to back up.** I immediately noticed it was missing (I had been using it shortly before he arrived and had not gone out all day, so I know it had to be him), and texted him (with teh googles), thinking he took it by mistake. An acrimonious conversation and a brief but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to track the phone by GPS later, it was gone for good. I can only be thankful that I had backed up another source which is far more important to the dissertation, but the whole situation just eats me up.

So today’s question is: WTF? How can people be so awful? What can actually lead a person to so thoroughly take advantage of someone’s generosity like that? Aside from filling out a police report, does anyone have any other suggestions for how to handle this situation?

*These are additionally problematic because Roy is toilet-trained. Which is possible and relatively painless, despite Rebecca’s objections. Going back and forth to a box thus requires a readjustment period and I try to avoid it when possible.

**Just in case: if anyone is going to the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana any time soon and would like to do me a favour…

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Featured image: Roman Tworkowski

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Dan holds a PhD in Music History from a major Canadian university and is now pursuing a M.Ed in Higher Education at another one, because he likes to collect very expensive paper. He performs stand-up comedy at venues all over Toronto when he's not busy playing JRPGs with his cat, Roy. You can follow him at @incontrariomotu, but he isn't going anywhere. You can also send him a tip on PayPal (paypal.me/dandonnelly) if you like his work!


  1. July 31, 2013 at 3:35 pm —

    Ugh, I’m mad just reading this. You must be livid. Shall I come up to Canada and beat him up for you? Because I will do that!

    • July 31, 2013 at 4:34 pm —

      We’ll see how the police handle it. I have actually gathered a fair amount of proof at this point, thanks to the magic of GPS.

  2. August 1, 2013 at 5:22 pm —

    I believe human nature is plainly selfish and hence, too often, bad. So the best protection is to expect the worst, and be prepared, in order to avoid deception. It sounds sad, but facts tend to prove it.

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