Clearly, something had happened at the meeting at which he assured her nothing would happen
The men sitting in the head office of Second Stage Living were very happy for Stagler to step into the role of neighborhood council chairman at Alameda.
Adler, who had held the post since the first families had moved into Alameda, had a severe heart condition and now the doctors were insisting that he take it easy. They wished Adler well, of course, he should be gezunt and shtark, but from their perspective, it was just as well that he was handing over the reins to someone else.
He had been, they agreed, impossible. The gardeners came too early and made too much noise, the garbage removal people drove like chayehs, and did anyone realize when they had planned the development that the turning lane on Aspen only got a green every three hours and you could finish the whole Tehillim in the time it took to wait to turn in?
In the Second Stage office, Beri Glick from resident services muttered that of course Adler had a heart problem, he was always stressed. Zalman Frankel at the next desk looked at him disapprovingly, so Beri looked around and said, “Okay, okay, sorry, whatever, he should be well. The new guy from Queens seems perfect, is all I’m saying. Change is a good thing, sometimes… and Frankel, you don’t have to look at me that way, like you’re the gaavad of the Appropriate Comment Beis Din, okay?”
Reuven Stagler was sitting in the small waiting room, engrossed in his daf yomi Gemara as he waited for a meeting he wasn’t sure he still wanted. He had never been a committee type, happy to pay his dues and allow others to enjoy the limelight.
But listening is free. And he had more free time than ever before.
Nechama watched Reuven park and head up the white stone path to their new house.
Clearly, something had happened at the meeting at which he assured her nothing would happen. She couldn’t say how she knew, but watching her husband walk, she could see that something had shifted. He was looking around the neighborhood, suddenly, as if taking it all in for the first time.
Reuven was trying not to smile as he came in, which only made him look more like he was smiling, his whole face engaged in the effort of trying not to show emotion.
“What?” she asked, not even trying to play it cool. “Tell me!”
He flopped down on the couch, which was uncharacteristic, and laughed. “Okay, okay, hail to the chief, say hello to the new boss man of the Alameda Estates residents’ council.”
“Wait, what?” She put down the phone and sat across from him. “Tell me everything.”
“Nah, I’m kidding, it’s no big deal, but I feel like I just took on some sort of new responsibility.” Reuven looked past her, as if he himself couldn’t believe what had just happened. “I came just to be polite, you know that, but I listened to what they said and it made sense. There’s a real opportunity here, I have things that frustrate me, other residents have their things. It’s just about creating a central address between all of us and the main office and tackling the issues, no big deal.”
“So only you? You’re the address? You’ll be great, of course, but it’s just you?” Nechama hoped she sounded encouraging rather than nervous.
“No, of course not. I’m just the interim council chairman, there’ll be elections every two years. But for now, my job is to encourage people to come forward as candidates and also to get people to vote. So that’s all part of it, starting the process. The last guy didn’t work out and that’s why things aren’t running perfectly yet.”
Nechama wasn’t sure what the whole “boss man” thing was, then: to her, it sounded like the developers had just gotten her husband to do their dirty work and get things in order for them. Wisely, she kept these thoughts to herself and told him how surprised the kids would be that their quiet, unassuming father was stepping out of his comfort zone this way.
“Look,” Reuven explained, “moving here and switching to remote, I gained two hours a day that I used to spend commuting. Now they’re suddenly free. There are no kids around and no one needs help with math homework. I think I might enjoy this, for now, figuring out how to make sure the development gets its services, that things are running smoothly.”
He stood up. “Okay, I have to get to work now. Soon, they’re sending an email to all residents with the update and then I won’t have any yishuv hadaas.”
He went into the study and was soon loudly engaged in a routine sales call, but she was able to detect an extra note of excitement in his voice.
When she had led them to Lakewood, this was something she hadn’t imagined, but he seemed pleased about it.
Shaindy Brucker didn’t have a smartphone, and she checked her email at the computer in the corner of the kitchen twice a day, in the morning and evening. It was an enjoyable ritual, and she would usually take a hot drink with her as she went through the mix of junk, tzedakah appeals, reminders from dentists she had stopped using years before, and pictures of eineklach.
Now, both her hands wrapped around the steaming mug of chamomile tea, she noticed an email in the middle of the screen that made her break her usual order, top to bottom.
Attn: All Residents, Alameda Gardens
We are pleased to announce that Mr. Reuven Stagler, of 105 Wimbledon Loop, has agreed to serve as interim council chairman of the Alameda Gardens Residents Association. This is a voluntary position, and Mr. Stagler will oversee the process of orderly elections in order to create a fully functioning neighborhood council in the near future. Until that time, he remains the official liaison between residents of the neighborhood and management.
There are many crucial decisions that have to be made in the coming weeks, including, but not limited to:
-Placing speed bumps throughout the neighborhood
-Arranging men’s/women’s hours at the health club
-Usage of the simchah hall for outside simchahs, and what constitutes an outside simchah
-Hiring a full-time rav for the shul and community
-Regulations about noise during the night-time hours
– Tzedakah events in the neighborhood
We encourage you to make your voice heard and participate in these important discussions by taking part in these elections to the best of your ability. We are grateful to Mr. Stagler for his selflessness and dedication to the klal and wish him every hatzlachah.
Second Stage Developments
Shaindy read the email a second time, and then a third time. She had gone walking with Nechama Stagler two hours earlier and heard nothing about this major development, which was worrying. Why the secret?
Shaindy stood up, planning to call Chaim over and show him the email, but then she thought the better of it. He would wonder what the big deal was, and then tell her that the more tzedakah parties they had in the neighborhood, the better. Maybe he would even head over to clap Reuven Stagler on the shoulder and wish him a big mazel tov, and that would look so desperate.
No, she concluded, it would be much better for everyone if her husband didn’t know about this at all.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 886)
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