Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Move-In Tale of Woe, Anniversary Edition

In honor of the 8th anniversary of moving into our house, I present to you a retelling of the nightmarish move-in tale of woe.  And let me begin by saying that even after all these years, this story still isn't funny to me. I hope one day it will be.  But I seriously doubt it.

Back in 2004, we bought our house from a 60-ish couple who lived in it with the wife’s elderly mom. They had fallen on hard times and were offering the house for an amazing price. They were nice enough people who were very Southern, salt-of-the-Earth types with religious tendencies and not much formal education. They had a harpsichord in the living room, a flat bed trailer parked out front, an RV parked out back and when they told a story it lasted for 45 minutes and you could only understand every other word. You know the kind of people to whom I'm referring…Morons. For purposes of this blog I’ll just call them the Rons. And if you’re reading this and getting pissy that I’m not a very nice person, well, no shit. If you’re offended, this blog probably isn't the best place for you to hang out.  I'm sure you can find sunshine and puppy dog kisses somewhere else.

After we decided to relocate to the “new” house it took us about a year to finally get our old house sold and finalize our offer on the new house. During this year we were in fairly frequent contact with the Rons' realtor, who would occasionally refer to them as “high maintenance”, “na├»ve” and “confused by the ways of the world”. This should have been our first indication that we were about to enter into a shit storm of biblical proportions.

We made our low-ball offer, they countered, we accepted and started the arrangements to close on the house. However, the patriarch of the family, Papa Ron, kept canceling the appointment to sign the paperwork. According to his realtor, with whom we had become pretty friendly during the year of negotiations, the Rons didn’t want to move and were waiting for God to intervene and provide them with a way to stay. Yet another indication that this transaction may not go as smoothly as we had originally hoped.

After a few days of wrangling (apparently God decided that he had better things to do than work a Moron Family miracle in this case), we finally closed on the house and finished our preparations to move.

As a self-professed “planner”, I’m a little bit anal about moving. Actually, I’m totally anal. I have a structured system for packing and labeling household goods which makes perfect sense to me, and probably no sense whatsoever to anyone else. Everything was carefully boxed and labeled under my organizational system: boxes were labeled using a specific color label for each room, and the labels had number on them to indicate when they would be needed (1 = open first day, 2 = open first week, 3 = save for last). So a box with a red label and the number 1 would go in the kitchen and be opened on the first day. Told ya I’m anal. Call me if you ever need me to organize a move for you. I’m the frigging Liberace of relocation. I’m the grand master.

I had arranged for the movers to pick up our items at the old house on a Friday and deliver them to the new house the next day. I had a cleaning crew, carpet cleaners and repair workers scheduled to meet at the new house the night before the furniture delivery to get the house ready for us to move into. I had planned this move down to the tiniest detail and it was going like clockwork.

Jeff and I got the old house cleaned up for the new owner and headed to the new house to meet our workers and get ready for the furniture delivery the next day.

It was about an hour drive from the old house in far West Atlanta to the new house in far North Atlanta and we caravanned down the road with our air mattresses, a handful of personal items, my old dog Max (best dog ever) and Jeff’s stupid cat Sebastian, which his former wife gave to us because she “couldn’t keep him anymore”. That's a story for another day.

We had given Papa Ron and the rest of the Ron tribe until 4 p.m. to vacate the new house, which was the same time frame our purchaser gave to us to vacate the old house.

We pulled into the new house at roughly 5 p.m….and it was clearly still occupied. We knocked on the door (and I'm not sure why, since it was our house) and when the Rons let us in we saw that everything was in exactly the same place as it had been the last time we toured the house prior to the closing. Pictures were on the walls, furniture was in place, not a single moving box in sight. The Rons were all sitting around like it was just another day in the neighborhood.

I immediately burst into tears, which I almost never do. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve cried in our marriage and this instance is #1 on my bust-out-balling list. It was a world class meltdown. I was tired and cranky and I had hoped to never see a member of the Ron clan again for the rest of my life after the closing. Yet here they all were in *our* house. My well-planned move was flushed down the toilet. Torpedoed. Totally kaput.

I cry so rarely that Jeff panicked. He kept looking at me and then looking around the house, again and again and again. Then he shoved me out of the house, back in my car and said “Follow me.” We went to the first available restaurant and he immediately handed me a glass of wine. He was so concerned about my condition that he even let me leave my car running in the parking lot with Max and Sebastian locked inside because I was worried it would get too hot for them.

He called the Rons' realtor, who in turn called the Rons. The realtor called us back and said “apparently they didn’t make arrangements to move.” No shit, Sherlock. You couldn’t have helped them out on this one? We had to ask him four times to have them arrange to have the power turned off so we could turn it on in our name, so he had to have known that they were clueless.

We were stuck with two cars full of pets and crapola, cleaning crews on the way, no place to stay overnight and movers scheduled for delivery the next morning. Awesome.

We made the only plan we could. We went back to the house, helped the Rons empty out one room, put Max, Sebastian and our two carloads of stuff in it and closed the door.

Then we went out in the hallway to have a little pow-wow with the Ron tribe. The first thing Papa Ron said was “We called to get a moving truck this morning, but there weren’t any”. They called *on moving day*, after we had already closed on the house, to rent a truck. Bet you’re not feeling so bad that I refer to them as the Morons now, are you?

Jeff was squeezing my hand like it was his lifeline to sanity. He asked Papa Ron what he planned to do. At this point, Mama Ron and Grandma Ron started taking pictures off the walls and generally looking busy so they could avoid the conversation. This was Papa Rons' response (and this is the God’s honest truth – I haven’t changed a word of it): “We figured you’re such nice people that you would work with us.” What. The. Hell. Did he think we were all going to be roommates? Or may be that we would decide not to move in and just give them the house? Is there a stronger word than Moron for these people? At this point, Grandma looks over at us and says “I always thought I’d live in this house until I died”. Well, Grandma, if this shit continues we can make your wish come true. For all of you.

I’d like to say I felt sympathy for the Rons, but I think at this point everyone knows me better than that.

Jeff told Papa Ron that while we appreciated his predicament (a total lie), the Ron family possessions needed to be out of the house by midnight. You tell 'em, Jeff!  I’m not sure what else occurred during the conversation, because Jeff opened the door to our one room in the house, gently shoved me inside, stepped back out and closed the door. I spent the next few hours in a fetal position on the floor. I don’t handle having a grenade thrown into my well-planned mission very well.

Eventually I heard the arrival of additional cars and trucks as Ron reinforcements arrived.  The Moron Army. Apparently there are many members of the Ron extended family, none of whom were aware that the Ron tribe was scheduled to move. They started heaving Ron possessions out of the house onto flat bed trailers and into their vehicles and the RV in the back yard. Papa Ron asked if they could leave some things for pickup later and Jeff told him he could stack items in the sun room on the back of the house and in the garage. The Moron Army focused their attention on relocating furniture to the designated areas. By midnight the house was empty of most of the Ron possessions and the Ron Clan drove off into the night, promising (threatening?) to be back the next day to finish.

The movers were scheduled to arrive early in the morning, so Jeff and I stayed up most of the night cleaning the house prior to the arrival of the furniture (we had to cancel our cleaners due to the complete annihilation of my moving schedule).

After two hours of sleep, I got up around 7 a.m. and took Max out the front door for a walk. And there…in the front yard…I found Grandma Ron and her teacup poodle out for a little stroll. They had left frigging Grandma behind to sleep in the RV! What the hell is wrong with these people? At a minimum, they should have had the courtesy to let us know that we’d have company overnight. The tears started welling up in my eyes again as I realized that we may never get rid of the Rons. Ever. Just before I had another total meltdown, Jeff walked up behind me and said “Do you think she’s a gift with purchase?” Sometimes he knows the perfect thing to say to cheer me up.

Our movers and the Moron Army arrived within minutes of each other and there was a crazed transfer of possessions throughout the day. Ron washer out…our washer in. Ron mattress out…our mattress in. All day long. It was total chaos. Jeff avoided looking directly at me all day because he thought I’d burst into tears at any point. Meanwhile, neighbors were sneaking up to Jeff and me and telling us how glad they were to be rid of the Rons. I could certainly understand why. I’ve never had such an enthusiastic welcome to a new neighborhood.

It took three weeks for the Rons to pick up the remainder of their belongings. Three long, painful weeks during which we never quite knew when a Ron would pop up on our lawn with a pickup truck and trailer...and the occasional sob story to try to make us feel guilty for buying the Ron estate. It was excruciating. I’m stressed out even typing this story.

Eventually we saw the last of the Rons, although their realtor became a close pal of ours and provided us with the occasional update. They’ve been through several more houses in the years that we’ve lived in our current home, which means more families have probably been through a Ron reaming. I’m considering starting a support group.

You may think this tale is over, but I saved the best nugget for last: About six months after the Ron were finally (Finally!) out of our lives, I picked up the local newspaper and saw picture of Papa Ron on the front page. He was interviewed because he was one of the first customers at the new DMV near our house. In the interview he said (and I shit you not) “I’m one of the first people here because my registration expires next month and I like to plan ahead”.  If I could pinpoint the time in my life when my head was most likely to explode, it would have been the precise moment when I read that quote.

Papa Ron better pray that I never see him again, although based on his track record on prayer results it would probably guarantee that we would bump into each other someday.

I may not be a very nice person, but at least I'm not as much of a complete failure as a member of society as he is. Yet.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Just one more thing...

My theory on happiness is pretty simple.  As long as I have Jeff, 2 dogs and a convertible, I'm all set.  Jeff makes sure I have all three of these things, and we've been rolling along quite nicely for 15 years.

But lately I've had lust in my heart.  I've been feeling like I need one more thing.  Just one: A Birkin bag.  Oh dear God, how I want one.  Olive Green, perhaps.  May be ostrich.  I. Must. Have. It.

Photo credit: http://hermesqueen.bigcartel.com/

I've been to the Hermes store in London.  I've seen them with my own eyes.  Hand crafted.  Lined in goat skin.  Free of logos, but universally recognized.  And coveted.  They've got their own Facebook page, for crap's sake!

Frankly, I figure if David Beckham lets his wife buy 100 of them, Jeff should at least cough up for one.  They're made to last a lifetime and they never go out of style.  Buying one makes perfect sense! To me.  C'mon people, I neeeeeeed this.  What's $10,000 or more in the scope of a lifetime?  A little bit of nothing!  Sure, I was raised better than to actually believe this, but I really want that damn bag.

I tried to find a cheaper substitute.  Michael Kors makes a nice Hermes style bag.  But it's not the same.  Not even close.  It's all or nothing for me, peeps.

Jeff's immediate response when I mentioned my dark desire was this: "You're not getting a purse that's worth more than your car.  Ever."  Which brings me back to my desire for a new car.

I've been working on the arguments to further my cause.  Try to stay with me on this.  Jeff uses the "Rich Dad" program to manage our finances.  Based on my understanding of this theory, an asset is anything that earns you money or appreciates in value.  Your car, for example, is not an asset - even if it's paid for.  Your house is an asset.  Rental properties are assets.  Diamonds?  Assets.  But I don't have lust in my heart for diamonds.

Do you know another item that appreciates in value?  That you can sell at any time for more than you paid for it?  That is so scarce that at one time there was a five year wait to purchase one? You got it: a Birkin Bag.  I rest my case.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Now accepting backyard reservations!

It's time for an exciting round of....Meet!  Our!  Squatter!!! AKA: more crap that only happens to me.

We've been in our house for 8 years, and during that time it's been pretty obvious that we have the occasional "guest" in our backyard woods.  We've found discarded shirts, and pants - yikes, as well as leftovers from meals and empty beer cans.  Many, many empty beer cans.  Also the occasional condom or hypodermic needle, but those are rare.  In addition to an unsmoked joint once, which I disposed of in a manner I felt was most appropriate.  Consider it a finder's fee.

However, it's very rare to catch sight of our elusive guests.  The closest I came was a couple of years ago when I was walking the dogs one morning and I heard a digital watch alarm go off deep in the woods and then the sounds of someone rousing for the day.  And even then I never saw the actual person.

Until last month.  Last month we met Denise.  I know her last name and I have pictures of her, but I figure she has enough problems without me piling on.

Denise took up residency in the pathway between our house and the trails that we use to walk the dogs every day.  I came across her sleeping there one Saturday morning.  When I saw her, I dragged the dogs to the side and walked around her.  She never woke up, which is pretty amazing since my pack & I don't exactly walk in stealth mode.

I decided I'd just leave her alone.  She didn't seem to be a threat and calling the cops wasn't going to do anyone any good.  SIDE NOTE:  If it had been a man sleeping back there, I probably would have called the cops in a skinny minute.  Apparently I'm a survivalist sexist.  Fear the penis.

Denise camped a few days and Jeff and I left her alone.  About mid-week we noticed that her possessions were still back there, but no sign of Denise.  I know it's irrational, but I was worried.  I was so worried that I made Jeff go back there and see what he could find in her stuff.  "Made" him do it might be an overstatement.  I bugged the crap out of him until he agreed to do it just to get me off his back.

Jeff went out and looked in her backpack (which is how we found her name on an appointment card for a mental health facility), but he didn't find anything to indicate what may have happened to her.  After another couple of days with no sightings, I got really worried.  What if something happened to her and no one but me gave a damn?  Looking out for your squatters is a big responsibility.  Jeff decided to bag up her personal items and take them to the local police substation so I would shut up about it.

The police station was closed due to the stupid economy, but when he was leaving an officer happened to pull up.  Jeff started to explain the situation to him, but before he finished the officer said "Oh, you mean Denise?  I know her.  She's harmless, but when she's drunk she'll swear a blue streak at you"  Why does that sound so familiar?

The officer took the bag of her possessions and said he'd return them to her family.  He assured us that she'd turn up eventually.

The police officer knew her so well that it piqued our interest, so we did some research.  Call it "meet the squatter", if you will.  Turns out she gets arrested about once a month for one or many of the following charges: Criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, urban camping, outside consumption, public indecency and fighting words.  By coincidence, I'm also a big fan of each of these activities, except urban camping.  I'm a city girl.  And if "fighting words" is a crime, I may need to rethink the way I'm behaving in my marriage.

She's never been arrested for drugs or prostitution, which makes her OK in my book.  Welcome to the family, Denise.  Hope to see you soon!