(Please excuse me. I don’t often throw hissy-fits but the one I’m about to pitch is about to put Scarlet O’Hara to shame. I’ll be fine in the morning, but until then approach with chocolate.)
At exactly 10:00 I was giving Firstborn a refill on his snack when Hubby poked his head around the corner. “They’re here.” It was a bit surprising to see a well-dressed woman walking up the driveway because there was not a car anywhere in sight. She didn’t come to the door, either. Instead she wandered around the grounds while the property management agent, Julie, arrived and came in. Let me stop to publicly bless Julie’s heart. I’ve called her so many times during our renting that it could be considered stalking. She was not the original agent assigned to this home when we arrived, which made her job much harder when things started going to Hell in a hand-basket.
Hubby asked, “How are you?” Her face said it all. “I’m not sure.” She quickly relayed that the reason another member of the company had called to arrange this meeting was because the wife of this owner couple had reamed her out in the office to such a degree that it almost came to blows. “When she was leaning over my desk, yelling at me she nearly hit me. I told her to SIT DOWN. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Good Lord. I can’t imagine any woman standing over Julie screaming like a fire engine in July—particularly because Julie is always wearing fabulous high heels.
“I tried to explain that while renters are in the house, who paid rent on time every month no less, she cannot just access the house whenever she wanted. She didn’t comprehend this. I can’t be in the same room with her.” Poor Julie. I asked who the first woman was who was wandering around the porch. “The realtor”, Julie answered. The owners brought a realtor to a house in which I still live to look around to sell it because they COULDN’T wait 9 more days.
At that moment a Jeep pulled up. I could see the uniform from the house. Suffice to say, this man seems impressed with himself. The wife was dressed nicely enough, but there’s only so much one can do to camouflage crazy.
At this point the first woman- Madam Grounds Inspector- joined the couple and we all stared at each other through the glass on the door. No one smiled.
As they came in I smiled and we introduced ourselves as nicely as possible. To do otherwise would be unsouthern, as Blanche Devaroe would say.
As soon as the introductions were done the realtor announced, “I’m just going to turn the lights on and walk through each room so they can see the house.” Oh, you are? Be my guest. Hubby broke in—“Oh, I’ve got a guided tour ready for you.” Everyone looked a bit surprised. Hubby handed Secondborn to Julie. She needed baby therapy. Second born went right to her arms, snuggled in, and made himself at home.
At this moment a man I’ve never seen walked up to my front door. He looked like he’d been sweating in the yard all morning. He was wearing sweat-soaked , stained clothes, black tube socks, and black work boots. He discarded them on the porch and looked inside. Julie whispered, “That’s the realtor’s husband.” He walked in and joined the tour, leaving warm footprints at the door. I was stunned.
I went to the kitchen to brace myself and give Firstborn a sippy cup refill. As Hubby showed the thick tile cracks to the owner and explained we were told to “cover it with a rug” once Firstborn cut his foot on it.
Realtor looked over at me and asked sharply, “Is that window cracked?” I turned to the long, white streak in the kitchen window. “Yes. It was here previously and is listed on the inspection list.”
“Can you open the blinds so they can see it?” Sure. I then pointed out the stains from the orange paint that graced every surface of the house when we moved in, being sure to clarify that it was NOT the work of my toddler. Owner-wife started pouting, writing on her clipboard, and knitting her brow. “Do we have a tape measure? Can we measure the floors? I think we should take measurements!” Owner-husband said, “Maybe now isn’t the best time.” I love enablers, don’t you? She wasn’t happy.
In the laundry room, which only has a small pile of ironing waiting for me, two ants ran by. Miraculous, considering the battalion I had just wiped out minutes before.
“Oh! Ants!” Yep. I held my tongue as Josh suggested they pay for spraying. Add it to the Clipboard of Pity-Panick.
I sat with Julie as the guided tour continued to the master bedroom where we had plugged holes from previous tenants. Someone ran a wire from the roof down through the master bedroom ceiling and floor, down to the front room baseboard. Lament with us. “Oh no!”
As the tour continued to Firstborn’s room, he noticed that the herd was on the move. A black and yellow Batman logo ran up the stairs with a cry. He pushed his way past a forest of legs. “NO!” I agree, Buddy. Hubby showed them the molding water damage from the roof repair they didn’t authorize and stickers that had been layered with paint and a border rather than removed.
(Look closely. They used to be navy blue and spray painted.)
Owner-wife just about lost it. We continued to the guest room to show her the ruined carpet, covered in the orange mystery stain.
Remember, this paint had been on every wall and every carpet in the house when we arrived. They refused to authorize new carpeting “except where the baby would be”.I explained that industrial strength carpet cleaner didn’t make a dent. I repeated that we had entered the house in this state and had done all we could to improve the situation. Wife turned to Husband and said, “I don’t understand. You came to check the house a year and a half ago and it didn’t look like this!” My patient Hubby said again that we suspected vandalism. This was paintball-type destruction. Then, standing three feet away from me, Wife turned to the realtor and asked, “Do we have any pictures from the property management company from before THEY moved in to document this?”
What do you mean, they? We, the people who have patiently cared for this home despite the ordeals we endured? We, the people who are graciously touring you through a clean and tidy home despite the fact that two kids 2 and under live here? We, the people who you are accommodating your unbelievable demands?
I interrupted, “Oh, YES I do. There are only a few because we were mid-move and I had the camera with me on a 28 hour drive with a newborn, but we do have documentation.”
With a few more head-shakes and sighs of self-pity, I got a cursory, “We won’t take up more of your time.” It was then that the realtor announced that we are neighbors. Realtor and Yard Man had built the house in the empty lot. Months of construction that prevented nap time… all them. They are the ones who never wave back when we drive by! “You’re really quiet neighbors”, she said with a smile. At least she didn’t hear the sounds of a two-year-old regularly. Outside playtime isn’t always quiet.
As they all headed to the porch, Firstborn ducked through legs and escaped to play. I followed, eavesdropping on the conversation. Realtor looked at the exterior over the garage and said with woe, “Oh, this will all need to be power-washed.” DUN-Dun-DUN!
Owner-husband said with an attitude-filled sigh, “Well, we tried to do that last night but it didn’t work.”
AND THAT’S WHEN I COULD TAKE NO MORE.
I flipped my head around, extended my index finger and called out “Excuse me!”
Firstborn stopped and stared at me in silence. He knows this tone.
The adults just stared back in indignant disbelief.
“I’m sorry, but the man you sent to power-wash last night showed up unannounced, at night, and rang the doorbell over a sign that said “Baby Sleeping”. I had no warning. He is welcome to return in two weeks, but not at night when my kids are asleep and I’m still here.”
Wife looked down at her clipboard with her head tipped to hide the crazy. Did I detect avoidance or many a bit of embarrassment?
Owner-husband said, “Well, it wasn’t supposed to have gone that way.” Sir, let me teach you the proper way to apologize. It includes the words, “I’m sorry” or “Forgive me” or “Let me give you back this month’s rent, Oh Patient One.”
To diffuse the situation, the realtor announced once more, “We are going to walk around the back and look around.” With that they walked away. I picked up Firstborn and went inside. Julie had miraculously lulled Secondborn into a sound, angelic sleep. She calmed me with horror stories of other renters and assured me that my house looked great. We shared a collective sigh and shook our heads, appalled that this is considered normal behavior for people in this area.
THEN the realtor/neighbor came BACK! She asked for Julie’s last name and phone number, saying she’d call her later to talk. Pray for Julie. Pray for her staff. Pray for the therapist that everyone will need after this.
“The reason it is always hotter here than anywhere else in North Carolina is because it is closer to Hell”, she said. AMAZING. That’s how you laugh through these things.
So what now? Now we wait. I will pack another box of kitchen supplies and wrap a few more picture frames and hope that I will hear about moving into a new home or not. When I was younger and single, this would be “A back-packing adventure”. With unsettled kids about to be separated from their father, it is called “Homelessness”. So for now, forget “There’s No Place Like Home.”
There’s no place like Texas.
At least if it all goes to Hell in a handbasket in Texas, that handbasket will be decorated and full of home-made baked goods.