Four frat brothers walked into a bar…

Okay, I’m trying to make it sound like a joke because I deal in humor, and jokers are wild, and uh, well, it’s babystepping in terms of progress of our move in. Why babysteps, you wonder? I usually blast through the unpacking stage–turn on some Groove Armada, break out the boxes, a place for everything and everything in its place. Not this time. This time we go to the office to sign the lease and the woman in charge looks at us in wonder. We explain who we are. She looks as blank as one of the 39,867 cows we’ve just passed on our trip. Susanne gives her the address, explains we’re moving in TODAY. Good thing we got here early enough that she’s still in the office, because the back up key pick-up location, the security office, was so not going to be helpful. I say this in hindsight, of course.

“Oh,” she says, “I’m not sure if we’ve cleaned that property yet or not. You can just give Scott a call if you need anything.” She says this like Scott’s generally a helpful fellow. Rest assured, Scott is far, far from being anything close to intrepid, thorough, genuine, or even not completely lazy. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I take Scott’s card, which is worth more as the 1/200th of a penny value of the paper it’s printed on than as a conduit to a resource. We sign the lease, which she is now getting around to printing, pay  the prorated rent plus another grand or so in fees and etc. we didn’t know we’d have to pay, and take possession of the keys.

The house looks so cute on the outside. It’s a little Cape Codder of a building, nestled between some house under renovation and the school’s recycling center. Yes, recycling center. Where people can drop off their cans, bottles, and other sundry renewable items at any time of the day or night. Great. It’s also across from the student health clinic and counseling center, so that in case we have to send any stalker students to counseling, they can conveniently stop by our house on their way to counseling. Also great!

We walk in the back way of the house because that’s where we parked, just outside the garage, where I see about 5 or 6 bees flying into the garage rafters. Oh dear, I think, as one deathly allergic to bees, hopefully we can get the hive, if one is there, destroyed quickly so I don’t have to worry every time I walk into the back yard. We unlock the back door, and walk into the kitchen.

Kitchen! Yay! Kitchen! NO! The floor is streaked with something, there’s schmutz on the stove, and a lot of cobwebs. I suppose the admin assistant was right — this place hasn’t been cleaned yet. Closer inspection — well, not too close — reveals a very dirty toilet in the “quarter  bath” downstairs, which is my new term for it, more dirty floors in the front foyer, and the distinctive and unmistakable odor of cat urine, throughout the house. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement. I have taken to calling the house, so cute on the outside, the “Liar House,” because it is so unacceptable in the interior. We walked through the house, finding dinged up walls, many many chips in the trim paint, holes in the wall (Scott later explained he doesn’t care about any hole that is smaller than the size of a human fist — good to know, so I can run around and put a bunch of quarter-sized holes in the wall when we leave), broken fireplace tiles, and on and on. The only house I have ever moved into that was in worse condition than this one was in 1992, when I moved into a place previously inhabited by four fraternity brothers. But other than that, this was disgusting. The mildew in the uncaulked tub alone was enough to call in a professional cleaning service, which I presumed the college has for these FACULTY house rentals.

Nope. We gave the building manager a call, and he explained that he sometimes uses a couple of “girls” he knows through some painters he’s worked with, but that’s it. The only cleaning that is done is done by the exiting tenant. I have never heard such horseshit in my life. I got him to agree to come over to look at the place with us. He was Mr. Excuses — he didn’t know when we were coming, turned into he doesn’t want to inconvenience us with little things like painting, morphed into he knows it needs work and he’ll do it — once we leave next summer. He looked at us like we were a couple of undergrads who don’t know any better. I was pretty furious, but I felt like I couldn’t give him a hard time before Susanne even gets to teaching, and I realize this guy could potentially make my life miserable if I get on his bad side.

Let me make this clear: it’s not like one generally gets good service on things like housing maintenance in DC. Far from it. Everything is a negotiation, a lot of cajoling needs to happen, probably a $20 bill now and again. But you know up front it’s going to be shit, you’re going to deal with BS artists, and you know what to expect. This guy, and as far as I can tell, other folks in this town act like they’re doing you a favor not doing anything for you. He’s telling us we should be grateful we have new windows and an air conditioning unit from 1957. I’ll tell you what inconvenient is, mister jackass. Inconvenient is driving 3,550 miles across the ever-loving country, to come into a disgusting pig sty, needing to turn around, drive another 80 miles round trip to go to a place to load up on cleaning supplies, come back, clean the entire house, and THEN unpack. Inconvenient is not having to step around a painter while he redoes the beat-up trim.

Michael suggested we not rate our Walla Walla experience on the one day. He is right. But I do not see why I should have to put forth a tremendous amount of effort to make things go my way because other people are not doing their jobs. That is not acceptable. And to have this really sweet road trip end in a miserable situation–which could so easily have not had to happen–that is sad. So I am sad. And I will take it one step at a time, and try to find some semblance of home here because I keep hearing Tim Gunn in my head, saying, “Make it work.” Maybe I should email Tim Gunn.

Dear Mr. Gunn, may I call you Tim. Thanks so much for being an inspiration. This town I’ve just moved to seems to really suck, but I know you would tell me to get in there, designers, and make it work. I can really appreciate your positive attitude right now. You’re an inspiration!

Holla at cha boy,


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One Comment on “Four frat brothers walked into a bar…”

  1. Mom
    August 23, 2008 at 11:35 pm #

    Sorry your digs were a disappointment. Having to clean that must have been a bummer.
    Sounds like you had a good trip anyway.
    Places that you describe as being so strange to you were so familiar to me as a youngster. If I had ever returned after you were born, I certainly would have taken you with me, but that was not to be. It makes me happy that you cared enough to go out of your way to go there. That church of my childhood in Lang looks the same as it did 60 years ago. Oh my!
    Keep up the postings. They are very entertaining and you are so good at it.
    Blessings both of you and much love, Mom

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