You may have noticed that our postings have been scarce lately. That’s because the last two months have been pretty hectic; we sold our home of ten years and in doing so, managed to turn our lives upside-down. The intent was good—we no longer needed a big house since our kids are grown and mostly gone—but the process was painful. Besides the typical annoying ordeal of selling a house and buying another, we were forced to rent a house while our new one is being built, and that’s where the pain really began.
First off, we only needed the rental for about six months, but most of property management companies we spoke to scoffed at the idea of six-month leases. One-year leases, we were told, was all they offered. Take it or leave it. Then there was the rental application which required a complete documentation of our lives going back to elementary school. And oh by the way, the application cost $40 to process (per person). I wouldn’t have minded so much except that the resulting background check disqualified me for the rental. You see, apparently I have a felony in my background that I didn’t know about.
After several days of emails and phone calls, we finally convinced the management company that the felony was an error, and they begrudgingly agreed to rent us a house (although they weren’t very nice about it, and I got the feeling they’d be keeping a close eye on me).
Still, at least we got the rental house, and not a moment too soon, because the day came when we had to leave the house we’d just sold. That, unfortunately, is when the real trouble began. We had walked through the rental before signing the lease, but I was pitifully naive, and I let the new tile and the plush carpet and the shiny, new appliances lull us into a false sense of security. That started to unravel quickly the day we moved in, when we walked into the house and found that the air conditioning didn’t work. Then we discovered the water hadn’t been turned on as promised. No problem, I thought. I’ll just go out the water main and turn it on myself.
I went out and lifted the heavy cover on the water main and looked down in disbelief. There was no water meter. The pipe from city’s water main was there, and the supply line leading to the house was there, but between the two pipes where the meter should have been, was only a muddy gap. The city had apparently tried turning on the water, but finding no meter, they informed us they’d have to dispatch a different crew to install a meter…the following week. It looked like we’d have to spend the first weekend at the rental without water or air conditioning, and my wife was NOT happy. I guess I should have checked for the presence of a water meter before renting the house, but like I said, I was naive.
Fortunately some friends took pity on us and let us crash in their spare bedroom for the weekend. By early the next week, the meter had been re-installed and the water turned on, but our troubles weren’t over yet. We soon discovered the hot water heater wasn’t working, which was odd because it looked brand new. None of the GFI outlets in the bathrooms seemed to work either, and the 220V outlet for the dryer was dead. The dishwasher didn’t work, nor did the garbage disposal, although both were brand new. It appeared the rental house was possessed by demons hell-bent on making us miserable and they were doing a very good job of it.
The light fixture in the master closet didn’t work (and it’s really dark in there); the lights in the garage were dead; and there was water leaking from above the shower stall in the master bath. The hose bib in the back yard was leaking and the concrete floor in the garage was secreting a strange white powder, which a friend said might have been caused by chemicals used in make meth. You can’t make this stuff up.
I wish I could say that was the worst of it, but I’d be lying if I did. We ran into one more particularly nasty problem. Fleas. The house was infested with them. My wife first mentioned what she thought were fleas the day after we finally moved in (after the A/C and water issues were resolved), but because I’m apparently not as bright as I thought I was, I made the mistake of scoffing at the idea of fleas in the house. Even when I found a couple of fleas on my dog Nala’s face, I thought it couldn’t be the house. After all it had brand new carpet; perhaps she picked them up outside. It wasn’t until I saw the fleas hopping on and off our bed that night that I realized the full scope of our troubles.
Of course we reported all these problems to the management company, and they gave us the typical condescending responses which I translated to mean “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” although they did send an exterminator to spray the house for fleas the next day. Then we proceeded to play the waiting game for the other repairs which would take two weeks to occur.
By this point we were physically and emotionally exhausted. We finally spoke to the manager at the rental company and begged to be let out of our lease. He said the house belonged to a group of investors and he’d have to check with them and get back to me, but he said it was unlikely we’d get out of the lease we signed. Perhaps, he offered, they’d agree to some ‘concessions,’ whatever that means. We’ve yet to hear back from him.
It’s been three weeks now since we got the rental house, although it seems like much longer than that. The flea sightings have subsided and all the appliances now work, so perhaps the worst is behind us. We can actually laugh about it a little now and we’ve dubbed the rental the “7 plagues of Egypt” house.
I do, however, have a new-found respect, and a lot of sympathy, for renters everywhere, most of whom are honest folks just looking for a safe and affordable home. I couldn’t imagine having to deal with a cold-hearted property management company like ours beyond the next six or seven months, but there are many folks out there who have to do exactly that, and I hope they are much smarter about it than I was.
Texas has been in drought conditions for the last five years, and of course with that comes the threat of brush fires, water restrictions, and impacts to the state’s agriculture industry. If that wasn’t enough, the lack of rain led to greatly receded lake levels, some so low that they were unusable to power boaters (though not so much for kayakers). So when a rainy March turned into a rain-soaked April, all we heard was that we needed the rain, and certainly we did.
Then came May, and with it non-stop rain for much of the month, at least up here in North Texas, and suddenly the tables have turned, at least in the short term. It seems odd, but just three months ago, the water-supply lakes for Dallas and Fort Worth were collectively less than two-thirds full, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, but they’re now at 95 percent capacity.
But not everyone is happy. The non-stop rain over the last few months has led to water-saturated soil, and the resulting quick run-off has produced lots of flooding, causing several deaths throughout the state. Texas lakes that were at historic lows a few months ago are now nearing historic high levels, and several of them, including the massive Lake Texoma are having to release water raising concerns about possible flooding for property owners below the lake, what one lake manager calls “a delicate balance.”
Texas isn’t alone; the entire region has seen record rainfall. Swollen rivers in Kansas and Missouri have led to widespread evacuations. Oklahoma City received eight inches of rain in one particularly wet day earlier in the month; the ground became so saturated, that tornado shelters started floating up out of the ground. And speaking of that, the wet weather pattern has also brought with it lots of severe storms. As of this weekend, at least nine states have already seen tornadoes.
Unfortunately, there is no relief in sight. Even as the lakes continue to rise, North Texas is expected to receive five more inches of rain over the Memorial Day weekend.
Despite the rain, several Texans are taking time off this Memorial Day weekend to spend time with their family and friends, and hopefully they’re spending some time reflecting on the meaning of the holiday—the ultimate price paid by some in service to their country and the sacrifices made by the families they left behind.
Unfortunately, just in the past few weeks we’ve seen two reminders of that sacrifice. While conducting rescue operations after massive earthquakes in Nepal, a Marine Huey crashed into the side of a mountain killing all six Marines aboard. Those Marines were Captain Dustin R. Lukasiewicz; Captain Christopher L. Norgren; Sergeant Ward M. Johnson IV; Sergeant Eric M. Seaman; Corporal Sara A. Medina; and Lance Corporal Jacob A. Hug.
Then last weekend, two more Marines, Lance Corporal Joshua E. Barron and Lance Corporal Matt Determan, were killed, and several Marines injurred, when their MV-22 Osprey crashed in Hawaii.
We send our deepest condolences to their families as they face what must be a very difficult weekend, and we meekly offer the words of Abraham Lincoln, from his letter written during the Civil War to a mother of five soldiers killed in that war (and made famous in Saving Private Ryan), in which he so eloquently summed up how we feel. Lincoln wrote:
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
Lone Star Chronicles – Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Fish