Someday I will

Has it really been less than a week since I sat down with my computer?

Here I am again, slightly less frazzled and mastering divine work avoidance by e-mailing you guys instead of, oh, working.

Can you blame me, though? In the past week, I have ignored more of your phone calls and e-mails than I usually get.

Here are a few corollaries to Murphy’s Law that apply to rental home ownership (you all remember Murphy’s Law, right?)

1. Your tenants will only think you are a wonderful person as long you are at the house, fixing things they think are important. The minute- no, the second- you start to work on something that doesn’t apply to their comfort (like the paint on the house, their neighbor’s house, whatever), you run the risk of being thought of a slumlord.

2. Your tenants will hold you to letter of the lease, even if they only give it a passing glance when you have them sign it.

3. Conversely, they will not hesitate to ask you to waive the late fees, give them a few extra days to get rent to you, forget the clause about authorized number of occupants, etc.

4. The aforementioned favors will ONLY occur after you have committed a colossal breach of landlord/tenant conduct and gotten friendly with them for a few seconds, which has the desired effect of making you feel like a Nazi if you tell them no.

5. They will not hesitate to ask you to work around their schedule so they can catch a nap undisturbed by the sound of a table saw, blissfully unaware that you have not had more than five hours of restful sleep in a stretch in the past seven days because you’re trying like hell to give them a nice place to live. They are also blissfully unaware of how dangerously close to the brink of strangling them you teeter when they make said request.

6. If you ask, there will always be “one little thing” to fix.

7. There is no fixing “one little thing”, so don’t ask.
Case in point: My new tenant asked me to replace moldy caulk in her tub. The mold was under the caulk, so although this did not make the place uninhabitable, I didn’t feel it an unreasonable request. Plus, I had a new caulk gun and I figured this would be a cake walk.

Except I couldn’t find the caulk gun. A few phone calls traced it to the back of my dad’s Blazer. In Clearwater. For those of you not living in Pinellas County, that’s easily a 40 minute hike. Calculating my available time, the cost of a new gun at Home Depot, and gas prices, I decided I was better off buying a new gun. Plus, I didn’t WANT to drive to Clearwater. I go buy the gun and start scraping caulk. My screwdriver taps- TAPS- the spigot in the tub. The spigot comes off the wall, cracking a piece of PVC that seems crucial to operating the tub. I swear like a sailor finding out shore leave in Thailand has just been canceled, finish caulking, finish painting the third bedroom, finish putting the carpet in the third bedroom, and head BACK to Home Depot (I hate orange). I track down a friendly, courteous, and knowledgeable employee who is just waiting to help me… oh, wait, no, that’s my fantasy. I stand patiently while some shmuck wastes an employee’s time debating nickel versus chrome plated faucets (oh, to have his problems), then smile and sheepishly show the employee my spigot, complete with cracked PVC.

Now, if I may diverge: as a woman in the ‘Pot, I have found that when going in alone, unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure about what you need to get a job done, it’s best to coalesce, let them talk to you like you have an IQ that’s the same as your bra size and, if the situation warrants, show a little skin. As my grandmother used to say, “if you’ve got ’em, flaunt ’em”. Of course, she had a husband who was a builder and four strapping boys to fix her plumbing woes and probably only got as close to a hardware store as her route to the hairdresser would take her. But the same tenets of boob-age still apply. It’s unfair, it’s sexist, but IT WORKS and I have neither time nor money for principles right now. Come on, you think Cleopatra got ahead using her superior intellect only?

Fortunately for me, I am wearing a cut-off t-shirt that keeps falling off my shoulder. The employee leads me to the PVC but warns me that the situation requires taking down the shower enclosure and replacing the PVC. That, I inform him, is NOT and option. I have a tenant who needs to bathe her children tonight. I ask about a coupling for the cracked pipe, have him point me towards the cement, and ask a few questions about the best way to fix this. I talk him into cutting a small length of PVC. He does not charge me for the cut. He offers me some more advice, at which point another man overhears and comes over to offer his advice. This guy doesn’t work at the ‘Pot, but he seems to know more than the employee, so my confidence escalates slightly.

It is not until I return home that I realize the short length of PVC didn’t make the trip. I sigh and proceed to try and cut the pipe with my carpet knife. Nope. I get a kitchen knife. Nope. Desperate, I go to the tool shed. Pruners. Works like a charm, wonder if that little shortcut is in the Home Depot 1-2-3 book.

Pray I did it right and the cement holds.

Now, my day starts to improve. Tom calls and asks if I want to go flying when he finished with his banners. Yup. I drive to the airport, strap myself in, and set my iPod. We take off while I listen to Buffett’s Far Side of the World. After about 5 minutes, we drop down to about 50 feet and follow the channels just east of the Skyway, twisting around mangroves and waving at fishermen.

It is an unbelievable feeling to treetop, flying along with the wheels of the plane almost wet from the spray. You look up and see pelicans flying above you. You look down and you see more birds fishing for dinner. You look over and see osprey perched at the top of the tallest mangrove.

As I look down at the blue herons wading alongside the shore and see a mullet jumping, I almost instantly forget about pipes, water leaks inside a wall, and loose wood flooring. We jump over the Skyway and head south to Siesta Key. Along the way I see sailboats, sails up and cruising along. That, I remember, is why I’m doing all this. After a while, we turn around. Out of nowhere, Tom sharply circles over the plane. Maybe it’s the last little bit of tension, the fact I can’t see what he sees, or the lack of radio communication between us. I get a little nervous. Well, I think, at least if this is the end, I died out here and not trapped under a carpet remnant. Then Tom points down and holds up 4 fingers. I have the perfect aerial view of four manatees, schooling along as though their world doesn’t involve tenants, mortgages, or home repair. And it doesn’t. The manatees, mullets, and ibis of the world don’t care at all about any of those things. They don’t even realize such worries exist.

That’s how it is out on the water or up in the air; those things don’t exist. We land as Jimmy Dreams plays on my iPod, and even the two missed calls from my tenant don’t bother me as much as they would have three hours ago. That’s what matters, that’s where I want to get to: instead of maintenance, leases, and rentals, I want mangroves, egrets, and manatees.

And I’ll get there. Not today, because I’ve gotta finish that bathroom, do some work, and find a house. But soon. Someday, I will.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.