Six months ago we had an emergency move and the only place open at the time was a decrepit old trailer in the mildly bad part of town. Since the trailer smelled like urine and bum we decided to sign the minimum lease possible.
The place is ugly. The few windows that open have no screens and serve as drive thrus for the mosquito population. The rest of the windows are sealed shut with a mix of duct tape and caulk. There are knife stab holes in one door that would serve as terrific peep holes were it usable. The bathroom floor is sinking which is good because the bathroom ceiling is also sinking.
A strange brown tar drips from the stove hood but we don’t cook on it much because the burners tend to leak gas and light up when they aren’t supposed to. When we first moved in there was no ground wire and the gas line and cable line had an electric charge. Most of the plug outlets were dead, no air conditioning, the light in the living room sometimes works and the first month was spent with a leaking roof and no hot water. The gas man told us if we dared to turn on the heat we would all die. I could get nit picky here but I think you get the idea. This place is ugly.
Rather than be bothered by the nastiness of our surroundings we’ve looked upon it as an adventure (most of the time) and a bonding experience. We would learn to be more appreciative people in the process. It was only seven months… then the landlady decided to mess up our rent.
Every month we have to pay the rent in money order, which is fine. Then we have to walk or bike it about 3 miles away to put it in a small metal lockbox. Everyone who lives in the complex has to do this. The ones that can’t bike or walk must pay a cab around $20 to pay their rent. You’d think the landlady could get in one of her air-conditioned cars to pick the money orders up from a box closer to the actual rental units but she doesn’t see it that way.
This month, when I paid my money order, I made a mistake. I accidentally wrote my last name as her last name. It was a simple mistake due to working too many days in a row and standing in the Walmart Money Center line for about an hour and a half before trying to go across town at 8pm to pay rent. I made a mistake, but it was an easy fix. All she had to do was return it to me so I could get a new one.
Instead my landlady, whom I’m told has done this for 25 years, decided to cross out where I had written Smith and write her last name. She then proceeded to add her initials to that change and endorse the back of the money order. She then made the journey to four different banks to cash it and was refused by all. So she gave it back and asked me to fix it.
Unfortunately, the MoneyGram place seems to think a case of fraud may be going on. They will exchange the money order for me, but since it’s been scribbled on by someone other that me they consider it tampered with. I have to wait 30 – 60 to have the funds returned in case someone else has also claimed funds for this money order.
No problems, I relayed the unfortunate news to the landlord. She informed me that I needed to cough up $600 more dollars immediately. I reminded her that the money order was delayed now because of what she had done to alter it. She insisted I give her $600. I informed her that I didn’t have an extra $600 lying around. She told me to go see if I couldn’t get a charity to pay it for me or call my bank and that I now owed her $75 for being late. I told her I’d call my bank.
Of course my bank said the same thing as the MoneyGram place and the Walmart Money Center. Once it’s been tampered with they won’t release funds for 30 – 60 days. I told my landlady. She insisted I go with her to her original bank and she was certain that they would do it with us together. I don’t feel comfortable doing that and didn’t see how some random teller was going to be able to do what none of the others would. I refused to go.
The landlady became very insistent and I had to remind her that she was my landlady, not my boss, owner or queen. She showed up the next morning on my first day off in five days and told me to get in the car with her. I again politely refused and told her I had already turned the money order in to be refunded as there seemed no other options. She then suggested we go to one of the loan shark money-lender places to try to cash it. I told her that I would probably go to jail if we did that since that would be fraud.
As a final effort to squeeze blood from a turnip she asked if I had any cash on hand at all. I am not going to lie and told her I did but it was for groceries. She told me to just give her that. Again, I told her it was for groceries and I needed to feed my family. She suggested that I go look in the six garbage cans by the road because someone had skipped rent during the night and she had just thrown out all their food. I could take that food and then give her the grocery money. I politely refused reminding her that I paid my rent and it was on time. The fact that she altered the money order did not mean my children should eat from garbage cans.
So here we are at an impasse. She wants what I already gave her. I would feel bad for her but somehow I think that with her two cars, two trucks, lawn care business, house on the water and boat that she could maybe wait the 30 – 60 days for that money to come back. I honestly don’t see how $600 could be important enough to tell someone to feed their children from garbage cans or commit fraud at a shady loan center.
This is the tale so far. While it feels fictional I promise it’s all fact. In our town they have outlawed trailer parks and the ones standing now are grandfathered in. I always wondered why they wanted to get rid of all the poor people in trailers but now I’m thinking perhaps it’s not the tenants they want to banish, but the landlords… and ladies.