Aaron R. Davis
In 2001, I was a full-time college student with grants and loans, my then-girlfriend had a decent-paying job, and we moved into our first apartment together.
Today, she and I, now married, still reside in the same place. But now I’m a substitute teacher (not a real job) in deep student loan debt and she’s got three part-time jobs because the retail chain she worked for went out of business. We’re uninsured and have no safety net, and we constantly feel like we’re walking a tightrope over a sucking black hole that can only be sated by a constant supply of fees, payments and rent.
I’m not going to go on and on and tell you about my financial situation and health situation and get all political. You’re reading enough of that right now, since we’re just weeks away from Election Day. I’m just setting the stage here: it can be pretty grim sometimes. I’ve got some serious health problems, we’re down to one car and sometimes we have to make the choice between eating and doing laundry. It’s life right now.
(And before I go on, because someone always asks how I dare say that substitute teaching isn’t a real job: no stability, no job security and no guarantee of work. Is it rewarding? Yes, more often than not. I mean, not financially, but sure, the few days I actually have a student tell me that they understand multiplication now or see a handicapped student smile because I helped them through their day, it’s a nice feeling. But until you get up at five every morning to stare at an online jobs board and hope that something becomes available, don’t judge the job you don’t actually do.)
So, as you can see, I’m not doing great. Not living in a box, but things could be better. I’m really not asking for much, I think: just some stability and maybe some employee insurance coverage or something. I’d love to be able to be in a position to pay back some of the $53,000 I owe on my worthless-in-the-current-job-climate diploma. (Thanks for demanding I get that, job market. I’m actually in a worse position financially than I was without it.)
Where was I?
Oh, right. ANYWAY. You can see I’m not in the best shape and mood these days. You need to know how acutely aware I am of the hand I’m currently playing in life. I don’t walk around depressed and upset and feeling like I got a shitty deal; far from it, in fact. I’m generally much happier than I’ve been in years, because I’m much more actively trying to turn it around and make things work out.
But I need you to understand all of that in order to understand why I was not thrilled to get a phone call today from the property manager at my apartment complex.
I hesitate to say “landlord.” I don’t really have one of those; this is one of a number of properties owned by a company. They seem to train a lot of managers here; for some reason, the management system seems pretty top-heavy at this address. I have to wait a day for maintenance to come fix a toilet, but every time I go to drop off the rent check, there are four or five people in the office in ties just sort of … there. But because this seems to be the first-base umpire of management positions, I’m almost always dealing with new managers. No one stays for long, and it’s hard to build up a relationship with any of them because they all have a different style of managing, and when you get used to it they’ve gone to some other property and brought in someone else. I know the maintenance guys just fine, but most managers are surprised to find out I’ve been here for just past 11 years.
My lease is almost up for this year; it expires on January 1. I’ve got an intent to renew document that the office has sent over, and my wife and I have been discussing whether we can afford to stay or not, given our situation. The trouble is, to move somewhere else we’d have to scrounge up first month’s rent and a security deposit, and probably hire movers. We can’t afford to do that right now, either. So we’ve been discussing it a bit, but that’s okay, because the document doesn’t have to be turned in until the end of this month.
Which is why I’m annoyed to get a call today from the property manager to be asked if we’re thinking about signing or not. When I tell him there’s been no decision yet, he sounds crestfallen and gives me this whole ramadoolah about how, you know, “technically” we have until the 31st to renew the lease, but, you know, if someone comes along and wants to rent a two-bedroom apartment starting in January and ours is the last one left that’s not renewed, well, you know, they’re just going to have to rent it and we’re out of luck.
Um … excuse me?
You couldn’t even wait until the deadline to start calling me? I know this is your job and you’re used to dealing with college students and college students are flighty and stupid, but … excuse me? Don’t you threaten me, chucklefuck. Because that’s what you just did. You called me a week ahead of time and politely made a demand of me, cordially threatened me with eviction and smiled while implying that I could just eat shit if I didn’t straighten up and sign at my earliest convenience. A threat’s a threat, and I don’t respond well to threats, no matter how poorly made or stupidly handled they are.
So yeah, I’ve got the message. This is, after all, not my property, but the property of the company you work for. Don’t worry, I’ll renew. And then when I decide we have to move to a smaller, more affordable place, I’ll just break my lease and move out without telling you. I have no problem doing that. And then you can eat it. You can keep my security deposit, too. You’ll need it.
Thanks for reminding me where we stand on the whole loyalty issue. I guess living here for over a decade doesn’t afford me the simple respect of having the entire time dictated by the terms of the renewal agreement to make my decision.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.