Houses, Dollars and Deer! Oh, my!

Well, I would be slightly remiss to not acknowledge the amount of time that has elapsed since my last post. I agree it has been far too long since we’ve chatted. However, due to some ridiculous regulation, the state did not provide me with any access to the Internet during my brief stay with my friends. I’m sure in a future post I’ll be able to talk about what it’s like in a sweat box, but the parole officer was very direct in mentioning that I not publicly disclose any details of that… experience.

In any event, I’ve been warming up to life in my new home, which incidentally is different than my home last time we communed, dear reader. I’ve been moved into a nice house on a little hill in a quaint New England town. That’s right, due to some complicated legal maneuvering my wife and I were able to purchase a home during my absence. While we didn’t get too much time during the warmer months last year, I did enjoy being able to sit on the porch outside and drink some lemonade whilst not being forced to lookout for “the man.”

However, as I’m sure most of you know, home ownership isn’t all fun and games. There’s quite a bit of work involved to keeping everything functioning optimally, and looking pristine. There’s also, as you may have heard somewhere - or at least possibly concluded from noticing the patently offensive rate at which Home Depot and Lowes keep being erected – an enormous cost associated with owning a home. With respect to the latter, I figured that I could provide an insight into some of the things that we’ve been forced to spend in the first nine months of owning a house.

So, without further ado, here’s our top ten expenses on the house (arranged in order of least to most annoying.)

10. Shortly after moving in and realizing that we had a relatively large driveway, we purchased a snow blower. It was August – and they weren’t on sale yet. In our defense, we live in New England, and if there had been a Labor Day snowfall, we’d have looked pretty smart. There wasn’t – and we looked stupid.

9. We purchased a hose shortly after moving in, and enjoyed having the ability to pour water up to one hundred feet away from the house. However, a garden hose stream of water isn’t very effective, so we went back and purchased a nozzle, which gave us the ability to spray an additional thirty feet away. The neighbor seemed annoyed we were testing this out by shooting his house, but that’s his problem. After doing this, we realized that we needed a place to PUT the hose, so we went back and got a hose caddy. It wasn’t big enough, so we brought it back and got another hose caddy. It worked, until I hit it with the tractor, and broke it. I threw the hose under the deck.

8. Pesticides. I don’t believe in organic anything. I sprayed everything everywhere. Take that, nature! Let me take this opportunity to say publicly, that until I see a toxicology report, the fifteen deer that we found in our backyard died of exhaustion. You can tell because they were sweating profusely before they died.

7. Sprinkler system. It turns out that spending $1200 on an inground sprinkler system is great, if you don’t mind spending another $1200 in water for the summer. It’s a win-win situation!

6. Burglar alarm. Just because they sell you the system telling you it lowers your home insurance costs, doesn’t mean it will. Let’s just say that explaining to the insurance company why we decided to go with Shyster & Crook instead of ADT was a bit of a challenge, and they ended up raising our premiums.

5. Homeowner’s insurance. It’s been nine months and we haven’t had a fire or tornado yet! What a rip-off. I suppose we can kiss that $700 goodbye.

4. Mortgage payments. Let’s be very clear here – with all of these foreclosures happening, I keep wondering if we’re missing something. Is it not hip to pay the bill? Are we being dorky by submitting our $3498 each month? What don’t we know?

3. Property taxes. This wouldn’t bother me if someone from the town had come by to thank me or deliver some services to me. Instead they’re too busy paving the roads and teaching the stupid neighbor’s kids in school. What a freaking waste. Wake up, people! Serve the people that pay the bill! Kids don’t pay taxes! Duh!

2. Electricity. I know what you’re thinking: everyone has to pay an electric bill, even if they live in an apartment, and that’s completely true. However, here’s what you’re forgetting. You live in a house now, so you have to do things like run fifty thousand lights for Christmas, or run space heaters outside so you can use the porch in the winter. Also, without anyone yelling at you to keep the refrigerator door closed, we just leave it open all the time and that kind of luxury and convenience can be costly. The good news is that my credit card offers a great 30% rate on cash advances.

1. Heat. Oh, sweet baby elephants! Boy is heating your house expensive. When we got our first gas bill of the new year for January I couldn’t believe the cost! I almost fell out of my chair I was so angry about it. Can you believe those blood sucking maggots billed me for one hundred thirty five dollars!?!?! I didn’t even know what to do with it. I just stood there staring at the bill for at least fifteen minutes before I could breathe normally. Determined to never let it happen again, I called a local energy contractor, and he came in and gave me a quote to re-insulate the entire house (which was a bit messy, because he had to tear down most of the drywall and put it back up and repaint,) replace every window and door as well as upgrade our furnace to the most efficient model available. The best news was that we were able to borrow against the equity we had in our home, and the payments are only $466.37 for ten years! I’m really happy that we had all that work done, the next month our bill came in, and it was only $127. I’m glad we’re now saving money and being green!

Now, please understand that this list isn’t in any way exhaustive or complete. Indeed, there are a many mundane purchases that aren’t accounted for. I hope this helps you to understand just how stupid it is to buy a house. Of course you’re independently wealthy, so none of this applies to you; pursue the joy of homeownership with reckless abandon.



Note: This entry is a bit of a departure, both in tone for me, and content for this blog. Please, let me know what you think – but go easy on me.

I put the shirt in my hands down and looked up at the clock – twelve thirty-five. I wasn’t sure how long I’d been there, but I felt more tired than I thought I should. Looking down at the box in front of me, I took a quick inventory of its contents. Maybe fifteen shirts, five or six pairs of slacks and some red shoes were neatly resting in the plastic bin. As I closed the two interlocking lids, the page-a-month calendar caught my eye, and I momentarily thought that it seemed unseasonably cool for May. I shook the thought and lifted the box onto an identical model. I had grown the pile to four containers, and started thinking about how I would get them to fit into the back of my car.

I stood up and started to head back towards the bedroom. To my left, on the granite counter tops were two boxes of tissues, a box of Efferdent and a can of cranberry sauce. “What an eclectic mix,” I thought to myself. I tried to connect the items in my head, to make sense of their placement and existence. Unable to do so, I relented to the realization that it would be a mystery never solved. I checked the clock again, wanting to make sure that I was home in time for Danielle’s dinner. The minute hand hovered at two hundred ten degrees, while the hour sat calmly between twelve and one. I walked past the massive collection of yarn, wondering how eager the Salvation Army would be to take them off my hands, realizing fully that I certainly couldn’t do anything with a hundred pounds of spun thread, and try as she might, neither could Danielle.

Turning the corner, I opened the closet and took down another sweatshirt, carefully placing it in another green-topped plastic bin. After what seemed like fifteen minutes, I closed another full box, picked it up and carried it down the hallway to the foyer. I set it beside the other four, and walked over to the grandfather clock. I could still remember the first time I saw it twenty years ago -a stately piece of furniture, tucked into a prominent corner of the living room, just to the left of my grandfather’s standing lamp. I examined the intricate brass work on the dial, taking in the same details I’d studied a thousand times before. I could still see the scratch on the date-wheel that I’d put there when I was thirteen, trying to set the time and date accurately. I looked at the large pendulum, and noted that some dust had accumulated on the weights. I made a note to wipe it off... next time. The clock looked back at me, constantly reminding me of the time – twelve thirty-five.

I walked down the hall to the living room, and looked out the sliding door to the trees outside. The robust colors were starting to show, and two or three of the less-fortunate leafs had already made their way to the ground, their summer dance over, and their fall spectacle cut short. How apt. I turned around, deciding I’d had enough of unit 310. As I walked out of the living room, I briefly thought about some upcoming appointments I had, and what the next few weeks would look like for me, at once coming to the all-to-obvious conclusion that they’d be busy – par usual. I glanced at the T-Bones calendar across the room, noting that the May special was a free children’s meal with purchase of two full-priced meals - worthless, on several levels.

I looked around the room one more time. Everything was exactly where it should be, exactly where it would be the next time I came back. I flipped off the last light over the entryway, took a deep breath, and stepped back into today.

I tug the door shut behind me, pull out key DL2, and latch the dead bolt and then the handle. I place the keys back in my pocket and walk down the hall. Like always, I steal a quick look over my shoulder, a quick glance back at the apartment where time stands still. I check my watch – six oh-one.


Can you imagine?

I respect people who work. I know this sounds strange, but I’ve always held people who work for a living in high regard – regardless of where they work or the job they do. I think it’s a character thing, really. I think that those willing to put forth the effort of going to work should be rewarded. It’s why I don’t generally support welfare as an institution for more than short-term support.

That said, I expect those who are in a particular job to do their very best while they are “on the clock.” It’s how I approach my day in the office, and it’s what I expect out of others. For some, this means really working at accomplishing a project, for others, it means improving a system or piece of data, and for others still, it means providing the best customer service possible. I try my hardest to treat those serving me with the utmost respect. Just because someone’s bringing me a coffee doesn’t make me the master and him the slave.

With this in mind, I’m infuriated at the complete disaster that customer service has become in the past few years. Clerks who talk on their cell phones while you’re trying to buy a Snickers, rude employees at the movie theater and my personal favorite, cranky tollbooth collectors. I try and make a point to drive through the booths that are staffed – even if I have correct change – so that I can have some human interaction during my trip and offer a friendly “hi,” and/or “have a good day.” Almost invariably, they grunt at me to move on, even if there’s no one in line behind me.

This rant is being brought on by a series of events that happened to me last night at Best Buy. I was going to buy a new external portable hard drive for me to back up my files on my home computer to, so that I can take them off-site for storage, should our apartment burn down. (This is the very VERY best advice I can give you, the home computer user… back up your data on a Western Digital Passport hard drive, and then take that hard drive to a different physical location than your home. You’ll thank me if you have a fire or lighting-induced power surge.)

I got to the checkout line, which had five or six people in it, and waited my turn. There were two people ringing people out, both somewhere between 16 and 20, (the further away from those years I get, the harder it is to figure out someone’s age who’s still there.) The one young woman ringing up people’s purchases was really being efficient. She was moving people through her line brilliantly, while maintaining a friendly demeanor. The other guy was making a fool of himself. He would barely acknowledge the customer in front of him – with money in their hands – because he was talking to another post-adolescent girl wearing a BAE shirt. I crossed my fingers and hoped to get the efficient woman so I didn’t have to stand there like an awkward third party while I purchased my hard drive. Before you ask, the Best Buy in Salem has one of those bank-inspired common feeder lines, so I didn’t get to pick who ended up ringing me up.

“Can I help you?” Crap. Checkout guy, Chris, his nametag said, called me over. I sighed and walked over.

“So, are you going to go?” Chris inquired of …. let’s call her Stacy. Probably not her name, but let’s run with it.

“I don’t know, he’s being such a jerk about it. I told him I’d rather just hang out at home, but now he’s all pissed at me, and won’t answer his phone.” Stacy was obviously having some trouble with her gentleman caller, whoever he might be.

“Well, he’s being wicked rude. You should just tell him that you don’t want to, and that’s it. That’ll be $119.99.” Chris finally acknowledged my existence. “Don’t go.” And promptly forgot about it, as he continued his conversation with Stacy.

“I don’t know,” Stace (I like that, Stace. Let’s stick with that monosyllabic nickname) replied. You could tell she was torn over whether she should go to this mysterious whatever-they-were-talking-about.

Chris looked at me as I held out three Best Buy gift cards. I had them from my birthday, Christmas and something else, and was about to get a free hard drive. “Oh, a handful of gift cards, huh?” He was thrilled. Really.

He continued talking to Stacie as he went through the process of swiping my cards. I paid slightly less attention, but even a dog who’s hard of hearing could have figured out that the scenario was pretty bleak for Chris. Chris has a crush on Stace (still sticking with the nickname, here), who was probably a good friend of his since middle school, but Stacy (back to formal names) was dating the super-popular football captain or something, who treated her like crap, but drove her around in his awesome BMW. Chris was doing everything in his power to convince Stace to dump the loser by doing everything except saying “dump the loser,” and failing miserably.

Somewhere in this ridiculous teenage drama, Chris stopped swiping the gift cards, and just listened to Stace as his heart yearned to tell her how he cared about her, how he’d treat her like a goddess, and even let her sit on the handlebars of his schwinn.

“Hey, uh.. Chris,” Uh, oh.. I opened my mouth. “Listen up, Romeo. My wife is waiting in the car for me, and I should get out there before she dies of starvation. This young lady isn’t going to leave her boyfriend for you. She considers you a girlfriend, not a boyfriend, so would you mind at least cutting your losses and finish ringing me up so I can leave without talking to your manager about what a lousy job you’re doing?”

Chris blinked, swallowed harder than he had to, and swiped the third card, never once making eye contact with me. Stacy sort of sauntered away from the checkout line, but not too far - she was very suddenly and inexplicably interested in the rebate slips attached to wall behind her. $10.50 back on DVDs via mail in form? What a sweet deal. The silence was bliss.

Chris quickly put my receipt and drive in a bright yellow Best Buy bag (Turn on the FUN.. Best Buy!) and dropped it checkout table without so much as a word of thanks.

I picked it up and offered a polite “Thanks, man,” and winked at Stacy on my way out. I could clearly hear him utter “jerk,” under his breath.

I mean really, can you believe how rude some people are?