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The Silver Lining In The Recession Cloud: One Man's Story - Part III

Updated on June 13, 2009

I pored over the classified section of every paper in Southern California. I looked on the bulletin boards of supermarkets and laundromats for leads. Everywhere I looked it seemed that all the properties for rent broke down Into two categories: The large apartment blocks which were run by huge management corporations, and the upstairs flats which were owned by some nosy Eastern European lady who lived downstairs with her 18 drooling cats.

Being allergic to cats, as well as nosy people, I applied to the large rental apartment management companies. Their application forms were longer and more detailed than the ones I had filled out to get a three quarter of a million dollar mortgage. And after I had finished writing, I always got the same response:

"Why did you leave the Previous Landlord space blank?" they would ask.

"I wasn't renting before. I owned my house."

"We still require a previous landlord reference, sir."

"I was my own landlord," I would reply. "Can't I give myself a reference?"

"No point in trying to be funny, sir." They would smirk. "Where are you employed?"

"I'm going to start my own business. I'll be self-employed."

They would look at me as if I had leprosy. Then they would ask, "And why did you leave the credit references lines blank?"

"I don't have any debts. I cleared off my credit cards and sent them all back."

"Well, we're sorry sir, but if you have no credit references, no verifiable employment and no rental history, we cannot consider your application."

"Since when do you need credit cards to get a place to live?" I would protest uselessly. They just tore up my applications, thanked me for considering Megalopolis Apartments, and showed me the door.

After what seemed like endless searching, I found an apartment above a garage which a jolly Oriental gentleman was going to let me have without filling out any forms. It was tiny, and at $1,450 a month, it was way overpriced, but with the deadline for moving out of my house only days away, I couldn't exactly wait for a better deal to fall into my hands.

"I'll take it, Mr. Chung," I said, shaking his hand.

"Very good, very good," Chung laughed. He always seemed to be laughing. "You can write me check for the move-in amount. And please do call me Wang."

"I'll be happy to, Wang." I pulled out a check and made it out for $1,450, nearly cleaning out my entire balance I had left in the bank.

"What is this $1,450?" Wang asked when I handed him the check.

"That would be for first month 's rent," I replied."Isn't that what you need?"

"Very sorry," Wang said. All of a sudden he was no longer laughing. "I need the first month and the last two months rent in advance, plus two months security deposit, a deposit of $500 to make sure you pay your utilities, $200 cleaning fee, $250 painting costs, and $50 key deposit."

"That's 8,250 bucks to move into a garage apartment!" I gasped. "Are you out of your mind?"

"Very, very sorry, but no tickey, no washy," Wang replied, making an ethnic joke I would have been sued for, had I said it.

This had been my last hope. There was now no time for finding any kind of permanent accomodation. With only hours to go until my deadline for moving out arrived, I found a motel which rents kitchenettes by the week. I had all my furniture put into storage, and just moved my clothes into the miniscule hole in the wall that passes for a closet.

I now have barely enough money left to last me out the month. The old Matador needs new brakes. I shop at the damaged-packages bin at Safeway to see if I can get a dented can of beans for half-price.

And I've never been happier.

I'm no longer a cog in the machine of industry. I no longer have to run on the endless treadmill of making huge amounts of money just to spend it on meaningless status symbols and overpriced toys. I don't have to twist buyers' arms to get them to order a million plastic Ultimate Fighter amulets. I don't have to worry about closing this deal so that I can pay the mortgage. No more power breakfasts at 6:30 a.m., or red-eye flights into O'Hare's, or blowing a C-note on a bottle of Dom Perignon, or racking up thousands a month on long-distance, or schmoozing hapless clients, or bull****ting the world.

I'm now free. Totally free.

I heard that in return for doing a little work a few hours a week on a freighter cargo ship, they'll drop you off wherever they stop. There's one leaving San Pedro Harbor for India next week. I've always wanted to visit Benares. See the place where Siddhartha Gautama lived and taught. Clear my mind of this insidious Western clutter and understand the real meaning of life.

I think I'll be on that freighter.

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    • profile image

      Elizabeth 4 years ago

      Being in Bridal Fashion for the past 23 years, I noticed the bride not tniklag about looking forward to wearing her wedding dress. What happened to dreaming of wearing a wedding dress since she was a little girl? Where is the romance? The spotlight? The pageantry? Ah, perhaps I am old, but seeing my bride come down the isle for the first time looking amazing in her full wedding gown, with a blusher and veil no less, just took my breath away.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      I'd love to have a Pacer. I'd fill it up with water and use it as an aquarium in my living room! :)

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      You are so lucky. I never knew anybody who owned a Gremlin AND a Matador. What, no Pacer!?

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      Alexander Mark: Thanks! I believe your example is a wonderful one, especially in a day and age where the conspicuous consumption model of the past few decades is being replace by a rediscovery of the importance of the basic joys of life!

      Dink96: Thank you very much for the kind words. I'll keep them coming as long as nice readers like you keep reading them! :)

      Gypsy Willow: I would love nothing better than to go off to sea for a few years, without any real destination, just to thoroughly enjoy the journey. It sounds like paradise!

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      My brother ran away to sea and it was the making of him so maybe that's the way to go!

    • Dink96 profile image

      Dink96 8 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      I don't know whether to laugh or cry after I've read these, Hal.  But I relate to what you and many others are going through.  Sure, carmakers are dropping prices, but am I going to buy despite nickel & diming myself to death with my current car?  Nope.  These are tenuous times...

      Keep 'em coming, Hal.  They can't take our wit, spirit and brains!  (Okay, maybe part of the third one--ha-ha!!) ;-)

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 8 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      That was totally hilarious and sad. I absolutely can not believe that's true, but what I do believe is that one can be happier living "poorly." I am working less than half the hours I used to work, (by choice - because of school), and I love it. Because I work less, I do not feel the need to buy stuff all the time, I pay less for fuel, and eat healthier and cheaper. I have more time to sleep more when I want to, and I can get everything done I want to get done. Best of all, I have a LOT more time to write - meaning I am doing what I love, and able to make a real goal out of it. Working like a dog is really bad for your well being unless that work is something you love. But I am thankful I make better than minimum wage and money has come from places I never expected. I don't want to be poor forever, but it has given me the chance to gain a new perspective, one I always believed existed, but sat at the back of my mind like an itch I couldn't scratch until I cut my work hours and days. Great story Hal!