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