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More Surprises

Today (Monday) was to be a day for awakening late, drinking coffee, working a little (at home), a nap, perhaps a nice lunch, another nap, check emails and E2, a nap, etc.

Perhaps you, too, have spent hours on one or more days leading up to an extra day off carefully planning for every contingency which might arise to spoil it. Perhaps you, too, have experienced the glee which accompanies turning one's alarm to "off" because the following morning it won't be necessary to get up on time. Follow me here, for a moment then we'll get back to today...
 

Bureaucracy

I expended a lot of time last week trying to coordinate the impossible. It's damned impossible to get a home inspected if it's owned by the U.S. Government. Even though the U.S. Government, via the HUD, wants desperately to cut its losses and sell the house.

The first mistake was expecting that because we are buying via a real estate agent (who is affiliated with one of the most prestigious, pretentiously pompous offices in town), every stitch of work would be done by she and her minions. Oh, how wrong was I.

Normally, when one purchases a home, the seller still has possession of the house, meaning that the water, gas, and electricity are still turned on. This also means that getting the home inspected for serious problems (a given with any home, large or small) is a piece of cake. Now, when a house has been vacated and winterized, it is usual and customary for the office of one's agent to arrange to have all the utilities turned on and give the home inspector his 2 days with the house. The utilities then can either be transferred to your name at the closing, or should a problem so horrendous so as to void your contract to buy emerge during the inspection, the utilities are cut off, the home is then winterized (basically drained of water) at your expense and you get your contract deposit back.
 

"Shouldn't Your Agent be Doing That?"

I assembled a stack of utility bills, one each for the restaurant, and one each for our homes, current and previous. I figured they'd need account numbers to verify that indeed our credit is good and that in fact we're current with our bills. The first company I picked was the gas company. After a ten minute wait, the person on the other end of the phone informed me "oh, no, we can't come out and put the gas on until the water and the electric is on. We need the electric on to start the furnace and the water on so nothin' blows up." I guess they assumed that I'd have them into the house to light an empty water heater which would then blast through all three floors and the roof, arcing over the neighborhood like an ICBM gone wrong.

When asked if I could at least have them pencil in a date to avoid my waiting another ten or more minutes on the phone, I was told there was no way they would do that. No, they had to be certain that everything was ready for their qualified technician. Now, I'd been very, very nice and extremely polite with the lady at the other end of the telephone. And I guess she did have a heart, because she said to me, "well, I can't talk at length about this but ain't your real estate agent 'spose to be doin' that?" I told her that in one sentence she'd probably saved me hours in time, and a little money too.

The realtor told me that I needed to obtain "permission letters" from the 3 utilities in order to have her company go ahead and proceed with the turn-ons. I've bought a couple of homes, and this I've never heard of. If anything, the permission letters come from the seller, allowing the utilities to enter the premises on my behalf. This agent, this catty little woman was going to earn a rather large commission on this deal with very little effort; the house had been on the market a month, she'd not spent gasoline nor shoe leather getting my wife to sign a contract, and everything was hunky-dory. So label me a rat, but I called her office manager.

The office manager was aghast. I don't blame her for thinking quickly so as to come up with an excuse on the spot. She said that our agent had never been involved in the sale of a foreclosed home before, so the extra layer of paperwork must've confused her. You can imagine my surprise when a day later our agent called me up and said "have you gotten the utilities turned on yet?"

"No, I haven't. And I'm not getting you any permission letters, either. You, my dear, will have the utilities turned on, in the correct order, so I may have the home inspected in a timely fashion."

"Well, you didn't use one of the home inspectors our office recommended, er, they normally take care of those things..."

"Connecticut State law says I can use any licensed inspector I care to use. I can use a fucking licensed chimpanzee if I so desire!" With that I threw the handset of the phone at my office wall, where it made a sizeable dent.

Just then wifey showed up. I told her that her friend the real estate agent was a meathead, and lazy at that. She nodded her head in agreement, then gave me that 'have a heart' look and said, "Help [insert name of agent here] out a little bit."

"Sure, if you tell her to give me a portion of the five grand or so she's getting from this deal." My wife then looked at me with the kind of look that caused me to fall in love with her; I mean, she really poured it on. "She's my friend," she said, "can't you help her just a little. Besides, you sit here doing nothing all day!" That last one really helped her cause. However, throughout our marriage, she has bragged to others that when she says "jump," I ask, "how high?" So I'd do a little jumping, and later get compensated for my time.

It took all of seven minutes to produce an ice bucket, tongs, a sizeable glass and a litre of Johnnie Walker. Then it was back to the phones. The lawyer first.

"Paul, all these things you just described to me are the duty of the buyer's agent. Call her office back and make her do it; especially if you're drinking over it."

"Billy, how did you know I was drinking?"

"You don't put ice in your tea cup." He'd heard me swilling the potent amber liquid with the tiny icebergs afloat. Remind me to get a tiny, ice-cube-sized floating model of the Titanic to put in my glass on days like this.

I finished the call with, "The (expletive deleted) is a friend of my wife's. I have no choice."

The call to the water company was answered promptly by a cheerful, mature voice. I squealed with delight when she told me "...gee, that's funny, HUD's paid the water bill and we haven't removed the meters yet, even though I show an order to have them taken out..." Suffice it to say all I needed to do was turn on the main valve and West Hartford's sparklingly pure natural resource would issue from every open faucet.

The power company was going to make me wait, but their telephone robot-voiced lady assured me that the estimated wait time was 5 minutes. I put the speakerphone on and sat back, savoring yet another icy glass of some of the Highlands' finest hooch. Another very pleasant lady got on the phone and asked if she could help me.

"My good woman, people have been telling me I need help for years, so that's something I don't think you can provide. But can you get the power turned on in a home for me?"

We exchanged niceties and I gave her all the necessary information. She told me that indeed, the power would be turned on within two days. Just to make sure, I told her that there were no meters on the house, and inquired whether or not I'd have to purchase them. She assured me no, they turn the whole thing on for a measly $35 connection charge. It couldn't have been easier. Then she begged to ask me two questions. I agreed to answer whatever it was she needed to know.

"First, you're not drinkin' no diet Pepsi, are you?"

"No, in fact, it's not soda at all."

"It ain't ice water, neither, is it Mr. Lewis..."

"Why no, how could you tell, am I slurring my words?"

"Oh, no. No, not at all. It's just the way you take a sip, I hear them ice cubes, and then you wait just a bit 'fore you continue talking, like you need to catch your breath."

"Okay. You got me. It's booze. Did you find that offensive?"

"Oh, no. In fact, 'cuz you're drinkin' is the reason for my next question. Didn't your real estate broker tell you that their office 'sposed to handle this stuff?" We both had a good laugh as I told her the story was too long and convoluted to even go into.
 

The Gas Company, Part II

After waiting forever, another very nice woman at the gas company answered my call. In the middle of my request, she asked me the magic question yet again, that is, did I know my real estate agent was supposed to take care of this. I laughed out loud and told her that one of her colleagues, as well as her peers at the other two utilities had told me that.

She explained that they'd charge me $65 in the event the water and/or electricity weren't turned on by the time of their arrival. I told her that would be fine, I was certain they were going to be there. Then she read a document required by law that informed me I could buy gas from a third party if I wished etc. I said, "duly noted."

"What?"

"Duly noted."

"Is that a 'yes' or a 'no?'

"That's a 'yes' to 'do I know I can get gas elsewhere' and a 'no' to 'do I want to get it elsewhere."

Well, she made an appointment. Timely. Between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Monday the gas meters would be installed in the house and the gas turned on, as well as all of the pilot lights and furnaces.

Then I called the home inspector, who said that he could proceed sometime in the morning on Monday.

At last! Everything would fall into place just perfectly, and I'd be at home enjoying a day of rest and relaxation! (And I'd only had three Scotches!)
 

That Ain't My Job

Now, back to the beginning of our story.

Monday, my day of rest. I'd just finished off my first cup of coffee when my phone rang. It was the real estate agent. I'd given her number to the gas company, because she had the keys to the house. Even though it was completely empty and there wasn't anything of value therein, I couldn't have a key to the house until the sale had been consummated.

She told me that the man hadn't lit the furnace. I asked to speak with him.

"What you need is a technician out here. When someone calls to have the gas turned on you gotta call for a meter installer and a technician, too."

The wonderful lady at the gas company had told me no such thing.

"I can't go fussin' with no furnace or stove or electricity or nothing, oh, no, no, no. That's not my job. What if the house blows up?" (he laughed as though I, too would find humor in the prospect of my wife's investment exploding.) It only occurred to me after I hung up that what I'd find belly-achingly funny was the prospect of the house blowing up with him inside of it.

The gas company is smart, and crafty. I discovered this when I called the real estate agent and asked her for the number on the Caller ID that matches the call she got from the gas company dispatcher. Wouldn't you know it; it's the same exact number printed in the phone book and available on-line for customer service at the gas company. How the hell Connecticut Natural Gas got away with that trick, I'll never know. But they did. So that foiled my attempts at reaching the dispatcher quickly.

The long and the short of it was that I had a home inspector due to arrive at the house any moment, and yet the heat hadn't been turned on. The gas company customer service representative was almost apologetic that the person I'd previously contacted didn't suggest having a "technician" come out and light the furnaces and the water heaters. I couldn't wait. I did it myself and asked them to come over and check my work.

The nice gas company person admonished me that gas can be "harmful or fatal." Perhaps deep in the back of my mind I was hoping it would, indeed, be fatal. And an extra point if I got the real estate agent, too.

When I got to the house, the real estate agent added insult to injury by telling me they had failed to turn the power on in the apartment on the North side of the house.

An hour and a few hand-tools later, I had the power on (it was a circuit breaker), the water flowing and one of the two furnaces going. The other one just wouldn't kick on. A call to my heating contractor would solve that before the home inspector went on his way.
 

Just Desserts

This afternoon I received a call from our real estate agent's manager. She said that she'd received the faxes I had sent to her and wondered out loud why I'd sent her $735 in bills for an electrician, a furnace technician and even for my own time. I don't know whether this woman was using brilliant humor to calm me down, or was just dim-witted, but she actually said to me, "what do you want me to do with these?"

I informed her that my time and expenses were going to come out of her office's commission at closing because they hadn't practiced due diligence with regard to expediting the things that they were required to do. My lawyer backed me up on this one. When she asked me if my lawyer put me up to it, I said, no, not at all. I suggested she talk to the people at the three utilities and suggest that perhaps they shouldn't be giving real estate advice to their customers.

"Well, what did they tell you?" she pleaded.

"Basically, all three put it this way: ISN'T YOUR REAL ESTATE AGENT SUPPOSED TO BE DOING THIS?!" I hung up.
 

What Goes Around, Comes Around

However, fate brought me back to size. The gas company called me back just after I called the real estate office. They told me that I wasn't eligible for any services except for simple gas service to the residence until I brought my account up to date. (That meant the promised "technician" visit was a no-go.)

It turns out when we sold the restaurant in the center of town, I'd failed to have the gas turned off promptly, and therefore owed the gas company $14.85. Even though they've got my social security number on not one but two commercial accounts and two residential accounts (now four) which are all paid on time and current, and have always been they couldn't put two and two together and figure out where to send the closing bill for the $14.85. I had to pay it on-line via credit card, and now must send them, in writing, a request to adjust my credit records with them so that they can come out and perform services other than running gas to the house.

Gee, I wonder what they'd do if I called them and told them I smelled gas? Would they tell me to leave the house immediately, or would they ask for my American Express number first?

For LaggedyAnne
(to the tune of Miss Susie)

I've heard about your problem
I know you're in a jam
I'd like to help you out because
You're my friend, LaggedyAnne

You've got a small dispute and
Your landlord gives you sass
He says you owe a hundred bucks
You say blow it out your As—
—ked my HR people
And this is what they said
It might affect your credit
But don't worry your head

It could go on your rating
If you have bad luck
But it's just a hundred dollars
So you shouldn't give a F—
—ine, a thousand might be
Cause to get a huff
A thousand might do damage
But a hundred's not enough

But even that's not likely
To happen, so they tell
Agencies just hassle you
Tell them to go to "Hel—
—lo this is Anne
I know they say I owe
I'm not about to pay
My answer still is No."

But everyone I talk to
Says this ain't worth it
It's blown out of proportion
You shouldn't give a Sh—
—e says it's not the money
Her honor's on the line
Swallow your pride, Annie.
Just pay the stupid fine.

I posted yesterday, a daylog that was contrite and slightly assaulting.....good.

So in retaliation, someone went and prayed to Lord Cabbage and had the power turned off from sometime around 0900 this morning until 21:30 at night.  For the whole island.

Daylog time.

Note: thank you warmly to everyone who's /msged and written me about this. You're all awesome, and you know who you are.

I haven't been noding much recently, and when I'm on I'm mostly blurting ALL CAPS asinine jokes in the catbox. For this, I'm a tad regretful. Life has decided in its ineffable wisdom to kick me in the fundament.

WARNING.
This is One Of Those Daylogs Which Lists The Current Trials And Tribulations Of The Noder. If such things irritate or annoy you, please, click on Random Node and find something more to your taste. It will in no way bother me. This is written mostly for me, for the exercise of laying all the crap out where I can look at it once I'm done.

Groundwork first. I'm a fairly depressed person. I don't have severe depression; I know that much. I do have long-term depression, though, with consistent 'depressive episodes' which pretty closely fits all the criteria of dysthymia. The 'low self-esteem' bit hits extremely close to home. I had been doing fairly well with medication, but it stopped working for me about a year and half ago despite multiple adjustments to the cocktail. I finally went off the medications about five months ago (under the observation of my therapist and physician) due to the extreme annoyance of suffering all the logistical nightmares of being an addict with none of the slim upsides at all. My therapist noted that I didn't seem to exhibit much change after the medication stopped, confirming my self-diagnosis of their lapsed effectiveness.

My mother has been sick for just over a year. She has metastized endometrial cancer, which means that cancer cells are freely moving in her body fluids. Despite two prior runs of chemotherapy, the cancer hasn't been reduced - well, it was in abeyance for some months, but then recently - over Thanksgiving - caused her enough problems to have to return to the hospital. Her heart was suffering congestive tamponade from fluid inside the pericardial sac, and her lungs were filling up with fluid as well. In addition, it turned out, she had severe blood clotting in her pulmonary system. The heart and lung fluid was saturated with cancer cells.

She's been in the hospital since Thanksgiving day. This itself was a problem for me; my father (whom I love dearly) has never been a particularly functional person on his own. He married my mother, and the two of them had an explicit contract that she would handle dealing with the world when he couldn't, which was much of the time. This isn't his fault; I knew his mother briefly (because she wouldn't acknowledge my brother and me as grandchildren until she started feeling really mortal due to my mother's being black, and then she departed before I could interact with her much at all) and it's a miracle he's as sane as he is.

However, his flat denial that anything is wrong, fueled as it is by desperate panic, has resulted in Mom not getting into the hospital several times now until it was long past time for her to be admitted to cope with whatever her current problem was. To make matters worse, my parents live several hours from me and even further from my brother and his family, and are in a rural area with no access to high-maintenance health care such as is required by an oncology case like my mother's. They are four hours from the hospital (in my city) where she finally managed to find a decent oncologist.

Anyway, she's been in the hospital numerous times. She's of such strong will, however, that it wasn't really until this last time that I came right up against the fact I'd been trying to avoid: my mother is dying. Given that I've been extremely close to her for most of my life, this was difficult enough.

But that, of course, isn't all. I'm employed in a different city from the one I'm in. I had been in the process of moving there before Mom went into the hospital this time. After several months work finding an apartment to rent, and spending all my savings on urban real estate fees and the like, I found one. Just as I was approved by the co-op board as a tenant, Mom went in. I've been unable to find a moving company (ever dealt with interstate moving? It's populated 85% by scam artists, 10% by the genially incompetent, and maybe 5% by genuinely reliable movers - the trick is that it's almost impossible to tell the upper 70% apart) and thus unable to schedule my move. Once Mom went into the local hospital here, well...that wasn't a high priority.

The past couple of weeks I haven't been doing much work at all. My employers are understanding, massively so for employers, but their patience isn't infinite and nor should it be. I'm fortunate, I suppose, that the holiday season is coming up where nobody does much work - but I better get something done before then.

Through all of this, my younger brother's family has been sort of the rock I've leaned on - not in the financial or logistical sense, but emotional. I've been able to rationalize away my own normally-miserable existence by comforting myself with the fact that my Mom does have two wonderful grandsons to point to as her descendants, even if they're not my kids. Her younger son has found a wonderful woman with whom to have those kids, and keep him on the mostly-straight path, sharing the burdens of life. Mom often would bemoan my forever-single status in the way that only a truly concerned Jewish mother can - heartbreakingly sympathetic and enough to make you want to shoot her.

My brother, who has a pretty high-powered job himself, has been a rock in helping me deal not only with Mom but with Dad, a more complex problem since our father is basically healthy - just not really mentally self-sufficient for dealing with problems that don't affect only him. We had to hospitalize Mom over his objections at least once. Not because he wishes her any ill, but because he just can't handle the thought of what her going meant.

So a couple days ago I realized without much feeling that I've done nothing for two weeks but sit in the hospital with my mother who is miserable but refuses to give in easily, play video games, and sleep for sometimes 15 hours a day. This is not healthy. I'm paying over a fifth of my (gross) income a month for an apartment I haven't seen in 4 weeks and haven't moved a stick of furniture into, not to mention the mortgage on an apartment I'm currently squatting in and thus can't rent out or sell. I still don't have a good notion in my head of how this move to New York will take place, despite the overwhelming need to get my ass in gear for fiscal, emotional and pure physiological reasons. I was about to go to the hospital to sit with mom again and I got a call.

My brother had to go home for several days because his wife was travelling on business, and obviously he needed to be home to be with the kids. The caller was his wife, who was worried about him. She described his recent behavior, which sounded awfully familiar - not getting out of bed, gloom, severe irritation - and then finished by asking me to please call him because she was worried, and because this episode was apparently touching off some long-standing problems the two of them are having.

I was fucking floored.

Not because I didn't believe it. Hell, I've known the kid all my life; it's a miracle anyone wanted to live with him when they first met, much less was confident enough to want to spend her life with him. I believe both of them - and if they're having problems, they'll need to deal with them. But now I've been asked to do what I can to help.

There's nothing, nothing I wouldn't do for my brother, for his family. Given my own abject failure at coming up with one, his is the vessel into which my hopes for the future pour. I love both my nephews, and my brother, and his wife. I'm going to do whatever I can.

The problem is that I can't manage to do my own fucking laundry at the moment. My apartment is a complete nesting heap from my own inability to handle my own life.

I'm petrified that with everything else that we're going to lose, imminently and for reasons beyond our control - Mom, Dad's stability perhaps, the life we've known - my depression may finally spill over and fuck up something beyond my own existence. I know intellectually that none of this is my fault, but that's irrelevant. Fear of an outcome doesn't need to depend on whose fault that outcome is. It's not guilt, it's terror.

Through all this, Mom managed to stabilize slightly, being transferred from an intensive care unit which she approved of (doctor that she is) to a rehab facility which even I can tell is not nearly as tightly run, and which she (stable enough to have undergone new chemo, and in the depths of the confusion and discomfort that engenders) whispers to me is like being in a prison sometimes.

There's no chance my mother's cancer will go away. There's a chance it will abate enough to let her leave the hospital, emaciated and weak but alive - but for how long, I don't know. Through the core of my variously fucked-up responses to this whole situation, I have to deal with the guilt of just wanting the situation to be over but knowing that it can only be over in one way.

Even more pernicious is the whisper I listen to lying in bed around five in the morning which reminds me that even if all this wasn't going on, my base state - to which I so desperately wish I could return - is one of low-grade misery.

Because I've gotten responses to this sort of thing before, let me state clearly: In no way do I think my situation is a terrible, unjust thing. I am a fortunate person. I'm an American who is well-off enough, through his own efforts and no other means of income, to support a relatively comfortable existence. Downright luxurious compared to the rest of the planet. I am (mostly) healthy. As my Jewish cousins love to remind me, I have all my fingers and toes. I have nephews I adore.

But for fuck's sake, I could wish I could enjoy some of it, is all.

I have, at last count, seventeen different types of whisky in my kitchen. Through all of this, I've been drinking no more than 4 or 5 drinks a week. Not because I'm rationing myself; just because I haven't really felt the desire to drink anything (depressant, you know).

Hm. I wonder if I have any fucking ice.

Today on the day my brother finally caught up to me and hit the 30s, I discovered he will be buying a ring for his girlfriend of 9 years.

Yes, you read that right. Nine.

I'm happy for him but also told him that if he's just doing this because he's turning 30, bla bla bla, don't. If he's doing it because he finally made his mind up about it and really truly wants to do it, all the power to him. He's planning on purchasing now but not asking her until the New Year.

She's been patiently waiting for him to do this, so we really have no doubt about her answer.

On the flip side of news, I'm worried for my mother, as she is having several large lumps removed from her neck, behind her ear, and one of her sides. They just up and started growing one day, the doctors have no idea why or what they are. They hurt her like hell, which she says must be a good thing because in her brain if they hurt it means it isn't cancer. Since cancer is rampant in our family (I think I did a chart once, and about 9/10ths of my mom's side succumb to cancer at some point in their lives) this is a daily worry for her. Her operation is next week, and I'm troubled for her.

There is all this and more (MUCH more) going on in my little life, including dealing with some kid issues, and I think that if one more thing happens, I'm going to start cracking at the seams. The bit with my brother is good, don't get me wrong; it's everything else that's going on.

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