Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hills and Valleys

I woke up Wednesday morning, lying stuffed inside Benny's racecar sleeping bag, and instantly started fretting. Today was the estimated arrival date for our furniture from Michigan. What if our driver Ralf called today, saying he was on Highway 101 outside the city?

Perhaps I should rent a storage space, I thought. That would be a good laugh, if I had to rent a storage space just days after triumphantly closing the one in Michigan. Storage space in the city would cost a fortune. Should I rent one in the East Bay?

Ron departed gloomily for work, and I tried to entice Callisto out of the bathroom. The cat's been perfecting her Evil Cursed Stare of Death for three days now, glaring out of the doorway of her covered litter box. She hadn't touched her food. I finally lured her out with a can of wet cat food with "Fancy Beef Flavor." Let's hope it wasn't from China.

Flushed by this small triumph, I put Benny in his new stroller and wheeled him over to the commercial district to run errands. Benny is adjusting beautifully to city life. When waiting at the bus stop, I always place the folded stroller between Benny and the street, and he stands nicely behind the stroller. Benny used to fight taking my hand in parking lots back in Ann Arbor; now I just waggle my fingers and say "hand," and his little paw immediately slips into mine.

An interesting email awaited me back at the apartment -- the rental agent who found this place for Ron had heard about our squawking. She wants to show me some other apartments and says we can work something out -- some sort of transfer as long as we pick a place with the same rent or more. Elated, I call her and arrange a meeting that afternoon. She'll pick me and Benny up in her car and show us three places.

The first two places revealed a familiar pattern for this rental agency: the neighborhood is great, but the agency always owns the sorriest building on the block. But the third place ... Ron and I were blown away. It was big. It was gleaming. It was perfect. It was also expensive. How could we afford it?

"We'll take it. We'll find a way," pronounced Ron, who has felt just awful about the whole apartment crisis. The agent said she would call us with details.

Well, the agent did call, and the details weren't pretty. I held the cell phone to my ear, my mouth open, as I stood outside a Burgermeister restaurant while Benny and Ron ate lunch inside. We would have to forfeit the security deposit we'd put done on the Cole Valley place. We would need an additional security deposit for the new place, plus first month's rent. AND we'd still have to find a new tenant for the Cole Valley place. But, the agent said happily, they've agreed to waive $500 fee!

"Are you kidding?" I asked incredulously. "This isn't a transfer, this is a lease break. You expect us to shell out thousands of dollars more? Tie ourselves to a new, more expensive apartment as well as the old place?"

The agent sputtered.

"Look, I appreciate your efforts," I said unsincerely. "But if this is a lease break, then we'll break the lease. We'll find a new tenant, and then we'll find an apartment ourselves, without your agency."

No, no, the agent said. Let me call you back.

I agreed and went inside the restaurant to tell Ron. It was a quiet lunch; Benny sensed our mood and concentrated on building towers out of jelly packets. At the end of the lunch, I looked at our bill: $30. One thing was for sure, we definitely couldn’t afford San Francisco.


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