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

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Missions Impossible

SAN FRANCISCO -- I'm typing this while sitting on my bed -- which, in this case, is a child-sized racecar sleeping bag unrolled on the hardwood living room floor of our new apartment. Ron and Benny share the air mattress, and the cat hasn't left her unused litter box for two days.

We're all a little traumatized. We know we're happy to be here, but we're too freaked out to appreciate this wonderful city. The apartment is not working out, and we're not sure what to do about that. A weird smell developed in the closet while Ron was in Michigan and now it's taking over the apartment. I know I didn't imagine it, because Ron smelled it too.

So on Monday the three of us hoofed it over to the rental agency, a scary entity that owns a quarter of the residential rental space in San Francisco. We were there obstensibly for me to officially sign the apartment lease, but I just couldn't do it. So I left a bored, restless Benny with Ron and sat down with an agent to explain our plight. Crazed by jet-lag and worry, I didn't make a great impression. In fact, I burst into tears.

This resulted in a visit Tuesday by the agency's district supervisor and the building manager, who claimed to smell nothing. We'd have to break our lease if we wanted out, I was told. That meant either coughing up two months' rent or finding another tenant ourselves. It would be ironic, I told Ron, if after spending five months showing a house for sale, I'd find myself showing an apartment for rent. I personally never wanted to see a Clorox cleaning wipe again.

Feeling a little desperate, I turned to another difficult task: finding daycare for a small child in San Francisco in two weeks. Ron had spoken to a lady at a marvelous-sounding school the week before leaving for Michigan. It was small (16 children total) and cute, with a good teacher-student ratio and none of that weird academic bent that I'd noticed on some S.F. preschool web sites. Dinosaur School (not it's real name) was what I wanted. Clutching their little blue handbook, I left a message at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. At noon, the school called back. There had been an opening, but it was filled while Ron was in Michigan. Ron had scheduled a parent tour for Aug. 1, which I agreed to keep. "Maybe something will open up," the school director said. Yeah.

Now a little panicked, I spent hours on Tuesday searching online for preschools, shamelessly using someone's nearby wireless connection for my laptop. Most schools I called had a waiting list: "We have openings for fall 2008," a few school officials said helpfully. Finally a preschool director took pity on me and coughed up two names for home-based daycares in the Sunset district.

By the end of Tuesday, things looked a little grim. The rental agency's lease department called me back and described how easy it would be for us to find a new tenant ourselves. An editor from the San Francisco Business Times emailed me, asking me if I could begin work Aug. 6. Sure, I emailed back, crossing my fingers.

It's doubly sad about the apartment, because the neighborhood is just great -- everything Ron said and more. It's quiet and pretty, with a nice commercial area just a few blocks away, with a laundromat and grocery, and hardware store and crepes place. Bus lines and rail lines are just blocks away. There's a great playground a few blocks in the other direction. The great location almost makes up for the apartment.


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