The Cat Lady, The Love Boat and The Wise Guy

I got the letter late one Thursday afternoon upon returning home form work.

“As you know Sue Smith the owner of the condominium you are renting died On August first. The heirs to her estate have been forced to liquidate her property. The property will be put up for sale and you will have the first opportunity to buy it.”

I was stunned. I been living in the condo for eight years and I had no idea the owner had died. I momentarily toyed with the idea of buying the place, more out of laziness than anything else. It was a big place, but the carpet was 15 years old, the dishwasher was broken and it was right next to the front door and the pool so it was noisy all the time.  I decided it wasn’t a good investment. I wanted to leave Denver,  I had been there and done that and I had nothing keeping me there. I had a few friends, but none that were that close. I hated my call center job. I worked  for an apartment management company known to its employees as ShameCo.. The manager of the call center was a five foot five 280  pound mental midget named Mark (Knighted The Pillsbury Doughboy, by me and my buddy Rigo!). I’m not sure how Mark ever managed to become a manager of anything, but he had managed to run several call centers;  run them away to India that is. In spite of  being married with two boys at home he constantly judged the women in the office for their attractiveness to him. If he didn’t want to sleep with you you weren’t getting promoted.

You may think this meant that you had to be cute to get promoted, but this was not so. One of his favorites was a brutish six food tall woman with a moustache and a shapeless body and a deep manly voice named Carrie (renamed The Stach). In spite of her complete lack of qualifications , her  laziness and her general rudeness she was promoted to supervisor and eventually manager because she laughed at all of his sexist jokes. She told quite a few of her own including several aimed at a woman in the office with Turner Syndrome. She constantly made fun of other women’s bodies and spent half the day putting them down instead of working. Another woman favored by Mark was a bucked tooth grey haired 30 year old who belched constantly and was at least 60 pounds over weight (Buckey). The Pillsbury Doughboy was turned on by both of these horror shows because  they both kissed his ass. Nothing is sexier to a narcissist than someone who worships them. Buckey was promoted to several different supervisory positions as she narced on all of her co-workers to the dough-boy. She failed miserably at everyone of them and was eventually demoted to doing some type of clerical work.

The real-estate company began the process of trying to sell my apartment. Every so often strangers would begin parading through my house. This went on for months, but there were never any buyers. In the midst of all this I got the opportunity to work at home for Shameco posting their apartment ads on Craigslist. At first the job sounded like a dream come true. I could do it in my pajamas and I didn’t have to go into the office with the doughboy and his motley crew. But, I was supervised by an annoying woman who IM’d me every three minutes to make sure I was working. If I reposted an ad that someone else has written and the ad had typos in it I got in trouble for it. I had complained to HR about  Mark’s horrid behavior and I’m sure he knew it was me. I began to develop an escape plan. I would move to another state and  work from home until I found a job there. No one would ever know. I decided mid-June would be the perfect time to do this as I would get my quarterly bonus then. Unfortunately, my landlord through a monkey wrench into my plans. All the Condo renters were being kicked out on May first so they could fix up the seven apartments that Sue had owned. We were being given thirty days to get out. I realized I had to make a plan in a hurry.

I began to search the internet for the next place I would live. I was already fairly disgusted with LA and decided I definitely didn’t want to live there. I began looking at other places in California.  I considered Sacramento, it was cheap and close to San Francisco, but I was told by friends that it was a slum. I began to Google info about San Diego, It looked beautiful and relaxing, almost like a resort. I attempted to find an apartment there, but everything I could afford was  gone by the time I called it. I have a dog Macbeth, who is like my son and finding an apartment that will take him can be challenging for us. I subscribed to a paid list of unadvertised apartments. The site said that their employees drove around and found small basement apartments and the such for the site. I was suspicious, but desperate. I called around, but once again everything was taken by the time I called it. I then attempted to find an apartment in the OC, in the hopes of gradually working  my way south to San Diego,  But, all the apartments there were to expensive. I finally set my sites on Long Beach. I came across a small studio that was listed under Long Beach . It was the same price as I was paying in Denver. It said it was in San Pedro which I assumed was the name of a neighborhood in Long Beach. The ad said to ask for Vito. I dialed the number and a man with a ridiculously deep voice answered the phone.

“Hello, this is Vito.”

“Um, yeah I was calling about the apartment?”

“Which one”

“The studio”.

“Oh,” he said “One sec.” He put the phone down and I thought I heard a door close.

“Uh yeah,  now it’s a real little place . It’s basically just a room.  It’s in the basement of an apartment building it’s a converted garage. There’s not really a kitchen, but there is a sink and I can put in a stove.

“Well,” that sounds ok. I said a bit disappointed.

“”When can you come by and see the place?”

“I’m actually moving from Denver, I’d hoped we could do this over the phone.”

“Oh, I see, uh do you have a friend who could come over and look at the place?”

“No, I don’t know anyone there.”

Look, I should tell you that there’s no real window on the place I mean there is but it doesn’t open or anything. There’s no closet…

“Do you allow dogs?

“yeah” .

He e mailed me an application I laughed when I saw his whole name, Vito Bologna, it sounded like something out of a wise guy movie.  I filled it  out. He called me the next day.

“Uh, yeah. I got your application. Your credits not the greatest, but I’m sure you know that. I would need a full months rent as the deposit.

I said okay.

“Look, there’s one other thing,” Vito said. I thought I heard the door close again.

“It’s not exactly a legal apartment. I may have to put on the lease that’s its just for storage.”

“Oh,” I said.

“When the building inspector comes I may have to put a few boxes in the apartment and have you leave for a couple of hours.”

“does anyone live there now?”

“Yes, the woman who lives here now has lived here for four years. She just wanted to get a bigger place. “

I know it sounds crazy , but I agreed to take the apartment. I just didn’t have the energy to keep looking in California and I pretty much had my heart set on leaving Denver.

I arranged for a rideshare and began packing. Two days before I was to leave I got a call from my manager saying that I was no longer on the Craigslist team as the team was being taken over by another department. I would go back to being on the phone. I was to report to the office the next day for retraining. I had an enormous panic attack. Shamco had some people posting ads on Craigslist in different states, but they didn’t have any phone agents working in other states. I wasn’t even sure if my phone would work. I went into the office work the next day and acted as though nothing was wrong. I told no one of my plans. They installed they  computer phone on my computer and  left for what I thought was Long Beach the next day.

We drove through the night through Utah and Nevada  in twenty hours. My traveling companion had rented a  car and needed to get it to the dealership within 24 hours. He managed to drop my TV when loading it.We arrived in Long Beach at 9:00 AM on the 10th of March 2008. We drove across an endless bridge and arrived in the small town of San Pedro. As we drove across the bridge I was overcome with an amazing sense of déjà vu. .San Pedro is a beautiful town. It is the official Port of Los Angeles lovely mountains sit atop a quaint town with many tree lined streets the path that runs along the harbor and cruise ship port is lined with palm trees and majestic cruise ships dock there waiting to take passengers sailing  over the world …The Love Boat! That’s where I’d seen all this before. As we rode into town I realized I was looking at the establishing shot of  The Love Boat. May be everything would be okay after all.

My rideshare partner helped me unload my stuff into the small windowless box that was my apartment. At first it didn’t seem so bad. It looked like a bedroom with a kitchen sink in it. Right after he left I went into the bathroom. I opened the shower door and screamed. It was literally covered in mold and what appeared to be cat hair. I hadn’t had a bath in 24 hour I was just exhausted and I didn’t have a bed. I took Macbeth for a long walk and tried to locate a store. I  returned with shower cleaner and tried to clean the shower a bit. I got pretty sick while I cleaned and managed to get an enormous boil on my foot. I tried plugging in the telephone, but the phone service hadn’t been turned on yet. I bought an airbed and we spent an uneasy night in the silent apartment .

When we woke up the next morning and got ready for our morning walk I opened the door to find several cats looking up at me expectantly. Macbeth barked and they ran for it. The lady before me had been a cat lady- They wanted food. The apartment proved much worse thean Vito had described it. The people upstairs were noisy hillbillies who let there kids play right outside my door. It wouldn’t have ben so  bad if they hadn’t constantly left candy wrappers all over the place. I don’t have any human kids and can imagine few worse things than having something that size come out of one’s vagina. It’s bad enough I have to pay to educate other peoples accidents, must I provide maid service as well?

I tried the telephone again and it still wouldn’t work. I called At and T from my crummy prepaid cell phone  and they told me that they had no record of my ordering phone service. I screamed at them and told them that I needed phone and internet service by no later then the next day as I worked from home. They said phone service could be up in 48 hours and the internet would take at least a week. I went out of my mind how could they let this happen? I had called a week in advance to make arrangements for this. I had the name of the agent and everything . They told me there was nothing they could do. The phone did come on the next day and I called to confirm that the internet would be on in a week – they had no record of the internet order. None of the customer service reps seemed to know what  the last rep had done and the company did not require them to leave notes in the computer.

For a week I sat in the San Pedro Starbucks on Gaffey and took calls. My internet finally came on and everything was fine for a week. All of a sudden the customers couldn’t here me. I called my supervisor and she told me to come into the office so they could look at it. I said my foot was hurt to badly to come into the office and I would just have to get a friend to take it to Best Buy. This was not a complete lie. The boil  on my foot was huge and even the limp to Starbuck’s everyday was challenging. I did take the computer to Best Buy, but they couldn’t find anything wrong with it . I tried re installing the software a million times, but it just wouldn’t work. I was able to take some calls but not many. I decided the best thing to do would be to turn in my two weeks notice and see what happened. Five minutes after I resigned the I could not get into my email, the Pillsbury doughboy had accepted my resignation early.

I sat in the tiny room and thought about what I had done. I had nothing no job, almost no money and an illegal apartment  I looked over at MacBeth and wondered wondered how I would go on feeding him. I went on Craigslist and began to search for a job. I didn’t know it but I was about to bite in wrong side of the mushroom and go on one of the most unbelievably miserable journeys I had ever been on.

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