Don Fried — Playwright & Author

Posts Tagged ‘Texas

moving-manI’ve spent the last two weeks in Austin, Texas, helping Rhonda move apartments.   We’re not unfamiliar with the drill, having moved 12 times in the first 5 years after we were married.  At this point, after 37 years of marriage, our move count is somewhere in the upper 20s.   As you can imagine, with all that experience, we got pretty good at it.  After some of those moves, we had every box unpacked and every picture hung on the wall the same afternoon.  And one time we actually had a party in our apartment the evening of the move!

Rhonda has always been incredibly organized, but I developed a lot of my skill working for North American Van Lines out of Wilmington, Delaware for a year while I was in graduate school at the University of Delaware in 1972-73.    Try carrying furniture and boxes up and down stairs for 40 – 80 hours a week while you’re going to school.  That’ll cripple you or get you into fantastic shape.

Many nights during that summer, I would get home from a move after 11 pm and get to bed after midnight.  Then I’d have to be up before dawn the next morning to make it to the depot by 6 a.m.  so we could drive somewhere, load a house all day, drive somewhere else, and unload the house all in the same day.  One week we loaded, unloaded, or drove for 72 hours straight.

So it’s not surprising I ended up a little schizoid.  The few hours of sleep I did manage to get at home were filled with nightmares.  A truck would drive by outside our window, and I’d slide off the bed and try to pull the mattress off the box spring, with Rhonda screaming and beating me over the head with a pillow.

In those days Rhonda was a very light sleeper.  Our clock radio had electron tubes, and Rhonda would always wake up to the click of the clock, before the unit had warmed up and the music started.  She’d turn the clock off, and lean over and kiss me on the cheek to awaken me.  And I’d crawl out of bed and get ready for work.

One night, I was awakened by a slap across the face instead of a kiss.  “OK, ” I thought, “she’s in a bad mood today.”  So I got up, got dressed, and ate breakfast — all in the dark as I did in order not to awaken her again — got in the car and headed off to Wilmington.  About 45 minutes later I arrived at the depot and found it closed.  It was only then that I looked at my watch.  It was 2:15 a.m.  Rhonda hadn’t awakened to the click of the clock radio.  She was rolling over in her sleep and slugged me.  And I was so exhausted and programmed to work around the clock that I had gotten up and gone to work.

All those memories came back to me this past week.  Although we were hiring someone to carry the heavy pieces of furniture, we were doing everything else ourselves.  For 4 days, Rhonda packed boxes and I carried them and small pieces of furniture down the stairs and loaded them into our van.  Then we drove to the new apartment, and I carried them back up the stairs at the other end.

The first day or two were really rough.  You see what happens?  You’re minding your own business and suddenly, 35 years later, you’re not in the kind of shape that you were when you were 21.

But then, miraculously, it started to come back.  I made literally hundreds of trips up and down those stairs, and by the end I was able to do it all day long, carrying two boxes at a time ON MY BACK.

I briefly considered going out and trying to find work with a moving company.  But then I realized that with my plans to become a professional boxer, my moving career will have to wait.

When I was still in the business world, there was an expression I used frequently when I was counseling people who worked for me.  “You’ve got to choose which train you want to stand in front of.”  In other words, it’s a big tough world, and there are lots of things in it that you may not like, or are patently unfair, or just plain stink.  But you can’t spend all your time tilting at windmills, so choose your battle.  It also implies that, like Don picasso_don_quixoteQuixote, when you do choose your battle, there’s a good chance you’re going to get knocked silly.

My wife, Rhonda, is moving this weekend, and for the last several months she’s been looking for a new apartment here in Austin.

(A short digression here:  Rhonda has big problems making decisions and agonizes over everything endlessly.  Once she does makes a decision, she second-guesses it — forever.    These days I kid her that one of the benefits of her going through menopause is that she’s getting a little scatty and has finally stopped agonizing over which color towels she chose for the bathroom 30 years ago.  She really appreciates that.  By the way, I’m just the opposite; once I’ve made a decision it becomes the correct decision and stays that way — forever — often in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.)

Getting back to choosing an apartment in Austin.  We’ve discovered that most apartment complexes in Austin refuse to let you see a copy of the lease agreement until the day you come in to sign it.  And in most cases, they won’t let you sign it until the day you are moving  in.  I’ve objected to this strenuously, but have gotten little sympathy.

“How am I supposed to know what I’m committing to?” I ask.

“You can read the lease when you sign it,” they respond.

“And if I want to have a lawyer look at it?”

“Bring the lawyer with you.”

Right!  Picture it.  You’ve got the moving van and 4 moving men double parked outside the leasing office at $150 an hour.  And the lawyer is sitting next to you charging $250 an hour.  And you decide you don’t like something in the lease.  Something like, say, the fact that the lease explicitly denies any obligation on the part of the lessor to provide a habitable dwelling, but that you have to keep paying rent in perpetuity.  (By the way, words to that effect were actually in one of the leases that I did manage to get an advance copy of.)  So you decide not to sign the lease, and there you are with your goods in the moving van at $150 an hour, making the rounds of Austin apartment complexes.  Which, of course, you’re not going to do, so you sign the frigging lease.

Do you get the impression that this is exactly what the apartment complexes want?  You bet your sweet ass it is.

Fortunately, most of the complexes will tell you in advance that they use the standard Texas Apartment Association lease.  (Which they also refuse to let you see in advance, but is available in 100 places on the internet.)  Unfortunately, the members of the Texas Apartment Association are the apartment owners, so the lease is strongly one-sided in their favor.

For many years, I tried to read (and, if possible, mark up) every contract I signed.  Every car rental agreement, every hotel check-in form, every software download form.  Sometimes, I even managed to get away with it.  But eventually, I started agreeing to whatever moronic things the  contracts wanted me to commit to.  I guess, like everybody else in the world, I’m relying on the fact that 90% of what is in those documents is  illegal and wouldn’t stand up if it ever came to court.

You’ll have to excuse me now, I’m going to go sign an apartment lease.  This isn’t the train I’ve chosen to stand in front of.