Who You Gonna Call?

The last time I was at the hairdresser, my stylist was talking about her landlord. She lives in what she describes as an “adorable junior studio,” but it does have its share of problems. She’s had to do a lot of cleaning and fixing, including replacing the locks. She said that she’s petitioned her landlord to make these fixes, but even the other tenants in her building have told her that appealing to him is useless. She called him a slumlord.

It got me to thinking about my house. I think I may be a slumlord. The problem is that my only tenants are me and my family. I’m perpetually overscheduled, and it’s easier to just learn to work with the things that are a little bit broken, a little bit cluttered, a little bit sketchy.

A partial list:

  • there’s a broken dishwasher sitting on my back porch
  • along with a broken toaster oven
  • and a DVD player that doesn’t work
  • and a elliptical trainer that finally conked out
  • and my stationary bike that only just died (despite how it looks, I exercise a lot)
  • the door of the cabinet in the guest bathroom has a broken hinge and it’s just hanging there
  • same with the bottom door of the linen cupboard
  • the utility sink in the laundry room has a hole in it
  • there are two tiles missing from the corner of the kitchen counter
  • the porch railings need painting
  • the planting boxes from the porch need cleaning out and replanting

This is just the big stuff that annoys me daily. What’s the most annoying bit isn’t that I’m on tap to fix this stuff, but I can’t do it myself, and there’s a lot of stuff I don’t know how to do. The hinges that have failed are the really complicated, fiddly kind, and I don’t get them. I can’t load the exercise equipment into the back of my truck by myself in order to take it to the dump.

This is really the paradox of modern life. We have dishwashers and vacuum cleaners and washing machines and garage door openers – all sorts of labor-saving devices. All this saved labor is supposed to translate to saved time – time that milady can spend sunning her dainty knees by the pool, etc. Except that Americans haven’t done that. Americans have taken that extra time and filled it up with more work. And I am, in that respect, very American.

I guess at some point I’m going to have to put down my work – my manuscripts, my trips to the city to fix up another house with its own problems, my work helping my kid with her schoolwork, etc. – and start fixing some things around here. Either that, or I stage a rent strike.

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