Ryan and I rented a house from an older couple when we lived in San Diego the last time we lived here. It was a small, three bedroom track home, but it had a pool and it was just me, Ryan and Shmoopy at the time so it was more than enough room for us.
For some reason, this couple has been on my mind lately. Gersten and Gayle – I won’t publish their last name, but chances are if you know a couple named Gersten and Gayle, they were my landlords.
When we first signed the lease, Gersten came right out and asked us if we could afford the $1600/mo rent. We were moving from an apartment where our rent was $1000 and he was quite concerned about that extra $600 a month. I assured him we could swing the rent – he even went so far as to ask that we direct deposit the rent into his account directly from our employers. I told him we would not be doing that, but I guaranteed that the rent would be paid on time and in full every month.
I think a lot of people would have given Gersten the finger and left, but not us. When we moved into the house, Ryan and I were both 28 years old. It’s not like we were right out of college or high school, for that matter, but The Gerstens (as Ryan and I liked to call them) continued to treat us like small children. Gayle warned me against putting potato skins down the garbage disposal and when I called her to tell her that oven wasn’t working, only the broiler, she told me that unless I was actually baking something, the broiler was fine. No, Gayle, it’s not, why don’t you send someone to fix the original 1950’s oven?
The refrigerator made a deafening clanking noise whenever it stopped running. We were told that it cooled fine so they wouldn’t be replacing it. It was funny how used we got to that noise and how it scared the hell out of anyone that was visiting us. The light burnt out in the pool, but it was going to cost to much to replace so they weren’t going to do it.
There was a gazebo in the backyard that housed a hot tub, that we never used. It was empty and mildewy inside, but only after Ryan and I told The Gerstens that we wanted it out did they suggest we put an ad in the Penny Saver. We did just that and printed that it was free for the taking. It was gone within the week. I think The Gerstens were expecting us to sell it, but I didn’t have time for that. The gazebo was termite infested, as well as the house was I’m sure, and one day collapsed on it’s own accord.
Once, a piece of plastic fell off the dryer forcing us to duct tape it shut so we could dry our clothes until The Gerstens showed up with a replacement part. Gersten pulled out this little part and quizzed me as to how much I thought it cost. What I wanted to say was “I don’t give a shit, old man, just fix it.” But I entertained him. “I don’t know, $20?” I asked. “No.” Then he just stood there and stared at me. I guess that was my cue to guess again and I had no idea if it was more or less so I threw out “$30?” “No. $7.” Well OK then. Apparently I don’t know the value of plastic.
We had a rat that ran around in the backyard that drove Shmoopy crazy, but luckily never made it inside. There were lizards and opossums too. One of Ryan’s favorite memories of The Gerstens was when we were moving out. That ‘possum ended up living in the shed next to the house and while Gersten was tooling around the house, he opened up the shed and saw it in there. He promptly came inside the house to tell all of us that he found the opossum and it was dead…or playing ‘possum.
Our final conversation with The Gerstens came after we had moved out and were back in Iowa. He had told us to put the garage door opener and the key in a drawer in the kitchen. We never used the garage for our cars so the garage door opener sat on a shelf in the kitchen right above the sink the entire time we lived there. Consequently, we forgot to put it in the drawer when we moved out. Gersten called us to ask where it was since it wasn’t in the drawer. I only heard Ryan’s side of the conversation, but it went something like this:
It’s probably on the shelf. Yeah, sorry about that. Uh – huh, well it’s about 3 feet from there. *Hangs up* Those fucking Gerstens.
Right before we moved, we decided to leave our mark at The Gerstens’ rental property. We had done a little digging around in the backyard at one point and found a bunch of bones. Seriously. They were either cat bones or a small dog – but we did find a skull. Anyway, we took a huge pack of wildflower seeds and threw them all over the backyard. We called it The Garden Of Spite. We never got to see if it blossomed, but we were always hopeful that it did.