The week before we left for Atlanta, Heather and I stayed with my parents, who drove back up to PA to help us load our moving truck. The day before we got there, it snowed about a foot, making it impossible to even get the Subarus up there, much less the truck. We had to hire someone to come out, clear the driveway and then tow the moving truck up to the house, which took all day. Packing took all night. The following morning, on four hours of sleep, we left for Atlanta.
The icing on the cake, the very rock bottom, was the fiasco involving our remote choice of residence. We signed a lease on a little house in Smyrna, a small town outside of Atlanta, which we thought was ideal. It was cute, the inside was all new, the neighborhood was nice and it was only 10 minutes from work.
After a 13 hour drive to Atlanta, at 10:30 p.m., the landlord met us, ran us through the house in about five minutes and left, first month’s rent in hand. We went back into the house to figure out what went where and it quickly became obvious that the house was, in the words of a contractor friend, a shithole. Thanks Craig’s List.
The floors were uneven and tile was cracked along every wall. He painted over globs of tape on the walls. Two of the windows were haphazardly caulked sheets of plastic. Both doors were horribly light with no deadbolts, and one had signs of a previous break-in. The bedroom ceiling was unfinished. The stove didn’t work. The gas wasn’t on. No hot water, no heat. There was a condom in the toilet.
We ended up sleeping on the tile floor of the house that night, me, Heather, my 65 year-old mother and our cats and dogs. It was 40 degrees outside and in, and come 5 a.m., roosters started crowing from the neighbor’s house.
We placed our good faith in someone, coming from hundreds of miles away, that he was providing, for good money, a safe, comfortable place to live when we arrived and we had everything but. I called the landlord in the morning, told him what happened and he refused to fix anything. When I threatened to leave, he told me to go ahead, that he was keeping my security deposit and the first month’s rent. I begged, I pleaded, tried to work out a deal, and finally I just yelled and accused and hung up.
My only thought was, I’ve really fucked us. I wanted to put my fist through the guy’s head. Then I did the next best thing: I put a stop payment on the rent check.
I made a few phone calls to friends in the area over some hash and grits. One of them works for a contractor who builds and repairs multi-million dollar homes in the wealthy areas in Atlanta, and in the middle of his work day, he tracked down a place for us to live. We packed up and left that nightmare of a house and met him in Buckhead. The house was just around the corner, in Virginia -Highland (named for an intersection of roads in the area), one of the more affluent areas in the city.
It was like waking up when we walked into the house. Hardwood floors, freshly painted walls, real windows, a back yard, everything that the other house was not. Our landlord is my friend’s boss, and one of the kindest people I’ve met in a long time. He wanted no deposit, and even cut the rent for the first two months just so we could afford to move in and get settled. His crew helped us unpack the truck, and then brought over air mattresses so we could sleep while we waited for money to come in for a new bed.
My friend was our savior. I’m sure he will never read this, but I wanted to share this little story of human kindness and selflessness as a sharp contrast in personality of most of the characters we blog about. Without him we would still be in that dump, and I could never leave home without worrying about the safety of everything and everyone in it.
So we’re here, finally, settling in, starting to enjoy life again, and I want to talk about science and animals and politics and the environment and art and culture again. I want people to disagree with me and call me out when I’m wrong. Most of all, I missed all of my friends in the science blogosphere, and I’m looking forward to reconnecting.
Thanks for waiting. Sb Overlords, thanks for your patience.