A Comedy of Chaos

Garage Sale

It is 10:30 in the AM here in London, England, and the rest of my family remain fast asleep, despite the daylight streaming in through the one bay window in the room we have rented for the week. Some of this sleep can be blamed on jetlag, certainly, but I blame it more on stress relief. As a family, we have experienced the most stressful six weeks of our life, and we are just now allowing ourselves some rest and recovery.

The short version is this. Six weeks ago we were offered, all very last minute, a job teaching English in India. So we sold our house, our car, most of our possessions and gave away our animals. In six weeks. Add to this stress about employment visa paperwork (still pending), closing out the school year (always a bit stressful anyway) and the natural stress of “my-God-I-am-leaving-everything-I-know-and-love” and you get a stress wonderland.

To make matters worse, nothing went smoothly, not one thing. Everything was littered with the most idiotic problems and hurdles, to the point where Merideth and I would alternate laughing and having panic attacks so that we could emotionally deal with everything.

I want to try to list all that went wrong, not so much because it makes for fascinating reading (sorry) but because I want to remember it.

We were given a hastily set-up phone interview on a Monday morning at 5 am, to accommodate the 10 and a half hour time difference. At the end of the interview, we were told that we had the jobs pending the responses from our references. This necessitated my telling the people I put down as references that I had interviewed for another job. To make matters worse, it was TAKS week, a stressful time for teachers regardless. I felt terrible telling my bosses that I was contemplating moving overseas at the beginning of this stressful week, but there was nothing to be done about it. A few days later, the references were received by my colleges and sent back, and then we heard nothing. Nothing. Weeks went by, we went from “We are moving to India” to “they changed their mind”. I refused to resign until I had paperwork stating I had a job. So, we hurried up and waited, until I sent a slightly passive-aggressive email asking for a response and was informed that we indeed had the jobs. Hurray.

Now, we moved on to the house. We bought the house ten years ago as a starter/fix up house. And while we fixed a lot, it was never enough to correct the plethora of problems the house faced. And Merideth and I never had the time and money at the same time to repair things adequately, so many projects were in various stages of completion. We called the Realtor who helped us buy the house many moons ago and told her we needed to sell fast. She was worried about the repairs, which we told her we could not fix in time, but she seemed to feel better when we told her we knew we would take a big hit on the asking price of the house. We decided to ask 149k, tens of thousands of dollars below the asking price for compatible houses in our neighborhood. Low and behold, within three days, we had an offer on the house. (We had good feelings about the seller. We caught of glimpse of the young, would-be rocker and his alterna-cute girlfriend and said “they need our house”. Our belief was confirmed when we got an email saying one reason the guy was buying our house was because we read the same comic book titles.) So, awesome. We closed on the house (after reducing the price to 146k). An inspection was set up for a few days later and one thing had to be fixed. A toilet had to be replaced. So, I tried to replace the toilet, and failed miserably. So miserably that I flooded the bathroom and part of the hallway. Flooded so that some of the Pergo in the hallway became slightly warped. In between the buyer buying the house and the inspection, I had destroyed the house. The buyer, thinking the problem was a long term problem, almost pulled out, until we explained what I had done and lowered the price again to 139k. He was appeased and we thought we were done. Closing was set for a week before we left and we thought we were home-free. Little did we realize the power of the appraiser. After the inspector came out, the bank sent an appraiser, who gave a terrible appraisal of the house (The buyer, the Realtors on both sides and the uncle of the buyer who was a home contractor, were all furious with the guy.) The bank said five things had to be fixed, by us, before we could close. We reminded the bank that we lowered the price so that the buyer could fix things. No deal. We asked if we could give the buyer cash at closing to make the fixes. No deal. So, I became the world’s faster contractor, spending money we did not have, on repairs we thought we did not have to worry about. Siding and fixing of eves = $650. Tile in a bathroom=$150. Two broken window panes=$200. And a new exterior door=$20 at the habitat restore and the wonderful siding contractor who threw hanging the door in for free. Bam, stuff fixed. Only, not really. The appraiser also mentioned that the roof was in bad shape and would need to be looked at by a roofing expert. Awesome. We are totally out of money, so the buyer pays for the room inspector. $550 verdict, plus we had to pay a tree trimming service $175 to ensure the trees were nowhere close to the house. At this point, we were leaving in 5 days. We got everything fixed, payed for an re-appraised on Friday, so a closing on Tuesday. We leave the country on Wednesday. The closing went smoothly, and we emerged with $9800. Most of which was already spent and the rest of which was needed to buy needed supplies for India. (I had to smooth talk the cashier at the bank into releasing the funds immediately).

Then there was the car. We had two mini-vans. One had been broken for months, and we Craigslisted the thing for $150. The other we were planning on giving to my brother-in-law. But, as we came down to the wire and saw how broke we were, we knew we would have to sell it. As we were contemplating how to sell it, we were driving home from our wonderful going-away party and the car died, right there in the middle of the street. Whether the car was upset at the idea of being sold or just decided that it would stop the pain if we were going to get rid of it anyway I will never know. Three hours, a phone call to my sister-in-law and her handyman friend, and a run to Auto Zone for a new alternator, and the car is fixed. We drive straight to CarMax and sell the car for $2000, all of which went to pay for repairs on the house. Whew.

We drive around furiously on Tuesday afternoon, buying things that we needed for India, but could not afford until we got paid for the house, and finally collapse at my sister-in-law’s house at about 2 am. The car rental place charged us double what we were told they would charge us, but we were used to that. Things would have been a lot easier if the school district had not, lied is the wrong word, been very unclear with my wife about when she was getting paid. We were told that Merideth, having resigned on time, would get all of the remainder of her money owed on the last working day of the month, which for teachers was June 3. Awesome. We really needed that influx of cash. Turns out, they meant the last working day of the month for everyone, which is June 30. No influx of cash. No nothing. To make matters worse, Merideth and I spent our May 30 paychecks on stuff for India, thinking we would have a lot more money in three days. No such luck.

There were other minor disasters, some of which I am sure I will not remember until after I post this. Receipts from a tournament needed by the school were lost and found at the last moment. My new computer died, requiring me to obtain a new one. British Airways flight crews announced strikes (though they did not affect us, it was just something more to worry about). I felt I became a horrible teacher that last six-weeks, which was a blow to my self-esteem, which is very wrapped up in at least being good at what I do, and a storm knocked down a tree in our front yard three days before we closed. Woof.

Then I had to say good-bye to many, many wonderful people. And that was awful. Especially as I am someone who despises saying good-bye.

But, we, as always, survived and made it to London. For a 10-day holiday before we start studies at Oxford. A holiday in which we are sleeping.

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About the Author

I moved to India. I mean, why the hell not, right?