Tales from the Parkside

Today started out fine. I got up a little early to spend a few minutes with my husband over coffee. Our dog, Coda split a toenail last week and it came off a day or two after I noticed it, so he’s been limping his ninety pound self around and it takes a little longer to get him to go up and down the stairs from the deck to the ground. But it’s all good, the toe is healing. The weather was good, a little overcast but it’s November. I hate this daylight savings thing. Hate, loathe and despise it. I had to wait until it was full light out in order to get my first job related thing done, because where I was heading, there was probably no electricity. I was also pretty sure there would be roaches, so I made sure I dressed appropriately, with my pant legs tucked into my socks. Tenants had been evicted, and where there’s an eviction there’s always some kind of infestation. Or worse. There’s worse? Oh, yeah, there’s worse.

Should I back up a little? I should probably back up a little. I might sound like a lunatic shortly otherwise. My name is Tracy. I’m fifty years old. I live in North Carolina, but I was born and raised in Connecticut, where I lived until just a few years ago. I grew up in an affluent little town on the New York state line where I attended the top public schools in the nation and didn’t see my first poor person until I was almost twenty years old. There were people like Robert Vaughn, David Cassidy, Giancarlo Esposito, the entire cast of As the World Turns wandering around Main Street when I was growing up. The town was founded by people like Colonel Knox who hung out with Mark Twain, Pierre Cartier and all sorts of “eccentric” folks with piles of wealth and breeding who had elegant estates – because people didn’t have “houses”, they had estates, and manors and things they called cottages that were bigger than most high schools. There was even a Revolutionary War battle fought in town and Benedict Arnold marched down Main Street. Or something like that. I do remember being tortured I don’t know how many times with field trips in school to see an old tavern that had a cannonball lodged in the outer wall.

Flash forward to the present, because I don’t live there anymore. I live in a trailer park now – well, a “mobile home community” as I generally refer to it. And don’t get me wrong, I’m happier here than I’ve ever been in my life but some days I wake up and ask myself how in the heck I got here.

I started working when I was sixteen years old. Aside from that first high school job in a grocery store, I worked in corporate America for thirty years. I hired, I fired, I ran IT departments, I dispatched medical drivers coast to coast, I designed Fine Jewelry departments, I wore nice clothes and had huge mahogany desks with three computer monitors on them. I owned a house, I bought new cars, I took vacations.

Flash forward to the present again, because I don’t do any of that anymore. Not only do I live in a trailer park – well, a “mobile home community”, but I work here, too. There are actually thirteen parks owned by the property management company and I work in all of them. More specifically, most of the time the work I do is cleaning the vacant homes. Welcome to my glamorous life.

I’m married, by the way. My husband grew up in the same small Connecticut town. He was three years ahead of me in high school and I thought he was cute. So, twenty five years later I ran across him on Facebook. A year later we got married. He’s got a college education, has a degree in marketing, and now he lives in a trailer park – well, “mobile home community” and he does the maintenance and remodeling work on the same trailers I’m cleaning. He’s not sure how he wound up here, either.

In 2014 we were looking for a place to live, close to Charlotte where he was sure there would be some work for him. Personally, I just wanted to retire and write books. So we looked on Craig’s List, found a couple of places to check out and off we went. One of them was advertised as a Rent to Own mobile home. I thought it was a pretty cool idea, owning a little place of our own without a huge mortgage. We could pay the place off in just a couple of years and then live there for just the lot rent fee. Money was tight and the idea was pretty appealing. Until we got there. And saw the place. The park was nice enough, there were only a couple of trailers there and woods all around but it was small. And dark. And dirty. And needed painting at the very least.

I decided that I was just not ready to be A Trailer Person. I’d watched too many episodes of My Name is Earl and I couldn’t do it. So we moved into a rental house on the other side of town instead. It was a little dumpy and the neighborhood wasn’t great but it was a house.  With a foundation and everything.  We found out when the dust settled and the snow melted that we were in the ghetto. I had the distinct feeling that God wanted to humble me a little bit. I really had no idea how humble he wanted me to be.

A year later one of our neighbors, in the ghetto, wanted to move out and started looking on Craig’s List for something else. She found an ad for Rent to Own mobile homes. And she wanted to look at one. But she didn’t have a car. So, I offered to take her. We wound up on the other side of town, looking at a little trailer a park owned by the same company that owned the place we’d looked at the year before.  I remember thinking about what a great sense of humor God must truly have. Our neighbor wanted to fill out an application on the place, so we drove one town over to their office and she took care of the application. In the meantime, I spied the cutest little trailer across from the office and by then… I was ready to humble myself just a little more and be… A Trailer Person. I went back into the office and took an application for myself and my husband.

Little did I know that my new living arrangement would lead me on the adventure of a lifetime. Or, something like that. Stay tuned for Chapter Two – The Adventures of Kenny the Cockroach.

My first Mobile Home, where we lived the first year before moving to the bigger home.

I’d heard of cockroaches before. I’d seen them skittering about in movies. I had never actually seen one in person. Until I started cleaning vacant rental properties. The first time I saw a cockroach it wasn’t just A roach. It was a sea of them. A tenant had just been evicted – not just from the park, but from the country. As soon as he was deported we got possession of the trailer back. I was handed a key (because I hadn’t yet been given a master key to all the homes, being new and all…) and asked to go take a look to see what kind of condition it was in and what kind of repairs we were likely to have to do.

I walked over to the small two bedroom, one bath trailer that the man had occupied with his wife and two small children. His wife had taken off with the kids just weeks earlier, for parts unknown.

I opened the door. I saw the bugs straight away – it was hard to miss them; crawling on the walls, dripping off the ceiling…. There was furniture in the house, a lot of it. And clothes and garbage everywhere. The sunlight streamed in from the open door and hit the dark brown carpet.

The dark brown carpet started to shimmer in the sunlight.

The dark brown carpet started to ripple. Like a wave pool.

There was no dark brown carpet on the floor.

The floor was carpeted with roaches.

I screamed.

I peed myself a little.

I slammed the door and I ran.

I had no idea that I’d just met someone I’d be spending a lot of time with over the next few years – Kenny the Cockroach.

Until I was 48 years old I’d never had a job that involved any kind of manual labor. I sat at desks. In comfortable leather chairs. Sometimes with “massage slippers” on my feet under my large mahogany desk. Until my complete and utter burnout breakdown happened in Connecticut. I’m convinced that I quit my last job and moved out of the northeast just in time, just before the final snap came. And trust me, it was coming. 
In 2006 I bought a house in Connecticut, about 1500 feet away from Long Island Sound. We could see the beach from the yard. But it was far enough away from the water that we were not likely to suffer in any of the Nor’Easter flooding we were so prone to. We put up a six foot high stockade fence the first year. I paid (well, financed the sale price of) $225,000 for the modest ranch house in East Haven. I had an attic, two bedrooms, one bath, a three-season room, a nice big basement for the laundry and exercise room, and a two car garage under the house. By 2008 the house was worth $158,000 and I was upside-down in the mortgage. I got a modification in 2010 (the same year I got married) and still struggled with the payments. I also changed jobs that year, taking a pay cut in order to not drive a full hour each way, to and from the office. And to delay that complete nervous breakdown for just a little while longer. In 2013, with the economy tanking further and no sign of steady work for my husband, we decided to sign the deed back over to the bank and walk away. God was really merciful to us, we didn’t have to go through a foreclosure and my credit didn’t take a big hit. Our friend was moving to North Carolina and we decided to follow her a month later.

I’d never been to North Carolina. We had no concrete PLAN or anything – because, you know, who needs a PLAN when you’re moving 800 miles away to a strange place, with only a few dollars in the bank. Details like…. JOBS…. that’s just silly. I felt like God wanted us to move south. Like He had a plan for us down there. We had a place to crash with our friend down there and enough money to rent a Budget truck, what else did we need? So, I quit my job, packed up the bare minimum of what we thought we’d need when we got there and we left. It took us 26 hours to make that 12 hour drive. I don’t even know how that happened. But we finally got to our friend’s rented house in Blowing Rock where we were going to stay for a while, bleary eyed and exhausted and road-sick, but relieved and hopeful at the same time. We walked into the house carrying only a bag of immediate necessities and one of our dogs crapped right on the bedroom rug. I can still hear our friend crying out, “Adoc, noooooooo!”

My husband, Marty looked for work up there in the mountains. In the winter. In the -30 degree weather. He does construction, remodeling, renovation, handy-man work. There was no work there. At least not enough to support us, and I was just not in any kind of shape mentally to jump into the workplace. And it was COLD up there! No wonder I still hadn’t seen any roaches! All the bugs up there were frozen solid somewhere! So we decided to come down off the hill, back to the flatlands and that’s when we wound up in the ghetto. It was February and all the crack-whores were still inside, hibernating, so we didn’t see them when we looked at that house. Ah, but when it got a little warmer out… they came out of the woodwork. Our first day there some drunk staggered up onto my porch and asked me to drive him to the bank. Apparently we were the rich people on the block because we had two cars – the 11 year old sedan and the 15 year old SUV. People came to our door on a regular basis, looking for rides to the liquor store or wanting to sell us stolen TVs or Food Stamps. People SELL their Food Stamps. I didn’t know this.

So, you might see how a cute little trailer in a little park with lots of Community Rules and Regulations might have seemed like just the ticket. So we moved in as soon as the lease in the ghetto was up. Within a month or two Marty had steady work for with the property management company. At that time I think they owned six or seven other parks so there was plenty of work for him, fixing up trailers in between tenants. The company now owns 15 communities – that’s almost 400 homes. 

What was I doing all this time since leaving Connecticut? Writing. I was writing books. I figured I could write the Great American Novel, make a pile of money and then we wouldn’t have to worry about anything. That was my plan. Sounded like a good plan to me. I wrote a murder mystery series. I wrote a horror story. They’re available on Amazon – paperback and Kindle. Maybe people don’t read books anymore, I don’t know.  After a few more months of “retirement” I got a call from the manager of the property management office. Marty was working on a remodel job and the place needed to be cleaned. Apparently the last person they had cleaning the vacant homes hadn’t worked out and he’d suggested to the office that they call me because I had some time on my hands. I figured, I like to clean. I’m not that busy. Why not? How bad could it be? 
I honestly had no idea. Stay tuned for the next chapter – Vengeance in the Bathroom.

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The bathroom is our friend. It’s there for us in our deepest time of need. It’s there for us when we’re at our lowest, at times in our lives when no one else would want to be near us. So why are people so mean to their bathrooms when they’re moving out of a home? Why did that poor toilet ever do to them?

The first time the property management office called me and asked if I’d be willing to “once in a while” clean a vacant home for them it was at my husband’s suggestion. The place he was remodeling was in desperate need of a cleaning and they didn’t have anyone at that time to take care of it. So they called me. I told them I’d be happy to do it. Happy. I actually used the word happy. 
I put on some old cut-off sweats and a grubby t-shirt. It was summer. In the south. It was about 90 degrees outside at midday. Have you ever been in a trailer in the summer? You cannot live in these things in the summer without good A/C. They’re ovens!  I looked cute in my grubbies. I put my hair up in a loose ponytail and headed over to the office to pick up some cleaning supplies. They gave me a bucket with bottles of degreaser, oven cleaner, Windex, paper towels, bathroom spray foam and some scrubby sponges. They gave me gloves. They should have given me a bio-hazard suit.

Marty was doing some painting when I walked in. I thought how blessed I was to be able to grab some time with him during the day since he was so busy with work and so tired when he came home at night. Yes, this could be our special time together – him doing some painting and me doing some dusting and window cleaning…. Any romantic notions I had went out the dirty window about five minutes later.

“Honey, did you pour paint in this toilet?” I called out from the bathroom. There was no power on in the trailer and it was about a thousand degrees in there. There were no windows in the bathroom so it was kinda dark. The water had also been off for a few weeks, since the former tenants had vacated. So, there was no water in the toilet, however there was something in there. Right up to the brim. It was brownish in color and appeared to be crusted over on the top.

Yeah. No. It wasn’t paint.

The tenants, facing eviction must have used that ten day period to load that bad boy up to the rim. Solid. And now it had sat there for a couple of weeks.

A picture of Vincent Price in a rowboat flashed into my mind and I could hear him talking about the horrors of an unfresh bowl.

I’d be happy to do some cleaning, sure! Happy!
My husband, my hero, my valiant warrior took that bowl-bullet for me. Say what you want about a man who goes to Jarrod, or Every Kiss Begins with K, I know for a fact that my husband loves me.

With great trepidation I lift the toilet seats of all homes now. Everyone seems to want to take their displeasure at being uprooted out on the poor commode. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are people in this world who just should not be allowed to live indoors.

And what’s with the showers? Does no one ever clean their shower? How do you get clean standing in a shower stall that looks like it has the crusty DNA of a thousand sewer workers permanently bonded to the walls? And how much of an effort would it be to bring an ashtray into the bathroom as opposed to laying the lit cigarette on the side of the molded plastic sink where it burns through and makes those nasty brown stains?

My own bathroom is my refuge. It was the very reason I picked the trailer we live in now. My bathroom is 13′ x 15′, which is pretty big even for a regular house, never mind a single-wide trailer. I have a walk-in shower and an enormous garden tub I can soak in. Here.. here’s my bathroom….
The lower left is the nightmare it was when we bought it. We’ll explore that horror show later.

How long does it take to clean a bathroom? Ten minutes every few days? Those once a year cleanings are brutal. I was tired, sore, sweaty and smelled dreadful by the time I finished cleaning that house. I dragged myself home to my nice tidy trailer, contemplated setting fire to those grubbies I looked so cute in, and spent the next twenty minutes in a lovely, cool shower.

And then I cleaned my bathroom.

Stay tuned…  I haven’t begun to explore the kitchens.

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About twenty five years ago I was living in a little coastal New England town called Rowayton. Set on a peninsula it started out as a fishing village with tiny seasonal cottages constructed primarily by the fishermen themselves. But, as all things in Connecticut go… “the money” found it and now the cottages are gone. Now, McMansions crowd the postage stamp sized lots and it’s very chic to say that you live in Rowayton.

Back in those days – when I had money, and a job where I didn’t come home smelling like a camel’s backside – I was still heavily involved in my first love; the theatre. From the time I was very young I had a love affair going on with the stage. I was an awkward kid; very shy and kind of dorky and the only place I really felt comfortable was on the stage. See, on the stage I wasn’t me, I was a character. I’d immerse myself completely in the character and there wouldn’t be a shred left of me on that stage. I continued with my acting throughout school and into my twenties. 
While residing in Rowayton, I met a young man named Dave. He was a friend of a friend and we hit it off straight away. Dave ran a theatre program close by, primarily for kids and teens and I jumped on board. We went to the local cable TV provider and were given lessons in how to run cameras and editing machines and got some time on Public Access for the kids. We decided that we’d write a “trailer park soap opera” and called it Crystal Cutthroat.

Our writing sessions included many bottles of wine, and doing interpretive dance in the living room to the soundtrack from Hair, and then we would write. We’d laugh ourselves silly, living in Fairfield County, Connecticut (one of the wealthiest places in the country to live), imagining the lives of people in trailer parks and writing dialogue such as, “Shet your pie-hole!”

The community I live in has about 65 trailers in it. But they’re not all crammed in together and have pretty generous yards. There’s a great big field across from me, so all I see when I look out my sliding glass door in the living room is field and trees beyond. And it’s very quiet here. On a Saturday night you can sit out on the deck and not hear anything but crickets. 90% of the residents here have jobs. They go to work. Some of them have been here quite a while, long enough to have paid off the mobile home they’re in, so now they just have to pay a lot fee each month. It’s kind of like owning a condo – you own the dwelling but not the land. The only difference is that a condo has a foundation. Here’s a picture of the view from my living room window – and yes, that is snow on the ground. Much to my dismay, having moved SOUTH, it snowed today. And yes, I have a yard.

I had a lot of preconceived notions about people who lived in trailer parks before I actually came to live in one. I thought trailer people were uneducated. One of my best friends here in the park just got her nursing license. She was at the top of her class all through school and although she can be ridiculously dopey at times she’s one of the brightest people I know.

I thought trailer people were lazy. But every day, starting before the sun comes up, many of my neighbors drive out of here, heading to their jobs. Some of those same people don’t come back until after it gets dark in the evenings. Sure, there are some folks here don’t work, but many of those people are stay-at-home moms or they’re retired. Trailer parks are great for retired people. They’re inexpensive, easy to keep up and you can just let the park take care of the yard if you don’t have the inclination to do it yourself.

I thought a lot of wrong things about “trailer people”. But what I’ve found is that they’re pretty much the same as “foundation people”, and I’m pretty sure that if I was cleaning rental properties with foundations I’d still have similar experiences. People are people, whether or not they live in something with a foundation. I don’t want to give the impression that all trailers are inhabited by roaches. They’re not. People get roaches by being slobs. Slobs happen. They happen everywhere. You leave dirty dishes in a sink of standing water with food still on them and you’re gonna see Kenny, sooner than you might think.

And if you leave fish in the freezer in the summer without the power being on… you’re gonna have maggots. Yes.

I think God probably took note right about the time I was dancing on my friend’s couch, laughing my butt off about people in trailer parks… and He decided to show me who had the real sense of humor.

Stay tuned for How Tracy Lost Her Lunch. 

Summers are hot here. Have I mentioned that? Hot. I’m not a big fan of the heat. My husband and I are from Connecticut and he’s not a fan of the extreme cold and that’s why we moved south. I would probably have been happier in New Hampshire. Except for the snow. Maybe I just should have bought a motor home instead of a mobile home, that way I could just follow 70 degree weather year round or something. I don’t know. But summers here are hot.

Trailers are ovens in the summer without air conditioning. They’re metal boxes. Most of the trailers I clean out or paint don’t have the power on, so I’m pretty much out of luck. In the summer – and when I say summer I mean any time between March and October – I try to start my days at first light and finish before noon if I can make it that long. If the water is still on, sometimes I just stick my whole head in the shower in order to… you know… not die. In the winter, I’ve found, things don’t smell as bad.

This past summer this kid (he was probably 19 or 20, obviously too young for any kind of responsibility, though I recall being on my own at that age) decided he didn’t need to pay rent anymore and eventually got evicted. After the court date, but before the lockout date he decided to have some friends over for a little going away party.

I remember the first place I had on my own, without roommates when I was about that age. It was a basement apartment in a place called Westport, CT. The apartment was huge, running the whole length and width of the enormous home it was under. There was a marina at one end of the street where people moored their sailboats and their yachts. I could smell the salt water in the air and hear the clanging of the buoys at night. I was so proud of my apartment. I didn’t have fancy furniture but it was all clean and taken care of. I swept. I mopped. I vacuumed. I dusted. I scrubbed my shower. Someone else was allowing me to live in a property that they owned and I needed to take care of it. I had a roof over my head and I was happy. My priorities were; Rent…. and then everything else. I made friends take their shoes off when they came in!

And it wasn’t just me! My friends were clean, too!

Clean clothes belonged in the closet or dresser.
Books belonged on the bookshelf.
Eggs belonged in the refrigerator. Not on the walls. In the summer. Summers are hot here. Did I mention that?

Dirty clothes belonged in the laundry basket.

Trash belonged in a bag in a trash can outside.

Doors belonged on hinges.

Dirty dishes… didn’t belong anywhere, they were washed and put away.

And there were always plenty of places for friends to sit and get comfortable.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting old, and cranky, but I never thought simple rules of Indoor Living would ever have to be written out!

Sure! I’d be happy to do some cleaning! Happy!

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Today was one of those full days.  Do you know the kind of day I mean?  It’s not that anything today consumed very many hours, but the hours were full.  Kind of like eating a small meal, packed with fiber and protein. 

It was a fiber and protein kind of day!
We had a lockout scheduled in one of our Gastonia parks – erm, communities at 10:00 this morning.  
Here’s how we get to a lockout; The tenant doesn’t pay their monthly bill. The non-payment exceeds the time allotted by their contract.  So, we go to court and file for an eviction.  About ten days later there’s a court date.  If they still haven’t paid, we’re granted the eviction and the property reverts back to the company.  The tenant has approximately ten days in which to vacate.  If they fail to vacate by the date given by the court, we go back to the courthouse and file for a writ of possession, a lockout. All this takes like another ten days. Then, on the lockout date one of our maintenance guys shows up with brand new locks, and meets an officer from the sheriff’s department at the residence.  If the person is still in the home, the officer escorts them out and we change the locks.  The former tenant now has seven days to make an appointment with us to get back in to get the rest of their belongings (or we can remove anything they left behind and store it securely for those seven days in a place that we can grant them access to, by appointment).  If possessions are still unclaimed in the home after those seven days are up we can dispose of them. We generally go through anything left behind and throw away the trash, then donate the usable furniture and other items to people in the communities who need things. 
So, this morning we had a 10:00 a.m. lockout scheduled in Gastonia. The community is about 40 minutes from my house, and I’m under no obligation to go to any of these. So, why was I going to this one?  Because the tenant in question is a complete whack-a-doodle who has made threats against our office manager and has been a nightmare to deal with.  
The dude is off his nut.
His cheese has gone and slid completely off his cracker.
A couple of months ago he was fussing at our office manager in front of his residence when she was driving through the community, doing outside inspections.  He was causing such a ruckus that she had to call my husband, Marty, who was working on a home just down the street. Marty came marching up the road with a big piece of wood in his hand and got in the guy’s face – just trying to teach him a few manners.  So, when I heard there was going to be a lockout, and Marty was the maintenance guy who was changing the locks… yeah, I just had to see this for myself.  I was pretty sure the guy was still going to be in the home, and that the cops were going to have to not just remove him from the property, but take him with them. 
We made an event of it; I attended, along with the office manager, and one of my pal/neighbor/coworker even came along for the ride. We arrive a few minutes early and parked across the street where we’d have an unobstructed view of everything.  The tenant’s car was in the driveway. 
Marty arrived a few minutes after we got there, and he parked right smack in front of the home, got out with his drill and the new lockset in hand and stood waiting. 
The tenant walked out of the home, got in his car and drove away.  Now, these lockouts are not a surprise. They are notified in advance that the sheriff is coming, and when.  A few minutes later he came back, and sat in his car in the driveway.  Then just as the officer was pulling into the community, the tenant took off again.  Marty pointed out the car to the officer.  
We went in, with the officer and while Marty changed the locks I walked through the house with my phone and made a video of the entire inside of the house, noting any and all damages, and noting all his property as well. Once the locks were changed I walked around the perimeter of the home and made a video of that as well, noting all the windows which at that moment were unbroken. 
We stood outside for a few minutes, talking with the officer from the sheriff’s department.  He seemed like a genuinely nice guy.  We talked about some of the other parks – communities – that we own and sure enough, he’s been to all of them for one reason or another. Especially to the ones we’ve just taken control of.  Before we all parted ways I asked if he was a praying man and he said that he was.  So I invited everyone standing there to come on over and share in a prayer for the officer; for his continuing safety on and off the job, and letting his know just how much we appreciate all that he does.  We know what a job he has.It was a wonderful moment.  The Bible talks about people being of one accord and for those minutes that we shared, we were of one accord. I know down here in the South it’s much less of a social risk to offer to pray with a stranger in public but it’s something Marty and I are doing much more frequently; being bold. If someone we offer to pray with says, no, then that’s fine.  But we haven’t been turned down yet. It’s important to let people know that they’re seen, not just by other people, but by God. No matter how strong our faith, I think sometimes we all get to feeling like we’re alone once in a while. 
So, we all parted ways, and on our way out of the park – community –  we saw the former tenant driving back in again. He saw the cop was still there, and he turned right around and drove back out…. with the officer following him. 
We’ll see what happens tonight. 
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Some days I get to work from home. Those are the best days of all. I can get comfy on my couch with my computer and my phone. The phone is used for texting and emails only. I despise talking on the phone.

Some days I’m in a neat, clean office. Well, okay, it’s really not all that neat but it’s sanitary. Okay, to be perfectly honest, I’m not really all that thrilled with the main bathroom, but it’s just old. It gets cleaned frequently. But old bathrooms just have the slightest air of funk. Even the ones that get cleaned frequently. And there’s some dust in the main part of the office. And a little clutter. But I don’t feel like I have to burn my clothes when I come home or anything.

So, like I said, some days I’m in a “neat, clean office”. Other days I’m…not. Some days my work outfit includes bug spray that I just go ahead and spray on myself in anticipation of what I’m going to be walking into. Just because it’s easier to spray myself than to spray all the bugs. The summer heat is just ramping up here, and the humidity is stifling. Last night I got a text from our fearless office manager saying that she’d stopped by one of the properties they’d evicted someone from and sure enough, the tenant had vacated. Their trash, however, had not vacated. Nor had the rotten food in the fridge, which had started to stink after the power was turned off – a week or so ago. Did I mention it was summer? In the South?

There were a couple of properties that needed attention this morning, so I grabbed my neighbor who also works with us and off we went. She mentioned to me that she had packed gloves and wished that she had some masks.

“Gloves? Masks and gloves are for losers,” I said with a snort. After all, it’s all organic, right? And mold is like… all natural. Penicillin is mold, isn’t it? Exposure to all that nasty stuff boosts my immune system.  Keeps me healthy.

I work with some interesting people. Our office manager is about as capable a person as I’ve ever met. She crams three weeks worth of working and living into one 24 hour period. I don’t know how she does it. I don’t know why she does it. But she does it. This particular morning she decided that she would meet us at the property and help, because she doesn’t ever want to ask anyone to do anything that she’s not willing to do, herself. So just after we pulled up in front of the vacant trailer, she parked behind us. There are two more vacant properties right across from the one we were heading to, so we confiscated the empty rolling trash receptacles from both of them and positioned them outside the front door for easy pitching of trash.

We opened the door. The stench of rotting food on a summer morning curled our nose hairs. There’s always ice cream in the freezer. Always. This particular freezer contained very old Blue Bunny ice cream. There was no longer anything icy, nor creamy about it. Now, if it had been Breyers or Friendly’s ice cream, it probably would have leaked curdled goo all over me. But not Blue Bunny. No, Blue Bunny has vastly superior cartons that don’t start to dissolve when the contents go to a liquid state.

You have to be very careful with those plastic milk jugs, though. When they start to swell with rotten milk gas, they can be a little tricky. You have to handle those like live grenades.

But still, nothing I can’t handle without gloves – it’s too hot for gloves, anyway.

Until I opened the bathroom door.

These people were a special kind of unsanitary. Especially the woman. There must have been three months worth of used “products” on the floor in a teetering pile. It was at this point that I became a loser who needed some gloves. Elbow length, heavy rubber gloves. And a snow shovel.

I try to imagine the conversations that must go on while people are bailing on these homes. “It’ll just be easier to buy a new crockpot than to scrape the decomposed food out of this one and wash it. Oh yeah, same for the pots and pans. And silverware. And plates.”

I never find old glassware. Why is that? Coffee cups, sure, but glasses? Never. Why not? Where does it all go? Is glassware the only thing special enough to be washed and packed for the move?

These are the mysteries that I strive to unravel.

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The next time you rent a home, I’d just like you to do something. It’ll take just a few minutes, I promise. Walk into the empty home. Take out your camera or phone and take some pictures of the empty home.

Smell the empty home. Does it smell clean and fresh? Take off your shoes and walk barefoot on the carpets. Do the carpets feel fluffy and clean under your bare toes?

Look in the bathroom – go ahead, really, look in the bathroom. Look in the shower – are the walls clean? There’s no people-goo on the walls right? Now…lift the seat of the commode…. Is the commode empty? I mean, aside from the water, is it empty?

Check out the walls in the home – are they freshly painted? Are the window sills clean? How about the fridge – when you open the door, what does it smell like?

There’s a lot of behind the scenes action that has gone on to bring you that nice, fresh home. Trust me. The former tenants did not just walk out the door and leave it that way. I don’t care if it’s a rental trailer, or a rental house; the stuff of nightmares has probably gone on in there before your arrival.

There was an eviction at one of our larger parks recently. They’d been a problem for a while, and we expected there would be issues. We were not disappointed.

Roaches. Bedbugs. Fleas. Garbage. Ruined carpets. They painted the bathtub – with house paint.

And there was a…. smell….

Even after the garbage and moldy food had been taken out. Even after the third round of bombing and spraying for bugs. There was this….odor. This undefinable…. odor…. that we just couldn’t seem to find the source of….

Now, the home needed work, aside from just the obvious sanitizing. Once the dirty, bug infested carpets had been pulled, we could see all the work that needed to be done to the floors. And of course there were holes in the walls that needed patching and once you start patching holes, you pretty much have to just paint everything.

Did I ever mention that pretty much all of our homes come with central heat and A/C? They do. There are a few older, smaller homes that just have window units for the A/C but not many. Most have the big heat pumps outside that handle the central everything. So, in every room there are one or two vents in the floor. We will be revisiting those vents shortly. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

There’s one large grate in the living room that acts as an air intake for the system, and the other smaller vents in the house are where the cold or hot air blow out of. There’s supposed to be a filter in the intake, which has to be changed once a month. Except in this home, not only was there no filter in the intake, there was a piece of plywood jammed in there.

Seriously, I’ve stopped asking why people do the things they do.

Anyway, since there was a random piece of plywood jammed into the intake, we figured we’d have the HVAC company we use come out and just look at the whole system so that there weren’t going to be any surprises down the line when we get a tenant in there.

Well, we located the source of the mysterious odor.

Getting back to those vents in the floors… They’re vents, folks. Vents. Not toilets.

So, please, the next time you walk into a rental property – take just a moment to appreciate the trauma that may have occurred in that home in order to bring you that nice, neat, fresh, clean place!

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Sometimes I post our available homes on Facebook groups, like, “Homes for Rent/Sale in Whatever County”. Sometimes.

I would probably do it more often except that nearly every time I post, some random former tenant will start tearing up the thread, accusing the company of having evicted them for absolutely no reason.

For no reason. At. All.

Because that’s what landlords do. They find tenants who are paying their rent on time and keeping the property in good condition and they evict them, just for fun. Because empty homes generate lots of income for them.

There was a highly offended couple who had to vacate their premises just two days. I walked through the home this morning. I wish their new landlords lots of luck. Click the link below to come on a video of today’s tour with me. If you dare….

Take a Walk on the Parkside with me!

Even I shrieked in terror.

Seriously. Someone was showering with these creatures. My husband questioned what sort of foul adhesive was holding those creatures to the shower wall. Sincerely, isn’t getting clean the point of taking a shower? How do you accomplish that in this? Are you going to complain about the landlord on social media when you don’t get your security deposit back? If you do, and I catch you, I’m posting the pictures and tagging you. It’s like going to the zoo and seeing monkeys flinging feces. 

Could you sleep knowing that this was lurking in your master bath? I couldn’t. Then again, I haven’t touched on the horrors of the master bedroom. The bed consists of four mattresses piled on top of each other. I see how colorful the top mattress is. I’m not looking forward to seeing what the one on the bottom looks like. 

Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite. Ever heard that? Ever wonder what a bedbug really was? Or if they actually did bite?

Ever wonder what the place you are living in might have looked like before you got there? Give that some thought tonight.

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I recently told an old and dear friend, “Dude, I not only live in a trailer park, I work in them. I do evictions. Tell me I am not living the most entertaining life ever.”

There are still days when I’m looking around this new little reality of mine and thinking, How did I get hereThose are the days when I’m quite sure God has a wicked sense of humor. The company now owns fifteen mobile home parks, so that’s roughly 375 homes to manage. I’ve been in each and every one of these homes over the last five years. I’ve cleaned them, inspected them, painted them, photographed them. If anyone has a question about a home, I have an answer; Yes, that’s the one that had the toilet that got clogged and the tenant continued to use it for two weeks without being able to flush before calling us; that’s the one the tenant painted the interior florescent orange and we had to use six gallons of Kilz to cover it; that’s the one where the old lady died sitting in the chair on her porch and neighbors just waved at her for like a week; that’s the one the cat hoarder used to live in and we found dead cats in the insulation. I know how many bedrooms and baths each has, I know the repair/renovation history on them. Each home has its own personality, despite the fact that they are all just rectangular boxes.

This is why when a former tenant comes into the office a year after vacating their home and complains about the amount that we turned in to the collection agency, my ears instantly tune into the conversation. She mentioned the “lot number” of the home she used to occupy and the hamster in my head began to run on its wheel. Yes. Oh, yes. I remember that home. I remember that on Easter Sunday I was driving through that particular community on my way to drop off something to a friend who was working that day. I remember spotting the UHaul in the driveway at the aforementioned home and thinking that was odd because no one had given us notice that they were moving out. No notice given? Yeah, you’re gonna owe or another thirty days of occupancy with no notice. And the following day when I went to work I checked to see if any keys had been returned. No, no keys were returned, which means we have to change the locks, soooooo, who pays for that?  The former tenant was indignant about the $150 cleaning charge that had been added to the bill. “I cleaned that place myself!” she insisted, figuring that after a whole year went by no one would remember a minor detail like that.

Wrong.

You cleaned it? Really?

“Any of this look familiar?” I asked, turning my laptop in her direction.

“How ’bout this?”

“Or this? And by the way, where did our stove go?”

“You’ll have to let me know when you start that new cleaning agency of yours…”

Liabetes. There is no cure.

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