The game of renters vs. landlords

Thursday, June 17, 2004

June 17, 2004

Dear Leslie,

The year of living dangerously close to college football players has now come to an end. Our rental house next door is now clear of 250-pound linemen.

It's not that the football players were raucous partiers. Louder sounds come from the park on the other side of our house. The football players were almost sedate compared to the frat boys who preceded them. Only once did we come home to find people drinking beer on the roof.

The football players had an Achilles heel, however: A roommate who was unclear on the concept of paying rent. He could comprehend complex defensive schemes, no doubt, but the first of the month didn't mean anything to him.

In one sense, the world is divided into two groups of people: Renters and landlords. They are like Republicans and Democrats, pre-destined not to trust each other.

I was a renter most of my adult life. I sympathize with renters. One cash-free year in California I lived in someone's basement with three other guys I didn't know. We shared a dank bathroom and a creepy kitchen I refused to prepare food in. One of them stayed up much of the night singing and playing songs about Jesus on a tiny keyboard. Another had many tattoos but few teeth. He took care of the third roommate, an elderly blind man who always had a glass of whiskey.

The landlord upstairs was nice, even invited me to dinner a few times, but it was hard to separate him from the deplorable living conditions he provided.

Now I am a landlord. Landlords have their stories, too.

We gave the football players six weeks to leave, but the day they actually had to be out must have snuck up on them like a blitzing safety. They left the refrigerator full of heat-and-eat food. They also forgot two worn-out washing machines and a dryer in the basement, enough 2X workout clothes and cans of mixed vegetables and soup to keep a team warm and fed awhile, a couch and a lion statue of unknown significance.

They did remember to take all the working light bulbs.

Empty Avian water bottles covered the floor of one room. Trampled wads of chewing gum were stuck to floors throughout the house.

This discovery occurred with our own house in disarray from a bathroom renovation project that began four months ago. The contractor hasn't been seen for six weeks.

We are still going to the basement to take showers. At least it's familiar territory for me.

A neighbor helped us clear out all the trash the football players left behind. Two pickup-truck loads went to the dump. After the woman who cleans our house spent a day working on the rental she deemed it the dirtiest house she'd ever cleaned.

Much more work is still to be done, but DC the former drama major has decided to hold her book club dinner there tonight. These fine ladies will dine on scallops, fine wines and decadent desserts.

DC probably will produce the "before" photos she took after the football players moved out. Then they'll settle in to discuss the book of the month: "Paradise Reclaimed."

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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