Friday, July 18, 2008

The Stench of Travel

I should have known when he got lost three times on the way to the interview that something was amiss. Three times on my street, mind you.

I have never sublet my place before and I am super-territorial when it comes to having people in my personal space. My mom says on baby play dates, I’d never let the other kids in my room. But I was going to be out of town for a month and by missing that month of work a month’s rent was just too much for my bank account.

I hadn’t been able to find anyone decent and was about to give up when I got a call from the Kid the day before my trip. Definitely not the sharpest stick but he seemed like a sweet kid: just here from up Seattle, looking to start his graphic FX career. Said he didn’t drink or really know anyone so I figured we’d be good there; no wild parties at my place. He was pleased by the cleaning job I’d done so I figured he was a neat guy and I could expect to find the place like I left it.

Most importantly, he said he had cats back at home and he’d take care of my sweet, loving, low-maintenance cat. We went over the fact that I lived in a coyote zone and the cat could not, under any circumstances, be let outside. I should have known when the cat wouldn’t go near him. I should have known when he asked me to “get rid” of my comforter so he didn’t have to be around the cat fur. In the end, there were lots of “I should have knowns.”

I’d been in Italy a week and a half when I finally got to an internet café. The first message I saw was from my dad: The cat is fine, he’s resting at the vet. And so started the saga of subletter hell.

My inbox was filled with rants and pleas from friends and neighbors. Turns out the Kid had decided that the cat was “unsanitary” and had kicked him out of the house. My neighbors had mobilized trying to get him to take the cat back in but he cussed them out and told them if they put the cat inside, he’d just kick him out again. Meanwhile, he was blasting music, up all night and drinking all my liquor.

My dad had been called and he made the trek (bless him) from Palm Springs and plastered the neighborhood with missing cat signs. Meanwhile, he gave the Kid a lecture about responsibility which the Kid flipped out over and then later came simpering back with “Please sir, I’m not a bad guy.” But he didn’t help find the cat.

As the Kid vacillated between hostile and obsequious, my dad checked out my place and reported the floors strewn with beer bottles and spills, garbage overflowing and crap everywhere.

“Get him out of my house! Refund his money, I don’t care! Get him out!”

My dad however, found the Kid’s prescription stash: lithium and other anti-psychotics which his research told him were “for schizophrenics and severely suicidal individuals.” Given that he’d already essentially tried to kill my cat without remorse, dad decided it was best not to rile the Kid up and let him be. Afterall, he knew where I lived.

I hadn’t thought to email the agreement I’d made the Kid sign to anyone and now was trapped oversees without legal right to do anything to the madman living in my home. I bided my time and made it back to town at the end of the month, fuming over my hurt kitty and upset neighbors. The Kid tried to claim our agreement gave him the place for two days longer. He was wrong.

I arrived home expecting some cleanup but nothing could have prepared me for what I found. All my rugs and bedding including blankets my grandmother knitted were outside, under my stairs. My later confrontation of the Kid over this oddity resulted in “well it’s not like it rains here.”

Inside, the floors were covered in spilled beer and bottles were everywhere. My pictures were rearranged on the wall. My belongings (towels, toiletries) were mixed in with the trash (which included empty bottles of my dog’s pain prescription). My CDs were missing in large chunks, my furniture was rearranged in the oddest places (all my shoe racks were rearranged, still in my closet but just in a different order). My floor was scratched. Entire cabinets of food empty. My bed covered by just a sheet. And the whole place vaguely smelled like a port-a-potty. Shaking with fury, I took pictures of everything and set to cleaning.

As the cleaning progressed I found his stay was the gift that kept giving. I tried to make toast only to discover he had apparently do so as well...after putting jelly on the toast. How does one make it to 28 and not know to put the jelly of after the toasting? Out went the toaster. I found my underwear drawer wide open and a vat of my cream on the bedside table. Just - Ew. Out went the cream and into the washer went the entire contents of the drawer.

The Kid would be coming over that evening to collect the last of his stuff so I bagged it all and put it in the garage, careful to put his full ashtray in with his clothes (he smoked in my house!) Adding to the overall oddity were the several bibles I found. I imagined he’d found Jesus in a failed rehab attempt and knew this meant he’d be totally righteous in his defense of his crackpot actions. I also knew, this evening would be my chance to present him with his invoice for loss and damaged per our written agreement. Given that he was clearly off his rocker, I didn’t expect much and would be afraid to push to hard for what I was owed but I knew I’d at least feel better giving him a bill. So I cleaned and cataloged. But as much as I cleaned, the house smelled like pee. I scowled at my dog who clearly had needed to re-mark his territory. I picked up my cat from the vet and found he’d lost half his body weight and was losing his fur from malnutrition. If I made it though our meeting without killing the Kid, it would be a miracle.

He arrived that evening blithe and happy, alcohol on his breath. I began to go over the list and he produced many of my missing items from his car. “Oh I just borrowed all these CDs to rip at work.” And what in god’s name made you think you had the right to do that? I silently screamed, Dad’s admonition not to rile the Kid up ringing in my head.

I tried to casually ask for his dad’s number knowing the Kid would be useless in terms of the damages despite our written agreement. Dad had informed me that with all the drugs and alcohol the Kid forgot conversations, details and promises from one hour to the next so I figured I could use this in my favor.

“What do you want to talk to my dad for?” He stared daggers at the ground like a kid who’s just been caught in the act.

“I talked to him before, said I’d call him when I got back but I lost the number you gave me” I lied.

“You don’t talk to my dad. You deal directly with me,” he growled.

“OK. I just said I would call him…”

“He doesn’t even like me calling him, he wouldn’t want to talk to you.”

So much for that idea. I couldn’t restrain myself from asking what on earth he’d been thinking when he’d rearranged my shoes and left my bedding outside.

He just got more confused and agitated. “I just treated your stuff like I treat my own stuff or like I’d treat any friend’s stuff. I don’t see what you’re so upset about.”

Yikes. I tried to remind myself I was not dealing with a rational adult. This was one broken puppy. In fact it was like talking to a petulant 13-year old, not the 28-year old who actually stood before me. Not the calm, clean Kid who I’d interviewed the month before.

He saw the vet bill on the invoice and freaked. “I am not paying for that. I’m not even apologizing. That cat is annoying.”

“But you agreed to care for him. You knew he couldn’t be outside here. You took responsibility for a living thing.”

“He wouldn’t shut up.” He got more and more angry and I could see we weren’t going to get anywhere. "If you want more money out of me you'll have to take me to court." Don't give me any ideas, buddy. I figured I’d be lucky to get any money out of him for the more than $500 of damages I’d calculated so far. I cursed myself for having failed to get a security deposit.

We walked into the bedroom where he saw the bedding I’d rescued from under the stairs hanging out on the railing to air out. He got sheepish. That’s when I got the capper.

“Oh um, yeah. Sorry about that.” He pointed to a stain I hadn’t noticed in the middle of my removable pillow-top. “I got really drunk on 4th of July and had an accident.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “You peed my bed?”

“Yeah but it’s no big deal. I was just going to go to Cost-Co and get you a new pad thingy.”

I choked. “This was $400.”

“Ooooooh. Sorry. I guess I will pay for the dry-cleaning from your invoice then.” He produced $40 from his wallet – all he had on him – and left, reminding me to call him if I wanted him to do some motion graphics work on my new website. Yeah, sure, disgustoid. You'll be my first choice.

It was only after he and his frenetic black cloud of energy were gone that I peeled the sheet back from my bed. The egg-crate pad still there reeked of pee. I chucked it. And the coup de grace: my beautiful custom mattress sported a four-foot dried pee spot. How much do you have to piss yourself for it to soak through a mattress pad, a four inch wool pad, an egg-crate foam and still leave a four-foot spot? That little fucker.

I apologized to my dog for blaming him for the smell and I set to work washing every linen in the house in the hottest, soapiest, bleachiest water possible. Thereon followed three days where I treated the mattress daily to new and inventive treatments to neutralize urine stains and odor. After all this, I could ill-afford $1000 for a new mattress. I slept on the couch and talked to friends and family. I apologized to my neighbors for subjecting them to the 28-year old bed-wetter. I wondered about tracking his dad down to pay for a new bed.

“Pet cruelty and bed-wetting, key commonalities among serial killers,” my federal officer friend advised me.

“That Kid’s a loose cannon,” dad railed. “He’ll kill himself or someone else before all is said and done. Leave him well enough alone.”

Great. And I had invited this horror into my home - into the family that is my neighborhood. Good freakin’ god.

“Did you actually think renting to that idiot was a good idea?” My business partner asked me. “I mean are you really surprised he acted like he did – apart from the bed-wetting of course, who could see that coming?”

“Yeah, I really thought it would be OK. He seemed like a good kid. He helped me with stuff I was trying to do when he first showed up. Seemed kind and reliable. He sold me a pack of lies and I believed it. And the salt in the wound is he gave me such a money sob story that I cut $300 off the price.”

“Damn, you’re trusting,” she chuckled.

Pollyanna strikes again.

“You only got snowed by him ‘cause you weren’t listening with your heart, you needed the money, you listened from there,” the Vargas Girl advises me. She’s totally right. I wish I had been able to listen with my heart. No money was worth the trauma to my home and my usually independent cat who still won’t leave my side lest the bad man come back.

After eight treatments and three steam cleanings, the mattress is sleepable again. The only odor now is chemicals and vinegar though I dream I am sleeping in a urinal. I smudge-sticked the whole house and covered the bed in rose water. It took me three days to clean and put everything back to rights.

If I have to look on the positive side, and you know I do, it could have been worse. At first I didn’t think so since the Kid’s behavior and attitude were, as one friend put it “just appalling.” But the more friends I talked to the more subletter horror stories came out: the friend who came back to find her subletter had invoked occupant rights and she had to fight for three months to get him evicted and get back into her own home. The friend of a friend who’d gotten a bounced check from their subletter and come home to find the place cleaned out and gutted – like even sinks and fixtures gutted.

I have learned a lot about subletting from all this:
- Get way more than you think you need – specifics – in writing
- Ask about prescription drug use
- Get a security deposit

- Pack and lock away all valuables, files, and important foods
- Check references!
- Give the contract you sign to friends and family so they have authority to act
- And never, ever, ever sublet your place

The other positive is that the boyfriend and I have already begun breaking down all this fury and incredulity. We’ve roughed out an outline for a new horror script: The Subletter. Mwuaah aah aah aah!

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Blogger Kid Sis said...


Should i be insulted you named him kid?


10:50 PM  
Blogger Freckles said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:13 AM  
Blogger wally said...

what a nightmare. I'd be happy to hunt him down and beat the crap out of him if you like.

1:59 AM  
Blogger Brett said...

You could file charges on his ass for animal cruelty and then use that leverage to get the damages owed.

Or you could just pay someone to (ahem) "watch" him fall down some stairs one night in one of his drunken stumblequests.

And Borax is great for neutralizing urine smells. Just saying.

8:54 AM  

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