Saturday, December 7, 2013

ten minutes into home ownership

When I was getting married a friend told me that, in regards to my budget, "calculate what you think a reasonable amount will be. Then double it, and that's how much your wedding will cost".

While I hadn't heard the exact same principle applied to the process of buying the house, I'd been forewarned that people often underestimate the closing costs. So, when we received what I considered a ridiculously high estimate for "Total Funds Needed to Close" I thought Yes, that is absurd and, as such, that is what I will expect to pay. 

The problem with buying a house built in 1930 is that it was built in 1930. There's asbestos around the pipes, lead paint, a crack in the foundation, an inaccessible sewer system, and a boiler that was part of the original construction.  We had hemorrhaged money for weeks as part of a closing process was long, stressful, and had indeed exceeded our financial expectations.

But Monday evening, as the sellers were loading the last of their boxes into a small truck in front, I walked through house, feeling it's every corner and falling in love all over again. By 6pm the sellers said good-bye finally it was all ours.

I rounded the corner from the dining room into the hall and saw Munch, her feet against the bottom of the bathroom door and her upper body pitched out at a 45 degree angle by her hands, which were holding onto the handle. I yelled at her to STOP DOING THAT for fear she was going to yank the handle clear off the door.

That's when I heard Wow on the other side. She had been trying to open the door. I turned the handle, which would not give way.

Wow loved playing with the bedroom and bathroom locks in our old house, which were the small button kind that unlocked by turning the door knob. He'd usually unlock the door himself, and for the times he couldn't (or wouldn't), we'd pop it ourselves with a nail that we kept on a shelf in the kitchen for this specific purpose.

This knob was the heavy, lever kind. I thought of running after the sellers, who at this point couldn't be that far away, to ask if they knew how to get into the door, but realized it was unlikely as there was no keyhole and the door hinges were on the inside of the door.  The only window sat above a staircase outside that led down to the backyard, the steps of which were too narrow to balance a ladder.

We spent the next ten minutes coaxing Wow to turn the knob ABOVE THE HANDLE, then to turn the knob BELOW THE HANDLE and finally, to turn the knob TO THE SIDE OF THE HANDLE, because we had no idea what the lock looked like on the other side of the door.

When Wow's whimpering became more insistent, LD announced his plan to just break down the door. I looked at him in horror, and so he clarified - not with an axe, but you know, his shoulder. He positioned himself sideways to the door, as if his weaponized shoulder was now prepared to strike.  I wanted to call a locksmith.

You know what they say about marriage? Its a negotiation.
I thought that, perhaps because he'd been watching too many movies based on Marvel superheros, he was unaware of the force the human shoulder could be expected to generate. Unless he was willing to throw himself out of a plane toward the bathroom door, it was unlikely his shoulder would be sufficient means to break down the door. And, even if he were to succeed, there was a tuft of blond hair visible through a hole where we'd removed the handle.  It belonged to a small boy who would almost certainly be hurt when his dad came barreling through. 

I insisted he call a locksmith. He already had the number in his phone from earlier in the day when he'd made an appointment to have the locks changed. He agreed and dialed the number. 

I kid not, LD gave the guy fifteen seconds before blurting "well, my son is totally freaking out so I'm just going to take care of this myself" and hanging up.  I considered this an ungenerous assessment of Wow, who was just whimpering. He explained that the locksmith couldn't promise someone would come immediately (definition of "immediately" not explored) or that the person who came could definitely get the door open. 

While we continued to argue and Wow's lamentations became a bit more shrill, Tia went next door and introduced herself to our new neighbor, whose front steps were only a few feet away from the bathroom window. She could hear him crying on their front stoop. 

Hello, my sister has just bought the house next door. The screaming child is my nephew. Do you happen to own a circular saw or an electric drill?

They did. 


  1. Brilliant sister! Glad that everyone escaped relatively unscathed (except the poor door). Here's hoping the rest of home ownership will be much less eventful.

  2. When we went on vacation this past fall, about 5 hours after arriving I noticed that there were similar one way locks to basically every room of the house. I noticed this because all of a sudden our daughter developed this interest in shutting herself in rooms. We FREAKED OUT and put tape over all the doorknobs so that they couldn't be locked at all. I can't remember if we removed the tape when we left, but who designs a vacation rental house that way???

  3. The adventures you guys get into...even at home!!! Good thinking auntie!

  4. House tour please! I want to fall in love too!


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