Well, as we looked more closely at our options, we knew that it would have to be an income property, so that tenants could help make the payment. And this house had to be in, or close to, the same neighborhood that we were already living in. Being blind poses many challenges for me, but one thing that made my life easier was living in that particular neighborhood. It was easy to get home from work, and the apartment was within walking distance of grocery shopping, the mall, and my mom. That allowed me to be able to navigate independently. The bonus benefit was that there was a Starbucks just a few blocks away.
So we started to save money, knowing that the down payment was just one of the costs involved in buying a house. We would need moving money, and money for any repairs that might pop up after we moved in. T was always on the look out for potential properties, but with my specific requirements, it was not necessarily an easy task.
Having watched the DVD “The Secret,” we knew that by focusing on what we wanted and believing that we already had it, soon we would have a house. We were just waiting for the universe to present it to us. And it did.
Less than a year later, T and I were walking to Starbucks, when she noticed a For Sale sign on a house a few blocks from where we were living. She pulled the amenity sheet from the information box. It was a 4 bedroom house with a 2 bedroom apartment below. Intrigued, we called our real estate agent so that we could get in to see it. After some intensive number-crunching, we found that with the tenants already in the upstairs 4 bedroom, we could afford it. Our portion of the payment would be just slightly more than what we were paying for rent and utilities already. And the biggest plus: No Sewer Hole!!
In order to make it work, we had to live in the 2 bedroom apartment and rent out the 4 bedroom above us, but that wasn’t really a problem; we were already living in a slightly smaller 2 bedroom basement apartment. It would be pretty much the same scenario: same amount of monthly payment out of our pocket, same living situation, except that it was ours. One year after we decided to find our own place, we were moving into a place that met our needs. We had placed our order with the universe, and it delivered to us exactly what we wanted.
Sometimes it takes falling into a hole to give us that push we need to get off our butts and go for what it is we really desire in life. I thought traveling and running in Disney World was what I desired, and to be honest, it still is….someday. But what I ultimately figured out was that I really wanted a home of our own, more. I didn’t think we could afford it. Once we shifted our thinking, it became not only possible, but our reality. We just had to believe in what we wanted and let the how work itself out. The truth is that it became impossible for us to continue living in the conditions we were living in.
Months later T was looking in her journal. She had written that we wanted to live in a 4 bedroom house with 2 bathrooms and a large kitchen….etc Well we got that 4 bedroom/2 bath home with a large kitchen, we just don’t live in that part of it…Yet!
After a couple of seconds, still in the hole with only her head above ground level, T asked me if I was okay. Are you hurt? I didn’t answer her right away. I was still in shock. She asked me again. This time I was able to tell her I was okay. She instructed me to get as far away from her and the hole as possible. She wasn’t sure how stable the ground was, and we didn’t know how much more of the back yard and parking lot might collapse when she tried to get out. So I moved away and tried to watch as she walked her feet up the wall of the hole and kind of backwards rolled herself up and out of the now human-sized, hole. It was quite the acrobatic trick, I must say.
We both took stock of the situation: cell phones still on hips? Yep. Thankfully those hadn’t come loose and lost down the hole. We weren’t physically hurt, but psychologically shaken, muddy and feeling pretty much vile and disgusting for having been in a sewer hole…well not literally in it, but close enough to be hugely creeped out by it…still, euwwww!
Angry doesn’t even begin to describe what we were feeling. I was standing there half-way confused, the shock still not worn off. But not her, she was on that phone so fast. She called the answering service again. When she got the operator she had been talking to earlier, livid, she says “Remember how I told you that the hole in the back parking area was dangerous and that someone might fall in to it? Well it was me! I fell in the hole!”
Immediately she was put through to the on-call guy again. She found out that the answering service never tried to get a hold of him again; he had not been able to write the address down as he was driving at the time of the first call. When he called the answering service back, the operator there had not written down even our basic information, so he had no idea where to go, until we called back. Needless to say, the answering service dropped the ball on that one!
I went inside and took a very long hot shower, while T waited for the maintenance guy to show up. In the meantime, she’s knocking on all the neighbor’s doors and letting them know about the hole.
When the maintenance guy finally showed up, all he had was a few metal stakes and some caution tape. Whatever. How is putting 4 or 5 stakes around the hole (which is by now about 3 feet by 3 feet) going to keep neighborhood kids from falling into it? T asked him if he was going to cover the hole with something. He said he didn’t have anything; the plywood in his truck was for another job. Well that’s just ludicrous. We pulled out an old piece of plywood from the back of our truck, and told the guy to put it over the hole. At least it was something. As she explained to him, there was a blind woman (me) living in these apartments, and a toddler living straight up the stairs from the hole!
Okay now the story gets even more bizarre. Monday morning we called the Property Management office, explaining what occurred on Saturday, and looking for reassurance and some answers as to when the gaping hole right outside the building will be fixed. They didn’t know, but the owner of the property would be there that evening to look it over. We knew the property owner was a local attorney, so at this point, we’re confident it will be resolved immediately, cause he won’t want the liability issue hanging over his head. No problem. Case closed.
Late that afternoon, the property owner showed up. He wanted to know the story, while at the same time, minimizing the whole thing. To distract us, he started pointing out some other minor things about the storm windows, and a crack in the patio concrete and how it was a tripping hazard. We just looked at each other wide-eyed, then at him. Incredulous T says, “Yeah, but what about this big hole!?”
Obviously he doesn’t want it to be too big of a deal, “Well I was going to hook up to city sewer next year, I guess I’ll have to do it sooner.”
“I don’t know….It could take a few months.”
Um, case not closed….
We told him we were not hurt, since it was apparent he wasn’t going to ask. Later I told T, “He just came to make sure the two gals who fell in the hole weren’t going to file a lawsuit against him!” And to be honest, we had no intention of suing him. We weren’t hurt. Traumatized, but not hurt. No matter how much of a slime-ball he was, we don’t believe in suing just for the sake of suing.
So now you’re wondering when the hole was fixed, right? Nine months later, count ‘em….Nine months…getting close to a year later, they hooked the four-plex up to city sewer and fixed the hole! In the meantime, for NINE MONTHS, the hole was just exactly the way it was when the on-call maintenance guy came out the day it happened. No engineer came to do a safety check to see how stable the ground was around the hole or out into the septic drainfield. No one came to fill-in the hole temporarily until all the permits and scheduling with the city and contractors could get done. Nothing. Can you spell negligence? If someone would have gotten hurt during that time frame, I’d have been the first one testifying. Fortunately, no one got hurt. Everyone pretty much stayed away from the area, even though it was less than ten feet from the apartment building. Of course we were calling the property management company to inquire and complain and threaten fairly frequently. That didn’t really speed up the process, though.
Once we got to looking we could see how the whole back of the yard and parking area was sloping. We figure that what happened was this ancient septic set-up had been leaking underground and eroding away the soil beneath the parking area for, most-likely, years. We had a dry, dry summer and then three solid days of rain, just saturating the soil, and that’s when it collapsed under the wheel of our vehicle. And then it collapsed some more when we were standing there.
T wouldn’t let me use the back door anymore; not that I wanted to. It took a long time for me to feel safe again. I was very clingy for several weeks after falling in the hole. It just never occurred to me that I should worry about whether the ground beneath me was solid or not. I just kept telling people, incredulous at the concept, “I fell in a hole!”
After our first month of complaining to the property management company, we simply decided we had to move. It was unacceptable the way the situation was being handled or more accurately, being not handled. We could understand the scheduling problems they were having with the city, but the fact that the owner was not at all concerned about the fact that the area might open up and swallow a car, or someone else left us flabbergasted at his nonchalance. That winter there was a disastrous turn of events in western Montana when a three year old boy fell through a defective septic tank cover into a septic tank and died. I was sure that would spur our friendly neighborhood property owner/attorney into action. But no. I’ll tell you what, I would never hire him as my attorney; he may be lucky, but he’s obviously none too bright, and blatantly oblivious to the safety of his tenants.
I keep thinking how lucky we were. All of the what ifs…What if I had tried to push the van out of the hole, and it collapsed with me ending up underneath the van? Or what if T had driven back home after taking me to work at night and driven into the hole as it collapsed … and on and on and on…no need to go there. Thankfully God and the universe were on our side that day.
I told her to find us a house of our own. She’s a real estate investor; and we actually had bought and sold several homes that we could have lived in, but they weren’t really appropriate for our situation. Anyway, I told her she should start looking for something that would work for us, immediately. My priorities changed quickly and dramatically. I had always thought we would buy a house for us, but there was no big rush; we’d do it when the time was right: when we had more money, when we found the one that would work for our situation, etc. We had a lot of specific parameters that had to be met with any house we bought for ourselves, due to my blindness. So I always knew we’d eventually find the right one in the right neighborhood that was conducive to me still being able to navigate independently. And I was willing to be patient until the time was right.
Now, however, all that patience was gone. We felt betrayed by our landlord, and his lack of concern for basic safety. He’d never really been too responsive to getting things addressed quickly, but this really went beyond a lack of responsiveness to the point where we started referring to it as “criminal endangerment.” Sufficient to say that we really wanted out. We were determined to move. I no longer wanted to spend the money to go to Disney World and running the half-marathon, getting our own place was more important to me. Having a place where we could feel safe was instantly elevated to our primary consideration.
…to be continued….
This story was long enough to be split into three parts, so you’ll be able to read the conclusion of the story on Friday. You can Bookmark this page, or register for the email notification up at the top of the right hand sidebar.
Just over 2 years ago, we were reading in Runner’s World magazine about the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando in January. I thought what a great place to run a marathon. I wasn’t really prepared to run a full marathon, so I thought I could run the half-marathon. I had one half-marathon under my belt, and was preparing to run another in about a month, so I knew I could send in the qualifying time they required to register for the race. I figured we could combine a half-marathon with a vacation trip down to Florida.
It was about four months away, so I got online to see approximately how much hotel and airfare and those kinds of things would cost. It was adding up: over $5,000 to do it the way I wanted to. But I wasn’t really bothered too much about it; I had some money in savings already. I would just need to save a little more.
It had been a very dry summer. We had gone without rain for months. You know, the kind of dry where the soil has big cracks and fissures in the surface. Then in mid-September it began to rain. It was raining like it meant it: heavy and hard for about 3 days straight.
At the time, we were living in a two-bedroom basement apartment. On a Saturday afternoon, we headed out the back door to leave for an appointment. As we approached the van, T noticed the back tire was flat. As she got closer, she saw it wasn’t flat at all; it just looked that way because the wheel was in a hole, literally, in a hole. How strange. She asked me to wait, and she got in the van and tried to pull forward. Mind you, it’s been raining and there was mud and standing water everywhere. I was waiting, thinking that I might have to help by pushing the van, to get the tire out of the hole. When going forward didn’t work, she backed it up and was able to free the wheel. As she backed up with her door wide open, she looked down into the hole. To her horror, the hole when down about 10 or 15 feet! This little, probably 10″ x 12″, hole went down what looked like forever along the side of the septic riser. She could see the exterior wall of the corrugated metal that extended up to ground level for access to the septic clean-out.
She pulled the van away from the hole and I got in, while she put some red coolers/ice chests around the hole to keep people from walking straight into it. Okay, I know, red coolers don’t really scream “Danger! Danger, Stay Away!” But it was what we had.
We were on our way to a meeting, so after T placed the coolers over the hole, she called the property management company. It was a Saturday, so the answering service picked up. She told the gal about the hole: that the hole wasn’t big, but that it was very deep, and there was a toddler who lived upstairs, and someone could get seriously injured if they fell into it.
The gal then patched T through to the on-call maintenance guy. As T was explaining to him what was going on, they got disconnected, but she had told him the address and expressed the urgency of the situation. She called the answering service right back, but they were unable to reach the maintenance guy again – he must have been out of range. So the gal said to call back later. Of course, we assumed that he got the gist of the message, and would be out ASAP to secure the area around the hole. By this time, we were running late, so we left for our appointment.
A couple of hours later, we returned home to find the coolers were still the only thing covering the hole. More than a little disgusted that this situation was not being taken seriously, T prepared to call the answering service back. But before she did, she wanted to adjust the coolers, to better cover the area around the hole. Of course, I wanted to see the hole, which is kind of silly, since as you know, I’m legally blind. I really couldn’t see much anyway. But the Curious George in me took over, and I couldn’t help it. So I inched closer to the hole to peer down. We were standing on the concrete pad over the septic riser next to the hole, and she’s trying to rearrange the ice chests so that they better cover the hole.
Next thing I know, the ground gives way and we are both in the hole! She was under me in the hole up to her shoulders, and I was laying wide-ways across the top of her. It happened in less than the blink of an eye. The only thing keeping us from falling all the way down the hole and into the sewer mess was the 2 ft x 2 ft concrete pad that was covering the septic tank access. As it fell, it had lodged itself into the soil at an angle. That was what T was perched precariously on, thankful that the concrete had wedged itself into the side of the hole, and unsure as to how much more was going to collapse, and where we would ultimately end up. We could smell the sewer gases, and the thought of being in or near the septic tank was, well, rather disgusting and extraordinarily terrifying, to say the least.
I was in a daze: laying there in the hole, not really knowing what had happened. Now I know this might sound strange, but, there was no warning whatsoever. It happened so fast. Just instantaneous, BOOM! There we were in the hole. No shifting of soil, or crumbling of dirt, not even a slow motion, “Oh No I’m Falling…….” Not the slightest hint that the ground was about to give way. Nope, just one second I was on solid ground then not. It was highly unsettling. I guess at some point, T must have pushed me off of her and up out of the hole. I was just sitting there on the ground next to the hole, not sure how I got there or what had happened.
After a couple of seconds, still in the hole, with only her head above ground level, T asked me if I was okay. Are you hurt? I didn’t answer her right away; I was still in shock. She then asked me again. I was able to tell her that I was okay. She instructed me to get as far away from her and the hole as possible. She wasn’t sure how stable the ground was, and we didn’t know how much more of the back yard and parking lot might collapse when she tried to get out of the hole.
….. to be continued…..
This story was getting a little long, so we’ll post part 2 on Wednesday.
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I'd like to donate a cuppa coffee to Vision Runner, as I understand that all that running and writing requires a great deal of strength and energy and focus......
I'd like to send Vision Runner $10.00 so that she can get a gift card for her favorite coffee establishment.
I'm feeling very creative and I don't want to be inhibited by someone else's choices. I'm going to pick my own dollar amount...cause what if I want it to end with 46 cents or something?
What about me? I need some for me..... (Go ahead. Order some for yourself, why don't ya?)