justira ([personal profile] justira) wrote2012-02-07 02:09 pm

My weekend: rear-ended (AGAIN), locked out at midnight in the cold, and cat lost in crawlspace


It all started with the gas being turned off.

The setup: We're moving to Pittsburgh, in stages. The place we picked is the upstairs unit in a 2-unit house. This past weekend was to be the stage where all the furniture/boxes/junk and the four pets join partner T in PA, and then I return to DC to work some more. T has a job interview Friday morning, after which he plans to head down to DC, pick me up from work, head towards my parents' place where most of our stuff lives, pick up a U-Haul truck nearby, we all load the truck, go back to MD where I and the pets live, sleep, pack up the single room we rent there, go to PA, arrive in the afternoon, and unpack with the help of awesome local friends.

Here is what happened instead.

We picked out an awesome place, set our move-in date, and told the landlady about it. And yet, for reasons unknown, she opted to turn off the gas before we moved in. This is not how it works: especially in winter, there needs to be a seamless gas transition so the pipes don't freeze. T couldn't leave PA until the gas was turned back on, for which he needed to be present. The gas company could only give him four-hour windows for when to expect them. The best he could do was set it up for after his interview and hope for the best.

Hurrah! The gas lady arrives early.

Boooo the basement, to which we don't have keys, is locked. After some consternation, the gas lady sees that on the back of her work order it says owner must be notified 24 hours in advance so she can open the basement. Well, shit. The landlady is not picking up her phone. The agent who brokered the rent for the landlady isn't picking up his phone either. Gas lady decides to try some tests up in our unit to see if the gas is even off, since the company records have been known to be wrong. She tries the stove: turns out it's broken and leaking gas — but the gas does work in it! She red-tags it. She tries the hot water: it works. Okay, that's two indicators that the gas is not off. She tries the heat, after much mutual consternation between her and T on how the hell to work the thermostat, which I swear is complicated enough to run a freaking spaceship. You can program it for different temperatures for every part of the day — morning, day, evening, night — for every day of the week, but you are pretty much screwed if all you want to do is tell it "make it warmer right now". Once they convince the thing to turn on the heat, the gas lady listens for the gas. Nope. So apparently we share cooking gas and water-heating gas with the downstairs neighbours?

Finally, the landlady picks up the phone! There is a secret door to the basement under the staircase, and it's unlocked. Huzzah! Finally gas lady can get at the meter and turn it on.

T finally gets on the road, frantically calling up U-Haul places. Apparently freaking everyone decided to move that very weekend, as most places are booked up and/or closing before he can get there given his late start. We had decided not to book until he knew when he was to get on the road, since the no-show fee was quite hefty and I was useless as backup pickup as I (a) had no car and (b) was drugged to the gills from a dentist appointment. In the end, we decide he's getting in too late to get a truck that night, and we'll just get one in the morning.

Morning: truck acquired; took too long. Mid-day: room and pets packed up; took way too long (wtf, packing up ONE ROOM took longer than anything else that day). We get to the folks' house; the parents help T pack while I do physical therapy and change of address and drop one of my sisters off at a sleepover. We will be getting into town way too late to summon unpacking help, so we cancel the unpacking/pizza party and move it to the next morning. When we finish packing, there is a chunk of space left in the truck. Parents take this opportunity to foist off an old but comfortable and humongous chaise lounge thing on us. Really, it is huge. It's the last thing into the truck.

As we hit the road, a wintry mix rolls in: the weather has always, always fucked with us on all of our moves. We have moved nearly a dozen times, T and I, and the weather is inevitably foul, no matter the season.

The dog is in the truck with T. The three cats are in the car with me. We trundle through the terrible weather. T missed an exit and laboriously tries to find an exit that will let him turn to mileage-expensive truck around and go the right way again

Meanwhile, a noise the likes of which I have never heard erupts from the back of the car. One of the cats, Fenris, is emitting sounds that I could not have imagined coming from a feline throat. Any throat. Jesus christ my cat is fucking dying. I take the first exit I can find and try to find a place to pull over and see what in god's name is wrong with my cat.

As I slow down to turn into a random lot in the middle of freaking nowhere, a car plows into me: my second rear-ending in as many months. The other car is screwed up pretty good. I run out into the snow to see if the other driver is okay. She is extremely pregnant and freaking the hell out. I call 911 for her, and the circus begins. By the time it's all over seven emergency vehicles crowd the road.

The paramedics assure me the lady and her baby will be okay, and the nearest hospital is only five miles away. I am tired and stressed and crying from sheer "what the fuck is my life"-ery. My neck is stiff and my face hurts. I called T once emergency services were on their way; he had already passed that exit. He turns around again. We arrive at the exit at roughly the same time, him from the freeway and me from the random tiny road. I want to go; I want the trip — only about a quarter of the way done at this point — over with. I want to get to our awesome new apartment and collapse.

The cat was absolutely fine, by the way.

We go. As we approach Pittsburgh, I realize that the U-Haul will have to be out overnight, but we didn't get a lock, since we didn't count on this. We also have nothing to sleep on. We decide to hit the nearest KMart. We manage to get there at 10:01pm, worried that it will have closed at 10. For once, the universe is merciful: the KMart closed at 9.

Instead we go to the grocery store next door and buy a shower curtain.

We finally arrive at the apartment around 11:30 at night. With much ceremony, we open the front door! There are two keys: one to the front door and one to the vestibule door right behind it. T locked up on his way out after the gas shenanigans. We put in the vestibule key. Nope.

The key fits but doesn't turn; does nothing. It is almost midnight. It is very cold. The pets are cold. We are on the doorstep of our new apartment and we can't get in. We call 411 to ask about 24-hour locksmiths; they don't know hours and just connect us to random ones. Eventually, an idea: I have AAA. We call: my membership level is not sparkly enough for them to come unlock our place, but they give us a 24-hour locksmith dispatch life. Thank god. We call. I get in the car with all the pets and run the heat; they are shivering. The locksmith comes. The lock is really fucked. The locksmith says he might have to drill it. We really do not want this. He works for a solid 20-30 minutes with a variety of tricks. Finally, the door unlocks!

Our downstairs neighbour shows up on the other side in the shared stairwell area. They had called the police. Haha. Hi, neighbour. Nope, not burglars, it was just us, breaking into our own apartment. Nice to meet you! Have a good night. Neighbour goes to cancel the police call.

It turned out there was another key in the back of the lock. The locksmith got it out, too. Amazingly, neither of the keys — the one that had been in the lock before and the one we were issued — was made for that lock. At all. They were not even the least bit alike, even though they were ostensibly for the same lock: not a single pin matched.

It is past 1am. We are so fucking tired. We set up the pets; the cats go into the mini-office/walk-in closet room. It has an access panel to the bathroom water stuff that isn't screwed on very well; we block it off and set up the litter boxes, feed everyone, give the dog a walk. God, can we sleep yet. What are we sleeping on.

We decide to haul the enormous chaise — the last thing to go in and so the first and easiest thing to come out — up the stairs. It's padded and if you squish the padding hard enough, it fits through the doors. We wrestle the goddamn thing through the doors and up the stairs. The house has enormously high ceilings. The stairs are very tall. We manage to secure the truck with a bike lock. We put up our cheap grocery store shower curtain liner. A SHOWER. We curl up on the chaise together and use my coat for a blanket. It is 2:30.

The next morning, we go to feed the pets. One cat, two cat... where is third cat. Where is Salvador.

The access panel is open. We call and call for him. Eventually we hear a tiny, faint mew. Goddammit. Is he stuck? Did he hurt himself? Can he move?

The access panel is full of pipes and we can't get in. Frantic searching reveals that, at the bottom of the staircase, there is a tiny panel in the ceiling. T opens it and I can see through the access panel that it goes to the same area, a crawlspace between the floors of the building. The ceiling panel is just over a foot square. I'm convinced I can make it. T is convinced I can't.

We stack a bookcase and a bucket at the bottom of the stairs. Did I mention the ceilings are very high up? I manage to get in through the panel. There is the goddamn cat. He is fucking fine. He is having the best fucking adventure. I navigate across the ceiling beams on my stupid bum knees more than half the length of the building until I can herd him back to the ceiling panel. Cat fucking retrieved.

Cat fucking filthy.

The house was built in 1901. There is over a hundred years of filth, and he rolled in all of it.

Cat receives bath in kitchen sink. With dish soap, to cut the greasy dust, because that was all we had. Cat is not pleased.

And then our new stove arrives, friends arrive, truck is unpacked, and move is accomplished. Finally.

And that was what happened this weekend, over the course of roughly 36 hours. It really is all down to the gas being off. If it hadn't been off, T would have gotten on the road very early and we would have missed pretty much all the wintry mix. No lateness, no getting rear-ended, no arriving at apartment too late for landlady to unlock it. I'm not sure Salvador's adventure was avoidable, but I'm pretty sure that, had we been less utterly exhausted, we would have sealed off the access panel much more thoroughly. Seriously, why in the world did the landlady turn off the freaking gas =|

So. Now I catch up with life again, because the new apartment did not have internet yet. I'm back in the DC area now.