Divorced Woman in Big House: Come Screw Me Over

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Freedom .

Yeah, yeah. Here we are in the 21st century and we like to think we’re so much more civilized than 30 years ago and treat both sexes equally and none of that discrimination stuff. We hear about it all over the news and rail against it publicly and declare war on it and think we’ve won. We haven’t.

As much as any other modern woman, I like to think we’ve changed. And we have to a large degree, yet the instances of discrimination are still hard to take when I see them. Even harder to take when I find them aimed at me.

It’s the reason I hate car shopping. Especially when a salesman spends his time talking to whatever man chauffeured me to the car lot and doesn’t even make eye contact with me. Or, if you’re a Mercedes dealership in Ft. Walton Beach, you don’t even bother to put the wife’s name on the paperwork even though she’s told you repeatedly that it’s her car and you then make stupid references to her about how she should be happy to have her sugar daddy buying her a car…which is why I got rid of the Mercedes within a week of my divorce and bought something a little pretentious. I’d tried to buy my new car online but ironically, the only responses I got to inquiries were the ones from L E Tedder and not a one responded to Lorna.

I’d so like to think it doesn’t happen anymore. Not in this decade. Not in this century. I’d like to think it’s just ignorant and arrogant car salesmen and their back office counterparts. But it’s hit home hard in the past two weeks…twice. I’d put a sign on my front lawn that says DIVORCED WOMAN IN BIG HOUSE: COME SCREW ME OVER but I really don’t need to. They’re finding me without the sign.

My interim solution is going to be to make up a husband named Thor.Flying By Night novel

The first incident was with the air conditioning unit for the home office—less than 700 square feet for two rooms and a bathroom where I run my little company. After crawling around in my attic for two hours, the very nice repairman called his boss and explained the situation. He’d done everything he could think of and the unit just wasn’t cooling so well. His boss said that my husband and I would eventually have to have the unit replaced. I reminded him that I was recently divorced and he’d need to deal with me as there was no husband to deal with. I felt comfortable telling him this because, well, the company needed to change over my account information so they weren’t bothering my ex with phone calls. The boss said he’d call me back with some options for replacing the unit.

The options turned out to be a choice between a $6,200 unit and a $12,000 unit. And he was strongly pushing for the $6,200 unit. For an area less than 700 square feet! My jaw was still on the floor when the boss told me I’d have to give him a yes or no before he hung up the phone. We talked some more and he promised to throw in some rebates and lots of extras but something still didn’t feel right. The lower prices he gave me were comparable to the unit we’d bought for the whole house a few years ago. I told him I needed to think about it but he insisted on an answer immediately or he wouldn’t be able to schedule the service call. We tentatively set up an installation date a month into the future, but something still didn’t feel right, even though I’d trusted his reputation for years. The high-pressure sales pitch bothered me, too. I’d never experienced that with him before. So the next business day, I called back and cancelled.

Between those two phone calls, I did my homework. My research. The kind of stuff I do for a living. I found the same unit available elsewhere at $1,000 to $4,000 less, including the same labor and warranties. Not only that, but I kept thinking about his arguments on efficiency and how his reasoning didn’t match up with the facts about my utility bills. Clearly, I thought, there must have been some kind of misunderstanding.

So when I called back, it wasn’t necessarily to cancel. I called back to see if he’d misunderstood and thought the unit was for the whole house rather than my little office suite. No…he didn’t misunderstand.

Somehow, I ended up talking to a woman who works for the company and she kept asking why I selected this particular unit, which was way more than I needed, and with the extra-long warranties. Hadn’t her boss given me some other options?

“Yeah,” I told her. “A $6,200 option and a pricier one.”

“But we have much cheaper models. Didn’t he tell you?”

“He mentioned a $4,000 to $5,000 model in passing but refused to discuss it. Even when I asked for more info on that one. He said it really wasn’t an option. It was too small for what I needed.”

“But you don’t need this $6,200 model for two rooms. It’s way too much. The $4,000 model is too big, too.”

“Yeah. I know.”

She ended the call by telling me that she didn’t know what to tell me or why he’d tried to sell me something so fancy. She asked if I’d like her to sell me something more appropriate to my needs. I thanked her and said no. I really didn’t feel comfortable with her company after this but I appreciated her candor.

In the midst of the AC issue, my lawn service disappeared. They were paid up and one day, they just didn’t come back. They blamed the hurricanes—or at least, that’s what their little boy told me on the phone—but they never called, never called back, never took my calls. They just vanished without a word and with my grass getting taller every day.

So I started calling lawn services. I started with ones I knew and ones my colleagues use. It took the last lawn service about 20 minutes a week in the summers and they pruned twice a year. I expected the first visit to be a little more expensive to catch up on the recent growth but….

I called one service that my homeowner’s association recommended, but they never returned any of my three calls scattered over two weeks.

I called one service I was very familiar with and told them “we” were looking for a new service. They had the records on my house from previous work they’d done and told me originally that it would be around $90 to $100 a month for biweekly mowing from October until April. Gas has gone up, so I expected the charges to be higher. That amount was similar to what they were charging a new couple in the neighborhood with a slightly smaller yard. I called back, giving my name and asking that they take my ex’s name off the records and change the phone number to mine so they didn’t call him by mistake. It took two phone messages, asking for an updated quote, before I finally got to talk to someone on the third call. When I asked them for a quote to mow the yard and trim the bushes twice a year, they took another couple of days to call back with an answer. Gee, it would take probably five hours a week to mow my lawn. They could do it…for $440 a month.

Yeah, and I could hire a houseboy to mow my lawn and rub my feet….

Seriously, it doesn’t take my mom that much time to mow the cow pasture behind her farmhouse, and she’s in her mid-70’s.

Okay, so how much just for a one-time mow-it-and-catch-me-up on shrub trimming so my neighbors won’t be pissed at me? After a visit to look it over, the service told me they could probably do it for $3,200.

What?!

“The natural area beside your house has really grown up and most of it will have to be cut down,” he explained. He described it further and a light dawned.

“The natural area stays natural. It’s a greenbelt. I don’t own it, so you won’t be cutting it or pruning it. But at least now I see why your estimate is so high because that would be a significant amount of work.”

Except that his estimate remained at $3,200. That houseboy-slash-gardener is looking better and better to me!

I couldn’t understand the sudden jump in the need to overcharge me. Not by hundreds of dollars but by thousands. Then an overheard phone call summed it all up for me.

I’d called for an estimate on a post-hurricane repair, post-useless-insurance-adjustor and a decision to surrender rather than waste any more time fighting with my insurance company. The owner put me on hold, only the hold button didn’t work and I heard everything while he and his secretary checked the computer for an appointment.

“Are you sure we don’t have any openings this week so we can send someone out to her place? Damn, I hate to turn her down! Look at that address. A single woman living in that area of town? Do you know how much money we can get for a job like this?”

I have an answer for him.

None.

And so…the AC miraculously started working again, even as I was debating with the company about a replacement. The post-hurricane repair isn’t a rush, so it can wait. And the yard? Well, I think I’ll go buy me a lawn mower this weekend and put $440 in savings every month.