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 weâ€™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 weâ€™ve won. We havenâ€™t.
As much as any other modern woman, I like to think weâ€™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.
Itâ€™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 doesnâ€™t even make eye contact with me. Or, if youâ€™re a Mercedes dealership in Ft. Walton Beach, you donâ€™t even bother to put the wifeâ€™s name on the paperwork even though sheâ€™s told you repeatedly that itâ€™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. Iâ€™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.
Iâ€™d so like to think it doesnâ€™t happen anymore. Not in this decade. Not in this century. Iâ€™d like to think itâ€™s just ignorant and arrogant car salesmen and their back office counterparts. But itâ€™s hit home hard in the past two weeks…twice. Iâ€™d put a sign on my front lawn that says DIVORCED WOMAN IN BIG HOUSE: COME SCREW ME OVER but I really donâ€™t need to. Theyâ€™re finding me without the sign.
The first incident was with the air conditioning unit for the home officeâ€”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. Heâ€™d done everything he could think of and the unit just wasnâ€™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 heâ€™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 werenâ€™t bothering my ex with phone calls. The boss said heâ€™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 Iâ€™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 didnâ€™t feel right. The lower prices he gave me were comparable to the unit weâ€™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 wouldnâ€™t be able to schedule the service call. We tentatively set up an installation date a month into the future, but something still didnâ€™t feel right, even though Iâ€™d trusted his reputation for years. The high-pressure sales pitch bothered me, too. Iâ€™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 didnâ€™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 wasnâ€™t necessarily to cancel. I called back to see if heâ€™d misunderstood and thought the unit was for the whole house rather than my little office suite. No…he didnâ€™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. Hadnâ€™t her boss given me some other options?
â€œYeah,â€ I told her. â€œA $6,200 option and a pricier one.â€
â€œBut we have much cheaper models. Didnâ€™t he tell you?â€
â€œHe 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 wasnâ€™t an option. It was too small for what I needed.â€
â€œBut you donâ€™t need this $6,200 model for two rooms. Itâ€™s way too much. The $4,000 model is too big, too.â€
â€œYeah. I know.â€
She ended the call by telling me that she didnâ€™t know what to tell me or why heâ€™d tried to sell me something so fancy. She asked if Iâ€™d like her to sell me something more appropriate to my needs. I thanked her and said no. I really didnâ€™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 didnâ€™t come back. They blamed the hurricanesâ€”or at least, thatâ€™s what their little boy told me on the phoneâ€”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 homeownerâ€™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 â€œweâ€ were looking for a new service. They had the records on my house from previous work theyâ€™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 exâ€™s name off the records and change the phone number to mine so they didnâ€™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 doesnâ€™t take my mom that much time to mow the cow pasture behind her farmhouse, and sheâ€™s in her mid-70â€™s.
Okay, so how much just for a one-time mow-it-and-catch-me-up on shrub trimming so my neighbors wonâ€™t be pissed at me? After a visit to look it over, the service told me they could probably do it for $3,200.
â€œThe natural area beside your house has really grown up and most of it will have to be cut down,â€ he explained. He described it further and a light dawned.
â€œThe natural area stays natural. Itâ€™s a greenbelt. I donâ€™t own it, so you wonâ€™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.â€
Except that his estimate remained at $3,200. That houseboy-slash-gardener is looking better and better to me!
I couldnâ€™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.
Iâ€™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 didnâ€™t work and I heard everything while he and his secretary checked the computer for an appointment.
â€œAre you sure we donâ€™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?â€
I have an answer for him.
And so…the AC miraculously started working again, even as I was debating with the company about a replacement. The post-hurricane repair isnâ€™t a rush, so it can wait. And the yard? Well, I think Iâ€™ll go buy me a lawn mower this weekend and put $440 in savings every month.