Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ponce De Leon can have it...

... as far as I'm concerned. My business partner and I were flown down to Miami for a week to help downsize, disburse, distribute, donate, or otherwise dispose of the contents of two households. She loves Florida. Me? Not so much.

When we got back everyone asked us, "Did you enjoy the sunshine? The warm weather? The ocean breezes?" Not exactly. We typically worked from 10 am-11 pm or later, only stopping for meals. It was nice to be able to walk back and forth between units wearing a short-sleeved tee and capris, but other than that we didn't experience much of the good stuff Florida has to offer.

We stayed in the condo of the living auntie, who fed us well and was a delightful hostess. At the wonderful and wise age of 88, she was more open to getting herself downsized and organized in preparation for a relocation to D.C. than many of our much younger clients. We tackled her kitchen, dining area, living room, pantry, bathrooms, bedroom, closets, den and all points in between. If I have half her stamina at that age, I'll be happy. Her deceased sister's condo, now that was a horse of a different color.

Cockroaches. They have COCKROACHES in Florida, and the natives do not find this noteworthy. The deceased auntie's condo had been neglected in her later years. She was 90 when she died and was, for the most part, house-bound with "caregivers" coming in daily to - let's see. Not to clean. Not to cook. Oh yeah, we think maybe to watch tv. Anyway. The carpets were littered with the skeletal remains of cockroaches. Had we gathered up the crispy shells of those buggers we would've needed a rake and I'll bet we could've filled a trash bag. Nobody understood my whiny-crybaby indignation... "There are COCKROACHES in the kitchen!" "Yeah, and...?"

My business partner knows I'm skittish about things other than humans and pets that move within the confines of any given living space. When she opened one of the kitchen drawers and a giant cockroach all but bitch-slapped her, she slammed the drawer shut and advised me to steer clear. Over the course of the week, whenever that drawer was opened he charged to the front and I think he may have reared up on his hind legs and put some of his however-many arms on his hips and spit at us. There were a couple of clenched-fist arms waving in the air too, at least that's what it looked like from my vantage point of one foot out the door.

And then there was The Mystery of the Hershey Kisses Wrappers. Well, I thought it was a mystery. I was in the den while my partner worked in the deceased's bedroom with the deceased's nephew. "Wow. Somebody sure liked their Hershey Kisses. There's a huge pile of wrappers here in the corner next to the nightstand." Then her voice grew quiet and I couldn't hear the rest of their conversation, but as I worked alone I thought, "Sweetjeezus, who would throw candy wrappers in a big pile in the corner next to their bed?" I wondered if it was the lady or one of her aides...

We held an impromptu estate sale within the gated community, putting up signs at all the mailbox centers in the complex. We couldn't advertise outside the complex because of the gated aspect, but we did really well with very little time to prepare. The woman had a reverse mortgage, so the unit was going to be handed over to the bank; the family wanted us to simply get whatever we could for whatever we could sell after valuables were shipped to family members and collectibles were taken to consignment shops or sold to antique dealers. We made a good pile of money in a few hours' time with nothing priced, nothing cleaned, and nothing of notable value.

"Is that a sleeper sofa in the den?" someone asked me during the sale. "Can we open it up and have a look?" I went to the den to lend a hand. As I removed the two top sofa cushions, the entire surface of the still-folded sofa bed was littered with Hershey Kisses wrappers. Oh, and rat poop. "Ok," I said as I dropped the cushions and backed away, "if you want to open that up any further, be my guest. If you'd like to flee the room with me you're welcome to do that, too."

They bought it for $25. They're going to put a rat-poop sofa bed in their house. For people to sleep on.

That night in bed (like on Patty Duke, we slept in twin beds separated by a nightstand) my business partner and I started talking about the events of the day and, as was often the case, started laughing ourselves silly. We thought maybe we should contact the rat-poop sofa-bed people and try to sell them accent pillows stuffed with cockroach remains.