Germany, good news, money, musings

When landlords are honest…

A few days ago, our landlord/neighbor rang the doorbell. He had papers with him and asked to speak with Bill. I told him that Bill was out of town, but would be home on Friday. The landlord looked perturbed, which worried me a bit. He said he needed to settle our “Nebenkosten” bill. That’s supposed to be done every year, but he never got around to doing it last year, so we had two years worth of bills to settle. Based on his demeanor, I thought maybe we owed him money.

Even though it’s been two years since we moved here, we’re still quite traumatized by our former landlady, whom we ended up suing over our security deposit. The last year we spent in our former house was, in many ways, very stressful. In other ways it was less stressful, mainly because she became passive aggressive and mostly quit speaking to us.

In fairness, our current landlord is nothing like our former landlady was. He very rarely bothers us and doesn’t complain to us about how we live our lives. He respects our privacy, treats us like adults, and is a good neighbor. And although we spend a lot of money to live in his house, it’s a beautiful house that has everything we need. So we’re happy here, although I will admit to missing the views from our old town and some of the people we got to know there. I especially miss nearby Nagold, which is a really cute town. It was just a few kilometers from where we lived. If we ever move back to the Stuttgart area, I would look for a house in Nagold.

I told Bill that the landlord needed to speak to him, so we weren’t surprised when he rang the doorbell last night. Bill stepped outside to talk to him. I braced myself, because I figured he would be presenting us with a bill for overconsumption or something. Our former landlady had started off being nice, but most of her visits included unsolicited advice, complaints, judgments, or other indications that she wasn’t pleased about something we were doing or not doing. Gradually, she became ever more hostile, resentful, and rude, even though Bill was never anything but pleasant and businesslike to her. He never, for example, screamed at her or made false accusations about her. She, on the other hand, yelled at me more than once and falsely accused us of things.

Even though our current landlord is nothing like our former landlady, the trauma lingers… same way it lingers in Noyzi, who knows Bill is a good guy, but is still terrified of him. And so, even though our landlord is a good man and has never been anything but businesslike, I still kind of dread his visits and assume the worst is about to happen. I wait for the shoe to drop, so to speak.

Bill came back into the house, shaking his head. He said, “Unbelievable…” as he set down a stack of papers.

“That bad?” I asked, expecting that we were about to shell out some euros.

“Well, it turns out that there’s a discrepancy of about 1200 euros.” Bill said. “But he owes us 1200 euros. We’ve been overpaying the whole time we’ve been here. He apologized profusely for not settling the Rechnung last year. I think he thought we knew we were overpaying. And he wanted to know if we wanted cash or to take it out of next month’s rent. He even offered to show me his bills to prove that we overpaid.” Bill’s face still registered pleasant shock.

“Wow!” I said, remembering that Bill had to email our former landlady to get her to send us 20 percent of our deposit that she deemed we were due. And when Bill questioned her charges, some of which were legitimately illegal and out of statute, she became downright recalcitrant. Meanwhile, I learned that the tenant before us was monitoring me and, evidently, sharing with the ex landlady. My guess is that they had a good time gossiping about us while trying to determine the best way to fuck us out of our money. At the same time, former tenant was very zealous about guarding her privacy, even as she was happily invading mine.

I noticed that the money our former landlady did begrudgingly refund to us was about what she had received in an insurance settlement she got after an old awning collapsed on a windy day. We had filed a claim for her, but because the awning was seventeen years old, it was valued at being worth about just under 600 euros, and part of that money went to pay the technician who looked at it and determined it couldn’t be fixed. Ex landlady ended up with around 300 euros, which she said wasn’t enough to buy a new awning. I have never known insurance to pay the entire cost of replacing something. Ex landlady is older than I am by 20 years, but somehow she missed the memo that insurance is mostly designed to defray costs, not completely cover them.

Ex landlady tried a lot of tactics to get us to let her take our money. She started by trying to get us to pity her, citing how much money she had to spend to spruce up the house after we left. She even sent us a bill for having the top of her carport washed, even though that wasn’t our responsibility. She wasn’t asking us to pay it; she was trying to show us that she had spent a lot of money cleaning off the carport and we should have mercy on her and let her steal our deposit.

When the pity approach didn’t work, she tried shame. She accused us of trashing her house, being filthy, and being negligent. She claimed we were being “unfair” to her, asking her to prove that we were guilty of damaging her house and verifying the expenses she claimed. She said we were the worst tenants she’d ever had, although she didn’t seem to mind that we lived in her house for four years and was visibly relieved when I told her halfway through our time there that we had decided to stay in Germany rather than move to Italy for another job.

Then she became outrageous. She accused us of dumping an “American” refrigerator in her kitchen and stealing her “nice” one. There was a dorm sized fridge in the kitchen when we moved in. We did not buy it. We assumed it was her fridge. It didn’t work very well, but even if it had worked well, we never would have bought such a fridge for our own use. We’re Americans, and we like our appliances large, modern, and functional. Moreover, that fridge was plugged directly into the wall socket. If it was an American fridge, we would not have been able to plug it in directly. We have different voltage in America and different plugs. We did take a nice fridge when we moved, but it belonged to us, and I could prove it with receipts. We also took an old freezer, but it was one Bill bought from a departing co-worker. The old freezer no longer works, so I wouldn’t necessarily call it “nice”. I had taken a photo of the shitty European fridge on the day we moved in and posted it on Facebook, knowing that my friends would get a kick out of it. In the States, I have a full sized fridge that we use for drinks. I call it the “fridge of sin”. There’s no way we would have ever bought a puny fridge, even if it was just to dump it on the ex landlady. That’s ridiculous.

In response to our lawyer’s demand letter, ex landlady’s lawyer blustered about what shitty people we are and threatened a counter suit. He claimed she hadn’t charged us for everything, although many of the charges she listed were either out of statute or illegal. Almost none of them were provable, because she never did a Protokol when we moved in. She also never settled our Nebenkosten in the four years we lived in her house, which is against German law. Consequently, we could have demanded that she return all of the money we paid for our trash, water, and her irregularly performed lawn work. When she did the lawn work, it was done to a high standard. But she became increasingly lax about it, especially at the end of our tenancy.

Ex landlady somehow decided that she deserved 2800 euros for a brand new awning. She never told us how she arrived at that figure. She just expected us to give her the money. Since we didn’t agree with her, she decided to take it out of our deposit and evidently never thought we’d question it. But she had no right to do that. I suspect she never dreamed we would sue her. Bill is a kind, considerate man without a malicious bone in his body. She probably assumed she could take the money with little resistance from him. Strange that she would assume that about a man who has made his living in the business of planning war, even if he is even-tempered and seems meek. She never really took the time to get to know us, for all of her intrusiveness and judging of our lifestyle. That was a mistake on her part. I mean, really it’s probably better if landlords stick to business, but if you’re going to be nosy, controlling, and intrusive, you should probably try to actually understand the person you’re surveilling.

We spent our last precious weekend with our beloved Zane, the wonder beagle, answering her lawyer’s ridiculous claims and translating it into German. Zane had to be euthanized the following weekend because he had lymphoma. Instead of enjoying our last time with him, we had to deal with the ex landlady and her lies.

Allowing her to just take the money would just be encouraging her to continue to bilk her tenants. We felt we had a responsibility to hold her accountable. And frankly, she had driven us to the point at which we no longer cared about preserving any good will toward her. We had repeatedly tried to be patient and understanding toward her, but she simply went too far and we had to take action. Sometimes, you have to take a stand.

The process of suing the ex landlady wasn’t fun at all. It was expensive, aggravating, and it made us feel guilty. We didn’t want to do it. It would have been much better all around if she had simply been cooperative, respectful, and honest. I think she would have found that Bill is a very fair person. She certainly would have saved money, and she would not have ended up being reported to the housing office. It would have been good business. But instead, she decided to take a stand on quicksand, in spite of herself. She lost, but it wasn’t without a lot of pain and aggravation for us, and the process took a long time– probably longer because of the pandemic.

If we hadn’t sued, we would have had to live with the diminished self-respect that comes from letting someone blatantly screw us over. Both Bill and I have repeatedly done that in our lives, and it never leads to anything good. The person who screws us never learns not to, and we feel used and abused. This time, we decided it was time we fought back. And again, it was also for the people coming after us and having to deal with her. Maybe she’ll think twice about the way she handles her business. Or maybe she’ll decide to get out of the landlady business, once and for all. Personally, I think that would be the best end result. She shouldn’t be renting to anyone, in my opinion.

Despite coming out on top with our former landlady, we’re still traumatized and wary years later. And so, when our current landlord turned out to be honest and forthright, it was a shock. A pleasant shock, to be sure– but still it was a shock. We were still smiling about it this morning. And the end result is that we would recommend our landlord to other people, which ultimately is good for his business. He won’t end up being blacklisted by the local military community, and that will likely translate to more money for him. It’s a shame that our ex landlady wasn’t able to realize that cooperation is the better way to go, rather than being stubborn, accusatory, retaliatory, and insulting.

My faith is restored in humanity. It’s like the universe is now showing us that we were right to do what we did… and that we were victims of gaslighting, among other things. I hope we can stay here for awhile longer. I like to reward good people when I can. Either way, I don’t think we’re going to have to sue this landlord, and thank heaven for that.

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complaints, Germany, housekeeping tips

My new vacuum is a German speaker…

When Bill told me he was going away for three weeks, I said I was going to buy myself a “present”. Most women would buy themselves some earrings or something. What did I do? I bought a fucking vacuum cleaner. But it’s not your ordinary vacuum. This one is a dry/wet vacuum. It’s like a hybrid steam mop and vacuum. It has an app, and “speaks”. I didn’t decide to buy it for its ability to speak, though. I bought it because it’s cordless, upright, and lighter than my corded Dyson, which I’ve been dragging around for the past few years.

This guy did a review. He’s in America, though, so his vacuum speaks English.

Supposedly, I can change the language in the app, but I wasn’t able to access it yesterday, even after I registered and got an email confirming that I did. Somehow, I wasn’t able to click on anything that shows them I received their verification and would allow me to set a password.

Tineco is supposedly very responsive, but I left them a message on their Facebook page and, so far, nada. I also found it rather concerning that there was a sticker on the vacuum that asked consumers not to take the vacuum to the store, but to contact customer service. I’m not sure how to take that. But anyway, I haven’t tried it out yet. By the time it got to me, it was late afternoon, and it took some time to remove it from its box. Every part was wrapped in plastic and shrouded in cardboard. Since I’m still in pain from my recent spills, I’m moving slower than usual and was in no mood to mess with the new toy. Aside from that, it needed time to charge.

Ah well… I’m sure I can learn the German phrases uttered by my new cleaning buddy. As long as I can figure out how to use the damned thing and it does what it’s supposed to, I’ll be happy. I think Dysons are overrated. I’ve had several of them, and they never quite live up to the hype. I decided to buy my current one only because the Dirt Devil I had when we first moved back to Germany fell apart after less than a year. The Dyson may not suck as well as it should, but at least it doesn’t fall apart. And at least it’s not designed so that when I round a corner and the machine brushes against the wall, it doesn’t accidentally hit the power button and shut off the vacuum. That happened many times with the Dirt Devil.

For some reason, upright vacuums are hard to find in Germany. Everybody seems to prefer canister vacs without powered heads. I find the canister vacuum cumbersome and annoying, and I hate using it. So hopefully, this new vacuum with be good for lighter jobs, especially since Noyzi deposits so much hair all over the place and tracks mud on the floors.

In other news, I also ordered a new laptop computer yesterday. I did so as I Skyped with my mom. I don’t really need a laptop that badly, as the one I have currently is mostly used for travel purposes and I’m not traveling nowadays. However, it’s also seven years old, and doesn’t move as smoothly or efficiently as it used to. Of course, I have a feeling that my fucking credit card company might have declined the charge, since I rarely charge things and this is a high dollar item. Usually, they text me to get my approval, but I never got a text last night, and the pending charge isn’t showing up on my bill anymore. So that will probably mean calling them, which is a pain in the ass, since I pretty much hate calling people. I might just say fuck it and either use another card or wait until I’m feeling impulsive again. Like I said, I don’t need a new computer so much as I want one.

I’m not as sore as I was yesterday, though I still have some pain from the bruises and actual wounds. My knees look even uglier than they did when I photographed them the other day. The left one has developed a light brown scab, while the right one has a dark red one. The bruises are slowly changing color. Last time I saw the one on my right knee, it was kind of greenish, while the one on the left is more bluish.

Arran continues to wake me up in the wee hours of the morning, but I am a lot more careful about going up and down the stairs now. Don’t want to have another accident. Next time, I might fall on my face, and I don’t need to be any uglier there.

My former student in Armenia, who now works for the Peace Corps, has asked me to make a very short video in honor of the 60th anniversary of the agency. That will mean putting on some makeup, which I haven’t done in weeks. Maybe I’ll make a new selfie, too. The one I’m using now is a year old, although I look kind of pretty in it. It was taken just before we went to France for the annual wine expo, which I believe was postponed this year. It’s a shock to see how much things have changed in just a year’s time. Now, Angela Merkel and her pals are talking about extending the fucking lockdown until March 28th. I suspect people will freak out.

I was feeling a bit depressed and sad for the future yesterday. I probably shouldn’t read so much doom porn in the papers. Every day, it’s more about COVID-19, and how new variants are popping up. I read comments from people who are all about living life the way it is now. I read articles about how the governors of Texas and Mississippi have decided to end the mask mandates and allow businesses to reopen. I hate the fucking face masks, and being forced to wear them is very depressing for me. However, I am not dumb enough to believe that it’s safe for everything to open up, especially in the United States.

At the same time, I’m tired of all of the hostility and disrespect people have for each other. Everyone is on edge, and there’s no room for differences of opinions. People who don’t want to take the vaccine are being harangued by honor graduates of the Google School of Public Health. To be sure, I have no issues getting vaccinated myself. As soon as I can get the shot, I probably will, mainly because Bill will turn into Pat Boone if I don’t. But I can understand why some people don’t want to be vaccinated. Some people are legitimately afraid of the vaccine, for whatever reason. It should be their decision, even if I don’t agree with it– as long as they aren’t directly working with vulnerable people. Being rude, derisive, and confrontational towards people who aren’t with the official program is not the way to change their minds. Same thing I’ve been saying about the fucking face masks. All that behavior does is polarize people even more.

But… as it is now, the fucking vaccine will take awhile to get to us. I am low on the priority list. And I suppose that is how it should be, since I’m not officially high risk and I live like a hermit anyway. It sucks, though… and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I don’t think about checking out on a daily basis. This is nothing new for me, as I have often felt like this even before COVID-19 was a thing. It doesn’t mean I’m planning to off myself, either. It’s more like I feel like I’m stuck at a never-ending party that isn’t fun anymore and I’d like to go home and go to bed. 🙂 And since I have no real purpose, other than to feed my dogs and make Bill laugh, I wonder what the point is of staying.

Anyway… at least the weather is getting somewhat better and the days are getting longer. I’m hoping the backyard will dry out some and we’ll get some grass back after Noyzi destroyed the lawn. At least we can sit outside and drink cocktails, right? And listen to music from a time when things were less bleak, exhausting, and downright annoying.

I guess I’ll go try out my new German speaking vacuum now… and maybe put on some makeup and make a video for Stepan. Have a special day.

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funny stories, Germany, humor

R.B.F.

Yesterday, the weather was predictably nasty. Bill decided to take the dogs for a quick walk before the rain started in earnest. As he was walking along the main drag, Arran decided to drop a load. Bill was stooped over picking up the mess when a “scraggly” looking guy passed. Just as Bill finished cleaning up the poop, Arran took a couple of steps and cocked his leg on a cement pillar that formed part of an archway.

The scraggly guy turned and said, in German, that letting the dogs pee on structures isn’t a good thing to do. Bill said, “Ja, ja.” and went on about his day. Then he came back home and stewed about the encounter for awhile. Bill is unusually conscientious and takes public rebukes to heart. I could tell he was upset about that confrontation. I can’t blame him for that. I hate it when random people speak to me, particularly when they really need to fuck off and mind their own business.

For some reason, it seems like Bill runs into people like this more than I do. So I told him I thought he should develop R.B.F.

You know what that is, right?

I posted about it on Facebook, and my friend Meryl wrote, “Huh?”

Resting Bitch Face. I think Bill should develop one.

One of my other longtime friends who, I guess, is often shocked by the things I say and write, commented that she was grateful that someone asked what R.B.F. is so she wouldn’t have to. I thought it was self-explanatory. I have a pretty good R.B.F. myself. I think a lot of women develop one so they won’t be harassed by men. Seriously, if you look unpleasant and unapproachable, most people will leave you alone. It’s a great defense mechanism. Today’s featured photo is an example of one of my MANY R.B.F.s. Actually, in that photo, I was pretty pissed off.

As Bill was telling this story, I was cracking up. I told him he should have pulled out his Schwanz and taken a piss, too. It’s not like we haven’t seen dozens of European men peeing in public, although they don’t typically do it on busy thoroughfares. But the weather is so chilly that it would have meant instant shrinkage. We’re talking a stack of dimes shrinkage. Bill isn’t that bold, anyway.

I usually try not to let Arran pee on buildings, though, mainly because I don’t enjoy being confronted by random people about my dog’s natural toileting habits. Arran peed on that pillar because many other dogs have peed there. That’s like the community bulletin board for dogs. They go by and leave their urinary calling cards for all of the other dogs in the neighborhood. It’s Arran’s way of saying “Arran wuz here.”

The one time anyone German (other than ex landlady) ever spoke to me about my dogs’ potty habits was pretty positive. I was walking Zane and Arran through the field near us and one of the dogs pooped near a wood pile. I was cleaning up the pile when a guy drove up in his truck. He had a look on his face that told me I was about to be confronted. I immediately got nervous, because I figured the guy was going to yell at me. Then I realized that the look on his face wasn’t one of annoyance. In fact, he looked amazed and appreciative.

The man explained in German that people were regularly letting their dogs go potty by his wood pile, but they usually just leave their dogs’ piles of crap there. So he was delighted to catch me cleaning up after my dogs and was offering thanks. That was a memorable experience and every time I pass that woodpile, I remember it with a smile.

Hearing Bill relate that story also reminded me of a funny memory from several years ago, when we visited Rome. We were wandering around the city and happened to pass a church, where a homeless looking guy was sitting on the steps, drinking a beer. Another man was passing and shamed the homeless looking dude for drinking on the church steps. The street person did not seem affected by the shaming.  He casually raised his bottle as if to offer a sip to the guy who had just yelled at him. It was pretty funny.

As I sit here writing this, I’m reminded of how much I miss traveling and interacting with people. We have had so many funny things happen to us, especially in Europe. Like, for instance, the time we were in a Seville restaurant drinking wine. A bum came in begging for spare change. This guy was pretty ballsy and had a sense of humor. He was very persistent about begging for change, and I was a bit drunk. The bum and I ended up engaging in a really funny exchange, so at my prompting, Bill gave the guy a euro or two. Then I told him to beat it.

Actually, I rarely wear a mask, because I rarely leave my neighborhood.

I really hope this COVID-19 crisis eases up soon so we can have some fun again. It’s pretty sad when a random encounter with a German guy over dog whiz results in a blog post. I miss creating memories. Hell, it’s almost time for President’s Day, which is typically a long weekend we use for traveling to other places. Last year, we went to France. It’s also Fasching season, which usually means there will be festivals involving costumes, drinking, and partying in the streets. In 2019, we even got mooned while eating in a restaurant! But not this year. 🙁

We can’t go anywhere or celebrate Carnival, because everything is locked down. I guess the one consolation is that the weather is positively shitty right now and will be so for probably another week to ten days, at the very least. So another precious long weekend gets lost to the stupid virus. At least we have Noyzi here to provide some fun. And at least we live in a comfortable home, in a neighborhood where people are generally nice and leave us alone. I don’t have to employ my R.B.F. very often in these parts. I guess I have to take my victories wherever I can find them.

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