Bye bye bye

Wednesday was my last day at my workplace, a large state agency in Austin, Texas. An incident the week before I left kind of typified my experiences during the past few years.

As the lone technical writer in a large IT organization, I didn’t belong to any one team. I should have belonged to all the teams, since I did work for all of them. I wrote the Help for about 30 different software applications, did other editing and writing work, and taught writing classes to the agency. For one project, I read every single page of our web site and worked with the many content authors to try to improve their writing. I also belonged to a department, one in which all the other members are business analysts. Believe me, it has always been all about the business analysts. In short, instead of belonging to all the teams, I belonged to none.

So long, large ugly building.
So long, large ugly building.

So, a typical event. Along with the other people in my department, last week I was invited to a birthday lunch for a coworker, which I accepted. When the time came, I looked around and could not find any of them. They left without me. I knew where they were going, but I do not usually have a car at work, so I could not follow. This group included my boss, and the department only has six people in it, so I wasn’t overlooked because of the sheer number of people involved. Not only that, but they only sit one row away from me in our cube farm. No one stuck a head around the corner and asked me if I was going. Need I point out that this was the last chance any of them would have had to go to lunch with me?

Individually, these are all nice people. They just seldom treated me as part of their group.

A few weeks ago, too, I got a talking-to by my boss, who said someone had complained that I made too many personal phone calls. Aside from there being no rule about personal phone calls, the actual truth is that usually I go for months making no phone calls at all. It’s just that with the house sale, and the moving, and the storage unit, and the packing, I have had to make many in a short period of time. You would think that anyone could understand that. When I was telling another manager about it, he said, “I never hear a peep out of you.” Our division actually usually doesn’t care about things like that, but we’re sitting next to another division that does. But let’s not say anything about the interminable vapid conversations I have to listen to every day from the cube next to me in the other division (and snoring, when that person falls asleep, several times a week). I guess having personal conversations is okay as long as you aren’t doing personal business on the phone. I guess sleeping is okay, too.

Pay is also a big issue for me here, because for the past six years I have received a rating of five out of five on my reviews but have only had one raise. Part of the time we had a wage freeze, but when we didn’t have one, attention was not paid to the fact that my pay had fallen behind that of other employees who used to make less than me (even after I pointed it out to them). I do the work that was done by four writers when I started here. I stay on schedule and deliver quality work. I knew that coming to work for the state would mean taking a pay cut, but for the first few years I worked here, it looked like I would eventually recover the pay rate I was making before I started. I did not. 15 years ago I was making $10K more than I make now. Thank god for the benefits, which continue after I retire.

A friend at work has urged me to write a “f–k you” essay about our workplace, but this is about as close as I can get. I know it’s not funny. She could have done a much better job of entertaining you all, because she is hilarious. Let’s just say, I’m glad to be finally getting the f–k out of Dodge.

On the subject of companies to never do business with again

Today was a nightmare. It is one day before we are supposed to close, and I thought it would be a slow one in which my husband packed the storage container and I packed boxes. My husband was preparing for the storage container to be picked up and a new one delivered in its place tomorrow.

First we got a call from the moving company asking if they could pick up the container today. My husband, having procrastinated, had actually wasted the coolish morning doing other things that could be done anytime, so I had to say no. He is out there now working in the heat, rearranging the stuff for the umpteenth time. At some time, he will have to decide that he’s done as good a job as he can, but not now.

Then they called again and asked if they could at least drop off the other container. This seemed odd, but I told them I wasn’t sure it would fit in the driveway with the one that is there now. If I’d known what was coming, I would have said, “Heck, yeah!”

Then we proceeded to be deluged by calls. Some of them were from the different moving people I was trying to coordinate, one company coming to pick up a bunch of stuff today and take it to Goodwill, another company coming on our moving day to help pack and load. So, we were constantly on the phone for our business, but we also got as many calls as we ever did before the Do Not Call list.

We thought the kicker came when our realtor’s company called to say that we needed to do some energy audit required by the city of Austin when you’re selling a home. Why hadn’t we heard of this before, I asked? We’re closing tomorrow! Since our buyer had already done five inspections of our house, our realtor had assumed they did it, even though it is usually ordered by the seller. He also thought it wouldn’t be needed since the buyer intends to gut the house, but the buyer has been the biggest pain imaginable. It was not going to affect the closing, he said. So, I had to get on the phone and get the auditor out. Luckily, he could come today. For a cash sale that was supposed to be easy, this has been the hardest I’ve ever been involved in.

But here’s the kicker. The auditor had no sooner arrived than I got a call from our moving and storage company. I hesitate to name it, as starting tomorrow, they will have temporary custody of half of my worldly goods, but it is a well-known company, a conglomerate of two old-fashioned moving companies, and it’s name has the initials U-MF. It turns out that we can’t have the second storage container at all, because their Austin office just closed. They suggested we call one of several OTHER companies.

When they say "Do it yourself," they mean it literally!
When they say “Do it yourself,” they mean it literally!

Can you believe this? If it was my company, I would get on the horn to Dallas or Houston or some other U-MF office and tell them to get a storage container out there pronto. They did nothing.

So,we had to call another company, and that was also a trip. But the end result is we’re paying about $2K more for the move, because the second container was going to be an add-on and now it is a first container from another company.

The reason I called this company in the first place is that back in the olden days, when people used trucks to move, I used them twice and they were great (the MF part of the merger). Not any more.

Two days of ups and downs

Well, such a time we have had. It started out Monday, which our realtor had told us was the last day our buyers could make changes to our contract. I had a friend over helping me pack (thanks so much to my dear friend), and I was on pins and needles all day obsessively checking my email.

When no word came in by 5 PM, I shot an email off to our realtor about it and my husband and I went out to Amy’s for ice cream to celebrate. Too soon, as it turned out, for when I came home, I had an email from my realtor that said “Tomorrow at 5. Sorry.” He tends to be succinct.

So, on Tuesday, we had a message at 9 AM saying that “an amendment will be coming shortly.” We waited all day until almost 4 PM only to find out that our buyers wanted us to come down on our price by $80K! They had five inspectors come out over the past 10 days, and the buyer’s agent said that the house was in horrible shape and that everyone who had looked at it had said to tear it down. But they can’t tear it down, because it sits right on the creek, which is no longer allowed by the city. If they want to tear it down, they have to move it back from the creek.

Why it wouldn't be convenient to try to multiple list
Why it wouldn’t be convenient to try to multiple list

Now, we have been living in it comfortably (or, we would have been comfortable if my husband wasn’t a hoarder) for more than 20 years. A few minor things need repair, but I couldn’t imagine it was in that bad of shape. But on the other hand, we had moved pretty far past being able to rapidly put it on the market. Our agent offered to come over and take pictures and get it up on multiple listings by today, and that would have been possible until two days ago, but the past few days we had amassed lots of boxes that haven’t gone out into the pod yet, and we had not had the cleaners come out this week because of the chaos.

My husband was all for accepting their offer, but he has wanted to take every offer they’ve made. I talked it over with our agent, and we decided to offer a $20K reduction. My husband panicked after we decided this and called the agent back to ask him to accept the offer, but luckily, he had already told them our price.

Luckily, because they came back almost immediately splitting the difference, which means that we still made more than their original offer. We accepted that, and we’re still closing on Friday, cash. The main reason I decided to accept it is we would have had to disclose anything the inspections found, which might make it hard to make a higher selling price. We had already decided to move anyway, but we would have moved out to Washington not knowing how long it would take to sell our house, which would have had us being very short until that money came in. Overall, I feel okay about how things worked out, if a little roughed up. And, of course, I would have liked to have the extra money.

On to our next challenges!

 

Great news

Goodbye soon to our beautiful view of the creek.
Goodbye soon to our beautiful view of the creek.

We have sold our house. Of course, it’s early days yet, so things could still go wrong, but on Tuesday we got an offer and we counter-offered, and on Saturday we agreed on a price. Our neighbor is buying the house, cash, and so we can go ahead and start putting our plans in place. We can now set my retirement date.

Of course, my knee injury has slowed down our packing impetus, because my husband doesn’t seem to do any work unless I do it, too, and most of the last week I spent with my feet up and an ice pack on my knee. So, now we have to get to work, whether I’m up to it or not.

As a bonus, we also got an offer on our Fort Davis property on the very same day. This property could have been on the market for years, but we have already settled on a price. Looks like we’ll be moving within five weeks!

How this all got started

I have lived in Texas for more than 30 years. I am from Michigan, and Texas’s climate is not my favorite. When I first moved here, I thought I would stay here five years, tops. To make matters worse, it has gotten significantly hotter in Texas since I originally moved here.

I always thought I’d retire farther north, but when my husband (also from Michigan) and I got married, he stated a preference never to have to shovel snow again. So, we bought retirement property in the Davis Mountains in far west Texas. But as each summer got hotter and hotter, I started to wonder whether it was a good idea to retire in a desert.

Family
My family at the reunion

Coincidentally, some of both of our families now live in the Pacific Northwest. Since most of my family is somewhere on the West Coast, we started having family reunions in Washington. My niece has a home in the countryside of Southern Washington, about an hour from Portland, OR.

Four years ago, we went to the first reunion. My husband and I got up early on the first day and started wandering in the large garden my niece has planted. Chickens were clucking to our left, and a bee hive was humming to our right. There were two aisles of ripe raspberries. The property is lush, a green lawn surrounded by forests, with blackberries and blueberries growing along the edges. I looked around at the thriving veggies and ate a few raspberries and said to my husband, “This is like paradise.”

Then my niece’s husband mentioned that a short distance away was a house for sale. Well, we ended up buying it, and we have been renting it out for four years. Now, if we can only get going, I am almost ready to retire. I can retire in October, and we can leave any time after we sell our house in Texas. But the catch is, I can’t retire until we sell the house.