Friday, April 11, 2008

No Room in the Inn

It is that time of year - that twice a year event that happens in our town, the "Furniture Capital of the World." A place where, "All the World Buys Here," to coin another one of their slogans. Or, the latest, "The World's Home for Home Furnishings" - how clever. This town has been my home for all but a few scant years so it almost is a measure of time for me. "I think I saw them a couple of furniture markets ago", etc. People in this area don't plan weddings or other events during the months of April or OCtobe because every space, caterer, and florist is tied up with serving this industry.

I was tied to this town because my father is a furniture designer - soon to retire. I spent time in showrooms as a young child while my dad feverishly put last minute hardware on casegoods (layman's term - wood furniture) in preparation for opening day. During high school I worked at the priciest and consequently, the "place to be seen" restaurant in High Point. This restaurant actually had career waiters who made about 50% of their yearly income at these two markets. My first couple of "career' jobs were also in the industry - one of the industry's largest and most known manufacturers followed by a stint at THE industry publication. So, to say that I am the expert of the High Point market may be a little exaggerated, but I do feel that I can say we are acquaintances.

Over the past couple of years, my relationship with the market has now been reduced to "landlord." Yes, we do what a medium percentage of High Pointers do during market - we rent our house. This is such a foreign concept for people who have never lived here - "You mean you rent your house to COMPLETE strangers?" "I could never do that!" "I couldn't stand having someone rifle through my things."

PEOPLE! Oh yes you would! You would if you got $5-7,000 of tax-free money for about 20 days out of the year. You would sell yourself to whomever wanted to lay their head down on "your" pillow. You would buy new linens, paint whole rooms, clean out closets and drawers, get your windows washed, wipe down your tooth brush holder, scrub your sink with vinegar and a toothbrush, even buy bottled water and fruit baskets to have "complete strangers" roll out the big bucks and become repeat customers.

You will search high and low for the ultimate destination for your family while these "complete strangers" sleep comfortably in "your" bed. You will farm family members here and there, scattered like dice on a craps table. You will go on Disney vacations (spending your market rental money in one quick swoop), you will call up old friends to visit in far away towns, you will leech off coworkers, you hole up in your basement like a bunch of mole people who shush their children until they begin to scream HUSH, you will even camp at the local swampground, I mean, campground during the first rain events to happen in three months. During this stay in waterworld, your child might ingest your husband's heart medication which has not lockable/unreachable location in the camper. This requires a trip to the emergency room and an admittance for three days. Ironically, it results in the best sleep you will experience in comparison to the camper while "complete strangers" sleep in "your" bed.

So, here I my basement. Day 6 of 10. We are fortunate. We have great renters who have been with us for the 5th market. They are very kind, very clean and very appreciative of my OCD cleaning tenancies.

However, I liken the entire process to pregnancy and birth. The first time, you don't know what to expect. You clean like a woman possessed. You spend a month cleaning every crack and crevice of your home - wiping down walls, every light fixture, cleaning out the pantry and refrigerator, making innumerable trips to good will., even resorting to vacuuming the tops of door frames that you realize were never painted because they are NEVER SEEN! Your due date, I mean, the check-in date of your market guests arrives and running out of time you leave your kids strapped in your running car for two more hours watching a movie while you scramble to finish the "final clean" which two hours ago you thought would only take "another 30 minutes." You leave, exhausted, beaten, with hands so parched from cleaners and water that no amount of lotion or paraffin wax can resuscitate them. Your car is loaded with everything you think you might need for another 10 days and you head to whatever temporary shelter you have arranged. The market guests are born, I mean, they have arrived. You spend the next 10 days trying to figure out your new schedule, your new temporary home. You try NOT to feed your kids fast food every meal and get them in bed before 10 all the while realizing that it is national testing week and you forgot their library books. Just like with a newborn, you are juggling it all and getting not one ounce of sleep. You stress, you cry, your whole self is on edge as you try to maintain the schedule you had before the "arrival. You remember your house as you left it - so clean you could run your tongue along the front door handle and have not one smidge of petri dish nightmare on it - just like reminiscing of your life prior to the your newborn.

You round the bend, you are heading into home (literally). You walk in the door to your home which smells like "complete strangers" who have been sleeping in "your" bed. You unpack. Not only do you unpack the 10 day supply of items you took initially, but you return all the things you picked up on subsequent trips back to the house to clean (extra socks, books for the kids, sunscreen, heavier coats, a random pot, canned goods that were never opened the last market).

Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention becoming a hotel maid? Yeah. Nothing like cleaning up after "complete strangers"who are sleeping on "your" bed. Washing your sheets they have slept on, cleaning your toilet they have...well, you know. "Complete strangers" who have intimate knowledge about your clothing, toiletries and food habits. They may even, suck in all the air in the room, decide they don't like how you have decorated and make a few changes of their own.

You sit down in your clean house (after you have cleaned it upon your return so you can live in it again). For a brief moment, all seems well. Translates: Your baby is sleeping, content with milk, smiling in his sleep. And you are there to capture it all.

Maybe it wasn't so bad. Maybe, just maybe, you will have another child - Oops, I mean, try renting again, to "complete strangers" sleeping in "your" bed.

DISCLAIMER: Some, but not ALL, of the examples listed have been my experience. They have been told to me by other "landlords."

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