Like the warm, well burrowed side of the bed, familiarity is a comfortable cocoon. It swaths us in its soothing coziness. It lulls us into a half-lidded snooze. Familiarity is the warm chocolate chip cookie welcoming you home.
Or is it?
Does familiarity keep us from making choices we often avoid? Does it make choosing more difficult? Is familiarity in cahoots with fear?
For seven years I have built my nest in this apartment unit of mine. In the morning, fresh, welcoming sunlight stream through my balcony and bedroom windows. It fills my home with chipper cheer. I’ve enjoyed living here, driving through the front gates, arriving home at the end of the day or lying in bed on weekends listening to the city’s hushed movements before the populace stirs. I’ve had no complaints; I was content…until this weekend.
It began on Wednesday. Ordinary Wednesday. Lots of deadlines I had to satisfy last week, and I was feeling the heat. During a break, I went into the kitchen to fix something to eat. I flipped on the light switch, and to my dismay, the ceiling lights, the highly elevated ceiling lights, fizzled out. With an ever pathetic adieu it flickered its last wink and died. All righty then. I logged online to the property’s website and submitted a work order to maintenance–a major thing I love about living in an apartment: maintenance will take care of the problem. Well…Thursday and Friday came and went and still no lights. Finally on Saturday I went to the front office to ask (very politely) when I would be able cook with lights once again. Turned out they lost my work order. Yes, I will submit another one–this time on paper with the manager standing in the same room with me. It is now Monday and still no lights.
That same Saturday I received a notice from the leasing office reminding me that my lease will expire in a couple months. They raised my rent by five dollars. They also provided a list woes and costly expenses associated with moving. Seriously?
Granted, five dollars is not a lot of money; it’s just the whole customer service/appreciation thing that seems to be lacking. Let me explain. Each year rent has increased, with the exception of once. The complex was under different management at the time, and looking back I believe that was the best management team during my time here. Since then there have been two different managers, and the staff turnover rate is high.
Two or three years ago, the leasing office did away with concierge trash pick-up, and required residents to take their own trash to the dumpster which is located towards the back of the complex. It’s not that big of a deal, except on weekends and holidays…when the trash piles up and the compactor is full and bits of garbage is strewn over the lawn and parking lot as if night critters had one hell of a party. My building is towards the front of the complex, so I have the fortune not to behold that unsightly mess when I look out my windows. Can you image how irksome that would be for tenants who live within site of the dumpster?
With things being so busy in my world, I distractedly and inadvertently wrote the wrong amount on my check for rent payment…twice. Each time the amount was $35 more than my monthly fee. However, no one from the front office contacted me to inform me of my mistake. I would not have caught it had it not been for the alert provided by my budgeting app. When I contacted the front office about this one of the employees said they do not receive alerts for over payment and that is why I was not notified. But by golly I bet you they receive alerts where there are insufficient (and late) payments.
It is Monday and I still have no kitchen lights.
Hence I feel inspired to move. In fact I have just the complex in mind. This new apartment features hard wood floors in the kitchen, dining and living rooms. The rent would be higher, but the floor plan shows a more spacious kitchen with actual countertop areas, concierge trash pick-up service (glory, hallelujah!), and the location is prime–within walking distance to a fabulous market, nearby restaurants (this could be not quite such a good thing), my dentist’s office, a few stores for shopping (not my main buying attractions but it’s there) and a theatre. It sounds sublime. The downside is…there are no trees.
Honestly I do not understand these builders in Texas. They will level a field– trees, shrubs, grass and all–to turn it into a hideous parcel of ugly dirt. Then they build. No matter how attractive the homes or buildings may be, the lot always looks naked, because there are no trees. So they plant saplings. And we all know how long it takes for trees to grow. The complex where I am currently residing is a few years old. There are trees with legitimate shade, not like the magnificent aged arbors in the deep south or the east and west coasts, of course, but trees nonetheless.
So, I sit here weighing the options. It will cost money to move, time and energy to pack and unpack. I will have to scrounge for packing boxes, ask my men friends if they will be so kind to help move my furniture, coordinate services with my utility providers, etc. On the other hand, I am familiar with this place. Will I be able to get a unit that faces the sunrise and can still glimpse a glorious sunset? Will there be a garage available that will not cost me a pair of designer shoes each month? (I’m only paying $10 a month for my garage now, a sweet deal given to me by the former, former management team.) The new location will take me a few miles further from downtown, which is a hop and skip away from my current home. What if I get renter’s remorse?
Is familiarity with my current set-up making this decision more difficult than it should be? Is it influencing me to be complacent?
“(What makes his world so hard to see clearly is not its strangeness but its usualness). Familiarity can blind you too.” – Robert M. Pirsig
If you were me, what would you do?