Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
A TREE-MENDOUS PROBLEM
When my wife and I became homeowners fifteen years ago, we knew what we were getting ourselves into. Our friends and relatives who already owned homes alerted us to the grueling process.
We knew it would be difficult to find a house which met our two strict criteria: (1) Can we afford it? (2) Does it have a roof?
We knew that applying for a mortgage would require us to fill out more forms than the entire Pentagon uses during the year. We knew going to the lawyer’s office for the “closing” would involve even more paperwork than the loan application (putting the Pentagon further to shame) and we would be signing documents which obligated us to send the bank an ungodly sum of money each month although the loan balance would not begin to decrease until after about twenty years. We knew all that.
My wife and I also knew what to expect once we moved into our new home. (“New” to us, I mean, but the structure was actually forty years old.) We knew there were many things which could and would go wrong since everything else in the house—appliances, plumbing, wiring, furnace, etc.—was also forty years old. We knew the landlord responsible for fixing problems was no longer a phone call away but rather staring at me from the mirror each morning. We knew my tool collection, one hammer and one bent screwdriver (from using it to open beer bottles), was woefully inadequate, as were my handyman skills. We knew all that.
My wife and I knew our responsibilities extended beyond the foundation of the building, which meant we had to mow the lawn, trim the hedges, shovel the driveway, and re-mount the mailbox after the town crew snowplow driver demolished it. (I’m not sure, but I think I saw little mailbox decals along the side of his truck, boasting of his combat victories similar to a WWII fighter pilot). We knew all that.
But there is one frightening aspect of homeownership no one told us about. When we bought this house no one warned us that our most daunting challenge would be what in the world to do about the trees. We knew about the roof; we knew about the furnace; we knew about the mailbox. But we had no clue those cute little saplings dotting the yard would, over the span of fifteen years, turn into an arboreous nightmare threatening to engulf not only our entire property, but much of the neighbors’ property on three sides and the street in front. And we had no clue a sophisticated tree-trimming industry existed, nor that its licensed practitioners charge more money per hour than a team of skilled heart surgeons.
The first sign of trouble came a couple of winters ago right after a snowstorm. The heavy snow caused branches to sag onto the power line coming into our house. We called the power company and they sent out a crew. The lineman jumped out of his truck, took one look at the situation, and said, “Whoa, wait a minute, pal. That’s on your property, not on the road. You have to take care of those branches.”
“I can’t do it,” I replied. “I’ve seen your commercials: ‘Bump-buh-buh-bump…Can’t touch dis!’ I’ll get electrocuted.”
“No, you don’t do it yourself,” he said. “Hire a tree company.”
“Oh…,” I said, ever the sparkling conversationalist, as he drove away.
OK, sure, I thought, hire a tree company, no problem, I can do that. Let’s see, the kid up the street charges fifteen bucks to mow my lawn, so a tree company will charge, well, they probably need a truck and some ladders, so they’ll have to charge a bit more, umm, maybe around forty or fifty dollars.
I contacted the owner of a tree service company, and he agreed to quote me a price, not only for removing the branches on the power line, but also to trim back the entire forest growing on our property.
When he handed me the estimate I exclaimed, “Wow! Nine-hundred bucks for trimming a dozen trees?!”
“No, that’s for the small job,” he replied while handing me another sheet of paper. “Here’s the price for the whole yard.”
“Oooh, that’s a lot of zeros…” I mumbled just
before passing out.
The large timber-cutting project will have to wait until we complete another exciting, paperwork-laden homeowner experience: the second mortgage.
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