Many years ago several years after I was discharged from the Army, I was a relatively new husband with a wife and a three-year-old daughter. At the time we lived in a modest house in California’s San Fernando Valley (a suburb of Los Angeles). My mother-in-law lived in Los Angeles near the Miracle Mile district about 35 miles away and almost every weekend we would drive down to her apartment to see her. My mother-in-law could not drive and had trouble walking so on each visit my wife and daughter would take grandma grocery shopping for the coming week while I would stay in the apartment reading or watching TV.
I had long since forgotten the name of her street much less the building address; I just knew how to get there – over Laurel Canyon, turn left on La Brea Boulevard, turn right by the dry cleaners and then left by the fire station, then the fifth apartment house after the pink one on the corner. I never tried it but I’m sure my car could have driven there by itself. It was one of those, “I don’t know the address but I can get there with no trouble.”
At the time, grandma was renting a two-bedroom apartment and she rented out the second bedroom for both companionship and for the modest help with the rent.
On this particular weekend, the second bedroom was vacant and as she was leaving with my wife, my mother-in-law warned me to expect to be getting some phone calls in response to an ad she had in the paper advertising that second bedroom. Barely looking up from my book, I gave her an “uh huh” and they left to go shopping.
Within a half hour after they left, the phone rang and it was some woman inquiring about the apartment. The conversation went something like this –
Woman: “Are you the party that has the room for rent?”
Me: “Uh huh.”
Woman: “Is it available now?”
Me: “I think so.”
Woman: “You think so? Don’t you know?”
Me: “No” (“I wish I had asked grandma for a lot more details.”)
Woman: “How much is the rent?”
Me: “I don’t know.” (“If she told me, I wasn’t listening.”)
Woman: “How much is the deposit?”
Me: (“Uh-oh.”) “I don’t know.”
Woman: “Are the utilities included?”
Me: “I don’t know.” (“Damn it, damn it, damn it.”)
Woman: “What’s the address?”
Me: “Uh, I don’t know.” (“Is this ever going to end?”)
Woman: “What street is it on?”
Me: I don’t know.” (“Oh God, please, please.”)
Woman: – after a really long hesitation – “How old are you?”
At that point I did what any normal, intelligent person would do.
I said, “I’m eight and a half. Bye”
Later, when they returned home my mother-in-law asked, “Were there any calls about the apartment?”
And of course I answered, “Nope. No calls.”