Below is one of my short stories from my newest book, Angry Birds and Beehive Hair. I’m re-posting it because I’m lazy today and I also need more people to buy my book.
The day I have been waiting for has finally arrived. The sale of my townhome in my hellish North Korean Homeowner’s Association closed today, and I paid money to get rid of it. Dave and I felt like those two American hikers who were awaiting freedom from Iran. And, yes, I paid money.
I paid money because I didn’t want two mortgages. Also, since your first offer is pretty much your best offer, we took it. But I think I just wanted to get away from the fascist, barbed-wire, Kim Jong-un neighborhood before they started requiring all the residents to wear uniforms and do calisthenics every morning. I hate uniforms. It would be like working at a fast-food place. I don’t work at a fast-food place. I lived in my townhome. I shouldn’t have to wear a uniform or be forced to wear a plastic Esther-Williams swim cap, and it was getting close to that.
If you wanted to swim at the association’s swimming pool, you needed to provide at least six forms of ID and a blood sample. Once you actually got into the gated area, you were led to the lifeguard, who wrote down your name and then tagged you. That’s right—tagged like wildlife so you could be tracked. You got a wristband, its color based on your age group, and you couldn’t remove it until you left the swimming-pool area.
I never understood this concept. Why was it necessary to put wristbands on the homeowners? It’s not like it was a public pool where you had to pay to get in. Oh, wait. They do check to make sure you are not on the list. If you are on the list, this means you aren’t up to date on your homeowner’s association fees. Whoops! Looks like you’re not swimming today. Oh, gosh, and you have guests with you? That sucks. You can always take turns running through your lawn sprinkler, but not until six p.m., and only if the date—whether it’s odd or even—corresponds with your address.
I wanted to update the landscaping in front of my unit one year. Notice, I refer to it as a unit and not a home. See? They brainwashed me. Anyway, the bushes out front were mulberry bushes. These had thorns, and I thought hydrangeas would look nicer. Per homeowner-association protocol, I filled out a landscaping form, provided pictures of the plants I wanted to plant, and waited for the next association meeting the following month for approval. Now, the exterior of the townhomes is the responsibility of the HOA (homeowners association). However, if any of your plants die (which is outside of your townhome and the responsibility of the HOA), you need to replace it. Does this make sense? Of course not. It’s North Korea.
You would also think that chimneys, being part of the outside structure, are also the responsibility of the HOA. Oh, contraire. No, no, no. Fixing the chimneys, which were built incorrectly to begin with, would cost the HOA too much money, so they’re the homeowners’ responsibility. How do I know? I had to spend $5,000 replacing my entire chimney right before I put my townhome up for sale. After years of putting Band-Aids on my chimney, I came to the shocking realization that they had not been built with enough heat tolerance between the heat box and the brick. This, of course, caused the brick and mortar to expand when heated, which caused my chimney to crack all over the place. It would have never passed a home inspection.
Living in North Korea wasn’t easy. The association’s board of directors spent a lot of time taking military walks around the compound … er, neighborhood. They would look for infractions, like someone installing garage-door light fixtures that were different from everyone else’s. They were extremely particular about the grass and ensured that any dead grass was replaced by the homeowner, unless it was in the parkway.
Do I like my picture being taken? Of course! But do I like a picture of my yard being taken when I took it upon myself to completely reseed it because the landscaping company they hired, for lack of a better term, sucks? No. But the day after I reseeded my lawn, there was the property manager, taking pictures. They were just waiting to see it turn into a big, black pile of dirt so they could fine me. That didn’t happen.
All infractions carry a steep price. It’s expensive living in North Korea. Your first violation is $100 and the second is $150. For the third violation, the odds of you saying, “Hey, honey, I’m just going out for a pack of smokes,” and never coming back are pretty good.
They did get $250 from me, though. That was the last and final fine I had to pay. I left my for-sale sign out on my lawn two hours past the time allotted. According to my North Korean Homeowner’s Association, you are allowed to have for-sale signs in your window during the week. You are only allowed to have for-sale signs staked in your front yard from six p.m. on Friday to six p.m. on Sunday. Dave and I had gone out to dinner and weren’t home until after eight on Sunday. Boy, they showed me. That’s a special high-price fine. They don’t want anyone to leave because they know you’d miss the hell out of the place. They’re trying to do us homeowners a favor by protecting us from a broken heart.
Aren’t they sweet?