Friday, June 5, 2009

Too good to be true

A recent event in my life has brought out a memory of a story from my past. I can't tell you the event right now, but I can tell you the story.

When my husband and I first got married, we rented an apartment in a complex conveniently located--for us--in a town just east of Tampa, FL. Just right for newlyweds: reasonably priced, no lawn to maintain, bills pretty much all-inclusive, a pool and weight room at our disposal, and plenty of parking area for me to rollerblade around.

After about a year, though, our situation changed. My husband got a job in another town on the other side of Tampa--Largo, for you Floridians (and we were in Brandon). I had also started attending the University of Tampa. We decided it was ridiculous to BOTH be driving that direction every day. Gas was nowhere near as expensive as it is now, but we were also less financially endowed.

We decided to move to South Tampa. I'd be really, really close to school, and the interstate ran right through there, so hop on, hop off, and hubby could be at work. Great plan. Except for one thing. South Tampa is expensive.

Now, we Heckenbachs pride ourselves on (even those of us that are named such by marriage) our ability to find the best deal for our money. Not cheap, mind you, nor even "frugal"--just an insistance to not overpay for things, and amazing luck at finding sales when we need them :). So, we decided to search for an apartment.

Oh, my. Talk about a stressful time in our lives. Apartments that were anywhere near our budget were, well, holes. I'm talking trashed. Or tiny. One place I honest-to-God think was a hallway someone had converted into an "apartment." You had to stand sideways, and it had NO windows. We only needed room for two people, but we would've liked to not have to sleep standing up.

After looking at dozens of places, inlcuding places that claimed to be in the elite "Hyde Park" area of Tampa, but were actually in...well...let's just say, Tampa has some good areas and some not so good. I'd pretty much given up.

Then one day, I opened the paper and by habit went to the classifieds. There was an ad...for an said, "Hyde Park"...for $425 a month. No. Way.

But, I just had to call.

I fully expected someone sounding like a drunken sailor to answer the phone. Maybe police sirens and gun shots in the background. Or women screaming.

Imagine my surprise when the man who answered sounded sober. And intelligent. And articulate. And when, holy cow, he told me the address and I looked it up on the map (before internet and and it was actually IN Hyde Park.

I told him I'd be there in half an hour.

I stepped out of my car and beamed. The neighborhood was gorgeous. The apartment was the upstairs of a Craftsman-style house built in 1910. The floors sagged, there was paint peeling off the window panes, and the kitchen was decorated in black and white checkered linoleum with mint-green cabinets stencilled with pink roses. Some old lady must have put hours of work into it. And the place had spirit. I knew the second I walked in I'd found our new home.

The owner said they wanted to provide an affordable place for a nice young couple or family. They honestly just didn't want to gouge someone with ridiculous rent.

"Can we have a cat?"


"We'll take it."

The owners lived downstairs, and had a beautiful Golden Retriever, whom they let us "borrow" when we took walks. We love dogs, but couldn't get our own until we had a house, and that was just not possible a the time. So, we got the next best thing. And we got to babysit her all the time :).

Bayshore Blvd. was about two blocks away. It's exactly what it sounds like, if you've never been to Tampa--a road that runs right along Tampa Bay. Beautiful. With a super-wide sidewalk on the water side. So, so much better than rollerblading around the parking lot!

The place was too good to be true. Yet, we found it. Exactly when we needed it. Other people might not have taken it because of the peeling paint around the windows (a trip to Home Depot and $5 for a quart of paint fixed that). We propped our dressers up in the front so they didn't lean toward the center of the room. Hundred-year-old floors may sag, but they still hold you up! And I LOVED that kitchen with the checkered floor and mint-green cabinets. So did the cat--it was her favorite resting spot.

So, you see, the right thing can come along at exactly the right moment. If it's really right, the flaws become charming, maybe even beneficial.

Let's hope that's true this time :).

No comments: