I just got asked by a couple friends to be on their houseboat over Memorial Day weekend, but I don’t really want to go. It’s also pretty expensive. How should I break the news that I won’t be going?
– At Kinko’s, Straight Flippin‘ Copies
You know, it might seem weird that I’m about to condone someone trying to avoid going to houseboats. After all, I think I remember a pleasant letter to the editor a few weeks back that had something to do with me being over-enthusiastic about the whole thing.
But you know what, I get it. I get that for a lot of people, waking up at 3 a.m. to start drinking just isn’t their thing. And that’s cool, mostly because it means more for the rest of us.
So when it comes to being a Debby Downer, there are a lot of ways to get out of or refuse social obligations. Most involve a certain level of trickery. If all else fails, though, there’s always honesty, which I suppose your friends would ideally appreciate.
But since no one actually likes to hear honesty, your first step should be outright deception.
Tell them you’ve got something else going on, like a parade. Everyone loves a parade. (Your friends know you’re lying, but they might get the hint.)
If that doesn’t work, tell them you’re just too busy with schoolwork; that NUT 10 is really kicking your ass. (Your friends know you’re only taking 12 units, but they might get the hint.)
Then there’s the more nuanced approach, which combines plausible explanations with impossible solutions.
Tell them you’d love to spend the weekend with the group, but you’d rather do something else. A four-day, four-night cruise to Baja California on Carnival goes for $189. (Your friends know it would be logistically impossible at this point, but they might get the hint.)
Tell them you’d love to go, but it’s just too much money. (Your friends know you just got a new iThing, but they might get the hint.)
Or you could shock the shit out of ‘em: Tell them you’re just not that into it anymore. You’ve grown up, and they should, too.
I guarantee that if you do the last one, you won’t have to do any of the other ones ever again. You won’t have any friends to bother you about hanging out anymore, which should give you ample time to study NUT 10.
My mom’s birthday was this past weekend. Lucky me, I had a midterm on Monday and totally forgot about it. We normally talk once a week, and I’m thinking of calling her this weekend. Should I apologize? Plead ignorance? HELP!
– Needs Somebody, Not Just Anybody
HA! You are so screwed!
My housing plans for next year are fail. It’s a long story, but after looking at apartments with some guys from the dorms, I’ve decided to live alone. Unfortunately, I have no idea what to look for in a lease. Any hints?
– Here I Go Again (On My Own)
Well, what’s in the lease is actually less important than what’s not in it. Basically, the shorter the document the better.
For example, take what happened to former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s initial bailout proposal. It was three pages long, and it was blatantly obvious what he was trying to do.
What he was trying to do was put himself outside the reach of the rule of law and gift $700 billion to his former employers and golf buddies. But – and here’s the important part – the document was so short that people actually read it and figured it out.
If your lease is short, that means the landlord is being upfront and honest with you about what’s going on; the language is likely simple, the costs explained plainly and your respective responsibilities clearly defined.
If the lease is long, though, that means the landlord is trying to hide something. Likely many things. Lots of references to other clauses in the lease, ambiguous language, unclear obligations and poorly-defined fees are likely lurking in all that ink. So when you read that “The picking up of litter or other debris left in a Unit or on the Premises and/or trash receptacles (dumpsters, carts, etc.) will result in a minimum $100 fee per occurrence,” you can be pretty sure that means you’re about to be had.
You also want to take your time. I know this seems stupid so late in the leasing season, but haste is a landlord’s best friend no matter the time of year. Being rushed keeps you from thoroughly understanding what’s in the lease, asking all the relevant questions about the property and makes it more likely you’ll have to surrender your deposit if you realize you want out before you move in. So chill, and make sure you have enough time to be comfortable with everything.
On that note, get everything in writing. Landlords, after all, are not people; they are the direct descendants of the landowning class in feudal Europe, and you are but a lowly serf. They will swindle and lie and sin by omission with their forked tongues, but thanks to our legal system the truth always comes out in writing.
With the historic role of landlords in mind, avoid property management agencies if you can, for they are even more impersonal and wont to deceive than living humans. And, again, we can turn to the financial crisis to understand why.
When a bank makes a loan, if it holds that loan on its books and does not sell it, that bank has the incentive to make sure the loan is sound from the outset and that the borrower can continue to make payments. But if the bank securitizes the loan, it no longer gives a shit about you or the house; they made their money, and if there’s a default it’s on some other sucker.
The same can be said of landlords. If the landlord is the primary owner, they have a lot of incentive to keep the house in good working order and to keep you happy; their income depends on it. But if the landlord is just some property management firm, they really don’t care about you or any problems with the unit. It ain’t their apartment, and you ain’t their problem.
Don’t forget that.
K.C. CODY is inherently distrustful of the human race. Reinforce this distrust at firstname.lastname@example.org.