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Settling Down

Michael Flack

THESE WORDS STRIKE fear into the heart of any husband: “Honey, the [insert: A/C, heat, refrigerator, roof, foundation] doesn’t seem to be working.” But from 2017 to 2021, they were mere words to me, no different than, “Honey, let’s go out for coffee.”

For four glorious years, my wife and I traveled around the world and the country, unfettered and unburdened. If we ran into any equipment issues, they were immediately referred to the landlord for rectification. Even if they couldn’t be immediately resolved, they were now someone else’s responsibility to correct and, more important, to worry about.

In 2022, soon after purchasing a new home, my wife uttered, “Honey the A/C doesn’t seem to be working,” as I dozed while reading—if I remember correctly—Security Analysis. I joked that she should inform the landlord, but when she replied, “I just did,” the worrying began.

I don’t mind the small stuff, such as minor plumbing issues. In fact, they can bring a fair amount of satisfaction. It’s the big stuff that has taken some getting used to. Like the A/C not working. Here are the top five issues we’ve encountered since we settled down:

1. Owning a car may be the birthright of every American. It offers the freedom to travel, but also the tyranny of ownership. Most of our worldwide travel was accomplished sans auto and, therefore, sans worrying about tire rotation, the check blood pressure light or finding parking. We now have a garage, and a car sits in it. I’d rather not have the worry. But then again, I’m proud to be an American.

2. Where we live, property taxes are reassessed every two years, and I’m anxiously awaiting my new assessment. I’m hopeful it’ll be more than fair. But fair or not, I have no idea how our home’s value is determined. If you do your own income taxes, you have a good idea how they were calculated, but not so with property taxes. If I don’t like it, I guess I need to file a dispute, right? As my mother used to intone, “Please say a prayer.”

And don’t get me started on state income taxes. While they’re slightly less inscrutable than property taxes, they operate on a different paradigm than federal taxes and therefore have a less comforting way of handling my dividends. During my travels, I was a proud citizen of the great state of Texas. But now I’m a citizen of another state—one that, unfortunately, has an income tax.

3. After a year abroad, we spent the next three interviewing cities for residence. We finally settled down in a city we’d never lived before. Which besides requiring the acquisition of a new residence, required the acquisition of new friends.

Well, past a certain age, which is less than my current age, this is easier said than done. After moving in, I thought I made one, but soon after was informed, “Guess what? My house is for sale. I’m moving.”

While we have made a couple of good friends subsequently, it’s been an uphill struggle. We live in a condo filled with much younger residents and I think there may be an element of ageism. Then again, it may be an element of me.

4. When we unpacked the POD that contained all our earthly possessions—after wondering why we packed so much of this “gold” in the first place—my wife said to me, “Let’s keep it all in the garage and only unpack the stuff we really need.” I heartily agreed with her. I imagined myself as Robert De Niro in the movie Heat, a professional thief living in an empty house, so he could clear out at the drop of a hat and stay one step ahead of the law.

Needless to say, the house is now filled with all the stuff from the garage, as well as some additional stuff. While some stuff is necessary for living, sometimes I fondly remember what it was like to be on the run.

5. A few months after moving in, I was lying on our new couch, either watching CNBC or Chicago Fire, when I noticed water was dripping from the ceiling A/C vent. It turns out the drain on the patio above was leaking, but due to my hawk-like vision, damage to our recently unpacked Noguchi-inspired coffee table was avoided.

The author enjoys the Toronto skyline, while wondering whether his house is on fire

A permanent repair took many months. During that time and after, I didn’t worry when it rained, as I could keep an eye on everything. But when we were traveling and it rained, it was all I could think about. It made me realize there’s only one thing better than travel, and that’s travel without having to worry about the car, property taxes, making friends and coffee tables.

Having a new home has brought some changes, some worry and, I hope, some new friends. As I type this, I’m drinking a Molson Canadian Lager, as there’s no better way to enjoy the sunset while overlooking the Toronto skyline. Still, if you have a chance, could you swing by our house and make sure everything is okay?

Michael Flack blogs at AfterActionReport.info. He’s a former naval officer and 20-year veteran of the oil and gas industry. Now retired, Mike enjoys traveling, blogging and spreadsheets. Check out his earlier articles.

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