My friend Elizabeth and I recently moved into a new apartment in
Burbank. Things have settled down quite a bit, so I figure it’s OK
now to stop hiding my wallet. For some reason, moving opens the door
for all the muggings you might normally receive over a span of many
years to happen all at once, instead.
I hate to move, and had managed to avoid doing so for several
years, so you can imagine how the recent upheaval upset my routine. I
spent the past several weeks bumping into things, yearning for my
lost mail and bemoaning the fact that everything I need just happens
to be at the bottom of the box I’ve yet to unpack. But throughout all
my whining, I kept telling myself that moving was the right thing to
It’s not healthy, I told myself, for people to stay in the same
place for too long. Unmoved objects tend to break down and decay.
“Toxic mold is God’s way of telling you it’s time to move on,” I
told a friend.
Once Elizabeth and I decided to get a place, we argued for weeks
over what kind of place we wanted, how much it should cost and where
it should be. She wanted to be closer to the Westside, and I didn’t
want to move too far from work. We haggled and squabbled and vetoed,
and then, when it seemed like we were ready to call the whole thing
off, we went out and rented the very first place we looked at.
It’s in a nice location that’s freeway accessible, and the rent is
relatively cheap -- if you use the word relatively very, very
loosely. In today’s rental market, you find yourself putting a lot of
emphasis on relativity.
We Angelenos have become a people that view highway robbery as a
legitimate business practice. We get carjacked every which way by
cable companies and health clubs and phone companies and the rental
market, but somehow the fact that everyone else also is getting
carjacked makes it all easier to swallow. You tell someone that you
just sold one of your organs to come up with first and last and a
security deposit, and they say, “Sounds about right. I gave up a
kidney for my studio.” And that makes you feel a lot better.
Signing a new lease is like putting on a big “Rob Me” sign. Take,
for example, when I called the phone company to switch over my
service. The customer service rep walked me through the process of
shutting off my old service and turning on the new, then asked me if
I wanted any additional features.
“No,” I answered. “It’s taken me years to get my phone service
exactly where I want it to be. I don’t want to mess with it.”
“Very good, sir,” she cheerily responded. Then she told me how
much switching on service at the new apartment would cost. I wondered
if I should drop the phone and put my hands in the air. “You’re
charging me that much just to throw a switch?”
The representative cheerily informed me that the process was much
more involved than that, that they actually had to send a trained
technician out to the home to establish service.
“What does this trained technician actually have to do out at the
home?” I asked.
“He throws a switch.”
I also needed to call the cable company. When the voice on the
phone told me how much I’d have to pay for basic cable, I made a
sound like I was gasping and choking at the same time.
“Excuse me, sir?”
“That -- that comes with a new TV, right?”
“No, sir. Shall I sign you up now?”
“Sign me up? Never! I’ll watch network TV, thank you very much!”
But without cable service, the only reception I could get on my TV
was Channel 7. After a week of Drew Carey, I was ready to pay
“We’ve been waiting, sir. Shall I sign you up now?”
“Yes. Yes, blast you!”
But no mugging was more outrageous, more criminal, than the one
that occurred on the day of the actual move. We rented a pickup truck
advertised in big, bold letters for $19.95, and like the Joad family,
loaded it up with our possessions and hauled it back and forth on the
freeway all day.
When we returned the truck that night, the clerk totaled our bill
and told us that it would be $85. I threw my hands in the air.
“But your sign says $19.95!”
“No, sir, it says $19.95 plus mileage.”
I reexamined the sign. The $19.95 part was in big, 250-point type.
The “plus mileage” part was in what had to be 8-point type. I had
mistaken it for a fly on the board.
I explained to the clerk that as a newspaper editor, I knew
something about point sizes and the meaning they’re supposed to
“Now, since the ‘plus mileage’ part of the sign is actually the
most important aspect of the sign, shouldn’t that be in 250-point
type instead of the $19.95 part?”
“I mean, I could have rented a taxi for this.”
“Yes, sir. That’ll be $85.”
Eventually, the epidemic of muggings trickled to a halt. Elizabeth
and I have been busily fixing up the place, installing shelves,
hanging up posters and paintings. As I write this, I’m looking out my
bedroom window at the Verdugo Mountains, and realizing we really have
moved to a pretty neighborhood.
And that’s a good thing, too. Because after this moving
experience, I plan to stay here for the rest of my life.
DAVID SILVA is city editor of the Leader’s sister paper, the
News-Press. His column runs Saturdays. Reach him at 637-3231, or by
e-mail at david.silva@ latimes.com.