When I asked God to send me a sign, I didn’t mean one of the Engvall variety. If you’re not familiar with the oeuvre of William Engvall, he’s a social theorist who posits that stupid people ought to have to wear a sign warning others. He performs under the name “Bill Engvall” as a comedian because his ideas would be unpopular at a cocktail party.
And yet when I asked God to send me a sign about where we should move, I ended up feeling like I ought to wear a sign that said “Warning: this guy is stupid.”
See, my wife and I are leaving Atlanta, and we’ve been considering Pittsburgh and Pensacola. Pittsburgh offers a great house at a compassionate price from a friend who would dearly love to see us buy it within a few years and rent it in the meantime. She doesn’t need to check our credit history because she’s known my wife for decades. Pittsburgh also offers friends and family whom we love, and good public transit. Pensacola has great weather — I believe the meterological term for winter lows in the high 30s and summer heat moderated by breezes from the Gulf of Mexico is “chillax” — and it’s where her only surviving brother is moving this summer. We’ll get the chance to spend time with him more often than if we only saw him at Christmas.
So we had been considering three options. Option #1 was the house in Pittsburgh. Option #2 was a duplex a few miles away from her brother. Option #3 was the same apartment complex where her brother is moving. I prayed for some sign that would help us decide among them.
We started to realize that the house in Pittsburgh (#1) would cost roughly $200/mo over the cost of the duplex before we considered water, sewer, trash, and winter heating costs — the last of which, thanks to deregulation, can skyrocket to $400-500/mo when it’s cold. Not to say it wouldn’t be worth the price, just that it was quite a price overall.
The duplex (#2) was our favorite choice because it’s sunny, cheap, and has all tile floors, which means it’s easy to keep clean. But we were up against 7 other applicants, and we knew we had some dings on our credit history, so the landlord would pick whomever they preferred, and the odds weren’t good it would be us.
So as a backup, we headed to the apartment complex (#3), which had told us on our most recent visit that there were no 2BR/1BA units left, so we’d have to spend $100/mo extra to get a different unit with a second bathroom. This put it at the bottom of our list because the rent was nearly what we’d pay in Pittsburgh for a gorgeous house with gigabit Ethernet built in. (If you’re not a computer whiz, trust me, that’s good.)
Well, the office staff said that they did have a 2BR/1BA coming up, and my face lit up until they said “…on August 5th”. Too late for our plans. So they sent us packing while they did some research and found out that we could get it on July 9th, which was perfect. I thought to myself: This is the sign I prayed for! We happily filled out the paperwork and drove home to Atlanta to await the call.
The call came.
We’d been rejected.
A major but bogus item on my credit report had kept us out. Public records are already up-to-date, but the credit agencies will need a month to verify that dispute, and then we’d be out of time. We knew for a fact that the duplex landlord wouldn’t take us if the apartment complex — a student apartment complex a mile from campus! — thought our credit sucked too badly to take a chance on us. It dawned on us that the only remaining option was Pittsburgh. This time I said it out loud: “THIS is the sign I prayed for!” My wife kindly pointed out to me that God is bullshit.
So we prepared to drop the bombshell on our families that we were going to go off and become Yankees, and Yinzers at that. And we got another call.
We’d been approved… for the highly competitive duplex.
Had it been because I’ll be teleworking, and a midrange Atlanta IT salary commands a modicum of respect in a town where I’d be grossing 7 times the rent? (This sounds bizarre to me too, and I don’t say it to brag.) Had it been because we’d been super-sweet to everyone at the rental agency on several weekend visits? Had it been… an act of God? Was this, finally, the sign I prayed for?
I have no clue. But it was enough for us that it was genuinely good news, and we lost no time in overnighting our security deposit. They’ll get it tomorrow. I’ll keep my 8am-4pm schedule in Eastern time, which means my workday will be over by 3pm Pensacola time. (Yes, some parts of Florida are so far west they’re in the Central time zone.) And getting off work at 3pm gives us plenty of time to pack a picnic dinner, bathing-suit up, and head to the beach before rush hour starts. And if that’s not a sign from God… well, neither of us really cares. We’re happy.
Still, I’ve got to admit that God probably wasn’t sending us signs that we should move to Pittsburgh AND that we should rent the apartment a mile from the university. They both felt like real answers from God, and now I realize I may have a slightly out of whack God-dar. So here’s my sign: “Warning: this guy keeps believing in God even when it makes him feel foolish now and then.”
At least I didn’t try to predict the timing of the Judgement Day…