Five days ago, I moved into my new residence: a room in a ranch house between San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande.
When I moved down, traffic made the journey two hours longer and I ended up arriving after dark. I was a bit cranky and very tired when I arrived. My ranch-mate, Stan, was working in his section of the land about 100 feet from the main house. He was using a power tool and I just couldn’t be bothered to walk out there and say “Hello! I’ve made it!”
I brought a few essentials into my room and started putting things away.
Soon enough I heard my ranch-mate’s voice: “Hello?”
I rolled my eyes and walked in to the hall.
“Hey!” I said cheerfully and smiled.
We talked for a moment. I told him how I was stuck in two hours of traffic right near the Cuesta Grade (about 30 minutes from town).
“How about a glass of wine?” Stan asked.
“That sounds just about perfect. I need a drink after that drive. That’s for sure.”
“Oh here, check this out. It’s our rental agreement.” He handed me a small stack of papers. “It’s about five pages.” He flipped through the pages quickly and pointed to the third page. “This is the section that really concerns you.”
I looked at it quickly. Section 5: Rules and Regulations for Common Areas. Rules and Regulations were the last things I wanted to read, and yet, I had a glass of red wine in my hand.
I glanced down to the first Rule/Regulation, the common kitchen. ‘Holy Shit!’ I thought, ‘They want the kitchen to be vegetarian? I have to cook meat on the barbecue? This certainly wasn’t something they told me about when I came for the interview.’ I held my tongue and continued reading. ‘OK, smoking is accepted, not that I want to smoke. Alcohol is OK so long as it isn’t abused. Good to know, but I suppose I could have figured considering we’re drinking wine.’
And then there was number four: Nudity. ‘WHAT THE FUCK!? Where am I living?’ I asked myself.
The gist of this rule: nudity is natural and people will not be judged for being naked on this ranch. Nudity, however, should be limited to our own “hermitage sites” (well, no shit, how else can we change our clothes? I’m surprised they didn’t say nudity is accepted in the bathrooms, too) and in the area around the “sunning deck and soaking tub.” At the time, I didn’t know where those places were. I started to get a little anxious. Thinking that I might see nudists wandering around was not what I had envisioned when I agreed to move it. ‘At least I’m only here for 3 months,’ I thought.
I saw the next rule was “Sexual Relationships.” Oh God. I put the papers back together.
“I’ll have to read this another time. I don’t have my glasses,” I lied.
We spoke a bit about Stan’s work. He’s a tenured professor on sabbatical. He told me about a book he is writing and that he had written several books before this one. ‘Maybe he just likes writing,’ I thought. ‘Maybe he likes the sound of his own writing voice and that’s why the agreement is so damn long.’
“That’s great!” I said. “Actually, I’ve started writing more frequently.”
“Oh really? What kinds of things do you write?”
“Just memoir-type stuff at the moment. I have a couple blogs. I’d like to get into travel writing.”
“Well, Poly has hired a new head of the tech-writing program. Maybe you could get into that.”
“Yeah, maybe I should look into it.” Yet another person who “listens” to what I say, but doesn’t hear me. Great.
Soon our other ranch-mate, Betty, came home. We exchanged pleasantries.
“Oh, so you’ve taken a look at the agreement?” Betty asked.
“Yes, just briefly. Actually, I wanted to ask you about something I saw.”
“So it says that the kitchen is vegetarian?”
They looked at each other and then back at me.
“Well,” she said, “eventually I think we would like to make it vegetarian.”
Again, Betty and Stan looked at each other and this time nodded in agreement. I wasn’t sure the time-frame of this vegetarian rule, but at least I was relieved to hear it wasn’t a rule, yet.
“I cook meat in the kitchen, though,” Betty admitted. “Are you vegetarian?”
“Oh no,” I said.
“Well, that’s ok,” she said. “Don’t worry about that one.”
I finished my glass. Stan poured me another.