Friday, August 5, 2011

Be Careful or It Will Tilt!

The one thing about living in an apartment that bothered me the most was the difficulty in getting someone evicted. I know that sounds cruel. Those people who lived above me in Mount Pleasant needed to be put out on the street five minutes after they arrived.

The one thing I love about living in a mobile home community, especially one with forty pages of rules, is the ease at which you can evict someone. And the best part is when they leave, they take their home with them. “Get out, and take your goddamn trailer with you!”

You poor condo dwellers. I guess you can only evict those who live in corner apartments.

A couple of weeks ago, what was once a doublewide across the street from me became a vacant lot in a matter of hours. I felt like Gladys Kravitz in that episode of Bewitched when Endora and Uncle Arthur kept arguing about her living in Samantha and Darrin’s neighborhood. They made Endora’s house appear and disappear over and over again. Gladys called the police and said, “I swear, officer, there was a house here a minute ago.”

Over the course of the next week, after Endora’s doublewide disappeared, I finally witnessed the process for mounting a mobile home. Actually, the term is anchoring, but mounting sounds like so much more fun. Well, to be totally technical, the house has to be placed and leveled first.

First, they clear the lot of debris, then level the land. Next they place cinderblocks on top of each other in strategic locations to hold the frame of the house. Yes, mobile homes have steel frames. They aren’t unitized like a Nash; they are body-on-frame like a Crown Victoria.

With the precision of a Swiss watchmaker, an eighteen wheeler backs the sections of the home onto the cinderblock pilings, one at a time. Once the house is leveled and the two halves are attached, the axles are removed. The owner can get a $700 credit for the axles if the home is purchased before mounting … I mean anchoring. I missed out on that monetary benefit.

Then comes the scary part. The house sits on the cinderblocks, some stacked five high, while the home is being leveled and remains that way for a week! This looks most precarious. It is as if you could walk by and push the house, and it would fall over. Of course the laws of physics are on the house’s side (as a matter of theory ... not actually painted onto the side of the house) because the weight of the house keeps it in place unless there is a violent storm, which there wasn’t, even though all mobile homes have a tornado magnet built in. There, I said it before you did.

Actually, Walmarts seem to have a tornado magnet as well. Have you ever noticed how tornadoes always rip the roofs off Walmarts? As a rule, I never shop in a Walmart during any weather event.

I worked construction for a summer after college graduation during the Reagan trickle-down economy when unemployment was quite high, and homes that were not set directly on a cement foundation were held up by similar means, so I don’t know why I had concern for this house.

But for the week the house remained that way, I began to wonder: If I had more than twenty people over to my home and they all stood on one side of the house, would it tilt over? Would we reenact the Poseidon Adventure? Would I have to put on fifty pounds, a la Shelley Winters, and swim through my house to search for survivors? Would Gene Hackman make a guest appearance?

I then asked my neighbors about the cinderblocks, but they assured me mine was anchored because they watched them anchor it ... as they watch everything that goes on in our neighborhood!

My fears were allayed by the next step – the actual anchoring. Steel poles are placed at all four corners and depending on the house’s size, mid-way down each side. The poles are anchored six feet into the ground. Then steel bars are attached diagonally from ground to the frame. These poles and bars are what keep the house from blowing away. Each state has different rules for how a home is anchored, but all require it of mobile homes now. There was a time when they didn’t, and in some states, if you buy a used mobile home (pre-1985 in some states, pre-1996 in others), you need to be sure it is anchored and not just sitting on cinderblocks.

In earthquake zones, mobile homes sit directly on a cement foundation. I did my research.

Another interesting aspect of the anchoring process is the concern all the neighbors have for it being done properly.

I was the first to learn which house was going into the recently vacated lot. The property manager told me they sold the green doublewide with the wraparound porch. I told Mrs. M across the street, and she asked which side the entryway would face, where would the air conditioning unit go, where would they put the shed. I will have to learn that if I am to be a neighborhood busybody, I need to get more information!

As the home was awaiting anchoring, it seemed as if everyone in the community drove or walked by to check out the home. All were wondering who bought it and were scrutinizing the anchoring and skirting technique. Yes, our mobile homes have skirts! This is most reassuring because in my neighborhood, you better know how to mount or you will get an earful!

Astro, which for all you automotive history buffs is a combination of a Hudson and a Chevrolet (think about it).

In addition, I now know that half my neighbors came over checked out my home after it was anchored ... and skirted, which explains the dirty carpet I had to steam clean!

I still want to know who used the nonfunctioning toilet.

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