Monday, February 04, 2008

The Moving Diaries: The Glorious Road to Columbiana

Here's what I can tell you... if anyone ever directs you some place, such as a building or say, a courthouse, and all they say is "Oh, just turn off this (insert main highway) and follow the road, and keep going until you see (insert destination)", ask for more specific directions.

If they choose not to give you those directions, even indirectly by saying "oh, you'll find it", then you kick them in the face. They are not your friends, and furthermore, they want to see you fail.

We closed on our house today... The Cabana, as it will furthermore known in the Clouds In My Coffee Blog (presented by Citi, Scott Latta)... and it was painless, really. We just signed a bunch of papers in the presence of the closing attorney, an older bean counter with it seemed like no sense of humor whatsoever--of course, if I need legal advice, I'd take a guy who can't a joke but knows the law backwards and forwards over a funny guy who has no idea what he's doing.

It is important to know that I haven't really talked about The Cabana much, other than some mentions on Facebook and such, simply because nothing is final 'til its final. I wanted to wait until today to really discuss it, because today we finally closed on the house.

Also in our midst was Tanya, our fabulous realtor, Gary, our mortgage guy, and Shelley, the leasing agent from Beaumont, which is where just bought our home. Closing actually took about an hour or less, so yay for us. Heck, I might even be back at the Starbucks to do the schedule and other stuff by what, 2pm? Rock on.

At the end, though, we were presented with some documents, plus instructions from Gary and the closing attorney. Those instructions simply stated, "You need to file those homestead papers at the Courthouse."

Me, being a first time home buyer and know as much about buying homes as I do about why I'm sitting here watching Sly Stallone in "Cobra" on tv (which is very, very little) responded with "Um... the courthouse?"

"Yes, the Shelby county courthouse."
"Which is...?"
"Downtown Columbiana"
"Downtown Columbiana? Where is Columbiana?"
"Oh, just follow 280 until you see the signs to turn off. Then you'll turn, and follow the road straight to Columbiana."
"And where will I find the courthouse?"
"Just look for the building that looks like a courthouse"
" downtown Columbiana..."
"What do I do? Just take this paper in and say 'here'?"
"Pretty much. Its a 25 mile drive for about 30 seconds worth of work. They'll stamp the papers and send you home"

I looked at The Lovely Steph Leann, who smiled and said, "We need to get it done. Just follow the signs off of 280". Little did I know that she really didn't know either.

Steph Leann, Gary and I had lunch, then I was on my way down 280. Over the mountain, down through Chelsea, Alabama, and bam! There's the sign that says "Columbiana 13" with an arrow pointing to the right.

"Well, heck, this should be a piece o'cake!" I thought to myself as I turned to the right, but before I could think much of anything else, there's a red light. And a right turn option. And a straight-ahead option. And no sign. So, I figure, go straight. About 20 minutes later, I decided to call The Lovely Steph Leann to ask, simply, "Where is Columbiana?"

"Where is Columbiana?" I asked.
"Um... let's see," came the lovely voice of my wife of 3 years, 11 months and 26 days. "I'll Google it... looks like... you take... Highway 47... then turn right on to Highway 37..."
"Hmm... I think that was Highway 37 back there, when I didn't turn. Perhaps I should have turned there."
"Maybe so... I don't know"

So, I turn around. I drive the five or six miles back to the turn I should have taken, and turn there. Little did I know that the cars I was seeing would be the last I would see for a long, long time.

I'm driving down this road, and I see civilization pass me by. Slowly, but surely, it fades away into nothing, into just woods, undeveloped hills, and somewhere in the distance, I hear "Dueling Banjos" and swore I heard someone say, "Squeal like a pig, boy!" It scared me.

The road became more and more twisted and turned, I began to wonder... "Is this the glorious road to Columbiana?" And my answer came very clear as I came to a four way stop. On either side of me was an umarked road, going north to south, or perhaps east to west... either way, it was perpendicular to where I was going. And where was I going? I didn't know. Across the road, the highway was different. It was no longer Highway 37. It was Highway 39.

I called The Lovely Steph Leann again. "Um... I need help"
"Where are you?"
"I have no idea..."
"Well, hold on, let me Google it again"
"Maybe you should ask someone."

She looks up on Google, and repeats the directions. I told her I thought I followed them. We go back and forth about what she sees on her screen, versus what I'm seeing in real life on this twisted road. I see a T-Rex take out a pteradactyl in the distance. A volcano erupts. I pass a wedding... a brother and sister was tying the knot. Was I in Mississippi now?

I hear another voice behind The Lovely Steph Leann's voice. She's called for help. She asks me again, "Where are you?" Again, I'm forced to say I dont know, because truly, I don't have a clue. Until... I see a sign. A county road sign. One that says County Road... 331.

"I'm on 331," I answer
"331?" she replies, then turns away from the phone to repeat the news. I hear a voice in the background,"331? What? He's waaaaay off...."

And in truth, I was. Almost an hour after I left the comforts of Highway 280, if there is such a thing, I was driving on a stretch of road unfamiliar to mankind. In one place, the yellow lines just stopped, then started again 100 feet later, as if both side of the paint crews had run out of paint, and they were feuding over who had to come back and finish the job.

Then, suddenly, Highway 70. There were houses. There were cars, egads, there was life! A turn on Highway 70, another turn later and there approached a town! With an unmistakable dome that could only belong to a courthouse. Finally... I had made my destination! Now I was going to just go in there, get my papers stamped, and be on my merry way. Perhaps I'd go to I-65, perhaps I'd go back to Highway 280, but either way, I was saved!

I parked my car behind the courthouse and walked in, only to find two armed guards and officers sitting behind the counter. "Can we help ye?" asked one.
"I need to file... homestead papers," I replied, still unsure of what I was even asking for.
"Head out this here door, and head over yonder 'cross the street there to the tax office," he answered.

I walked outside, looked across the street to my left and there was a single story brick building, with the heading "Property Tax Commissioner". Well, then, I'll just go over here and hand them my papers and get them stamped and then be on my way, right? Right!

I walk in, and there's a pleasant lady behind the counter waiting to assist me. I strode over, hand her my papers, and say, "I'm here to file homestead papers." I'm waiting to hear the clunk of a big stamp stamped on my page, then it to be handed back. She doesn't do this, however.

A few seconds go by, she's typing something, and then she says, "Square footage?" I was perplexed, but I told her. "Bedrooms?" I answered "3". Then they came fast and furious.... "Bathrooms? Half baths? Hard woods? Carpet? How many total rooms? Garage? One car or two? One door or two? Any unattached dwellings? Your mothers blood type? What is your favorite color? What is the font of that sign in the back of the Highway 31 Chick-fil-a that says 'Employee Entrance Only'? How many bricks are in the Great Wall of China (I knew that one...)"
But, like the genius I am, I fired off the answers quickly... 2. 1. Downstairs. Upstairs. Six. Yes. Two car. No. Not sure. Whatever Steph Leann tells me it is. Helvetica. A bunch"

Finally, after 20 minutes, she handed me back the papers, signed, sealed, delivered I'm hers. Well, not really hers, but still.

I am glad I went to Columbiana though. How else would I have known that next to the Shelby County Courthouse, there stood the Karl C. Harrison Museum of George Washington.

Some things you can't make up.

Okay... I'm going to pack some more boxes now.

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