Archive for August, 2011

August 25th, 2011

The Dave and Sarah Effect

Morgen, Soren, and I recently moved to a new apartment here in Paris. We owe our success to Dave and Sarah—something we could also say about our last move, three years ago, except it was a different Dave and Sarah then. The story only gets weirder from there.

Moves are always traumatic, and even though I’ve been through the process enough times that I should have it down to a science, this particular move stands out as being the most tiring and involved ever. For a variety of reasons, I thought this latest move of less than two miles away from our old home was considerably more difficult than moving from San Francisco to Paris! But as painful as the moving process itself can be, one of the most stressful parts of any move is finding a new home. In this city where housing prices are high and competition is fierce, we had the additional disadvantages of being foreigners, not being fluent in French, and not having conventional jobs—all of which makes potential landlords wary of us.

We found our first Paris apartment online, before leaving the U.S. It was a perfectly nice place—furnished, spacious, and conveniently located—but expensive. After nearly a year we were feeling like we should be able to live more cheaply, and started looking around for a new place. We were hoping to have a fairly relaxed moving schedule, but then our landlord told us that he’d be selling the place as soon as our lease was up, so we were obligated to find a new apartment in a hurry.

Weeks went by, and we weren’t having much luck. Then our friends Dave and Sarah announced that they’d decided to move back to Canada. We had met Dave and Sarah at a Paris Expat Canadian Meetup event here, and within just a few months they’d become some of our closest friends in Paris. We were extremely sad to see them go, but when we realized their apartment would suddenly be vacant, we asked if just maybe they could put in a good word for us with their landlord and spare us further apartment-hunting agony. And that’s exactly what happened. Thanks to their glowing recommendation, we were offered the lease on their old place. Everything about the arrangement was fantastic—the apartment was smaller but in an even better location, and the rent was about 500 euros less per month than we’d been paying! And our new landlord, Alexis, was one of the nicest people we’d ever met. He didn’t make us jump through all the usual hoops to which Paris renters are often subject, and throughout our entire stay there we got along splendidly.

Fast forward three years. After Soren was born, we’d started feeling increasingly cramped in our two-room apartment—and as he became more mobile, our discomfort grew. We started talking about moving again, but given the number of other tasks on our plates, we’d decided that we wouldn’t start looking in earnest until the fall. Then, around the end of April, Alexis called to say he was going to be selling the apartment (hmmm—where had I heard that before?), so we’d have to be out by the beginning of August. Once again, we quickly shifted our priorities to make apartment hunting number one.

We searched and searched, but even after a month we had no solid leads. There were very few apartments that were both spacious enough and inexpensive enough for our needs, and every time we thought we found one, something bizarre happened to take it out of the running. Several times we tried to make appointments to see apartments advertised by rental agencies, only to be told after weeks of back-and-forth discussions that, for inexplicable reasons, the landlord couldn’t make arrangements with the current tenants to schedule a viewing. One lead was especially promising—an offer to take over the lease of a long-time tenant and also buy a bunch of appliances and furnishings for a song. But the old tenant kept changing the date for our viewing, and when we finally saw the apartment, weeks after it had first been planned, she informed us that another couple had just submitted their dossier and would therefore be given first choice. Grrrr!

As our desperation increased, we decided to spam pretty much everyone we know in Paris just to see if they knew of any apartments that might work for us. Almost immediately we got an email from a friend of ours named Dave. We had met this Dave and his wife Sarah at—you guessed it—the Canadian Meetup, a few months after our old friends Dave and Sarah had left town. Not only were both couples Canadian, but both of the Daves work in computers, and both of the Sarahs have given birth within the last six months. What are the chances? Well, Dave #2 said that his boss, Christophe, had an apartment for rent that might be just what we’re looking for, and he’d be happy to make the introduction. He did, and although it required several weeks, a few meetings, and some negotiations, we eventually signed the lease on that apartment. Like our last one, it’s much more affordable than what we could have found on the open market, and once again, the personal connection meant that it was much easier to convince the landlord of our worthiness as tenants than if we had been complete strangers.

So: two consecutive apartments in Paris came to us (three years apart) thanks to Canadian couples named Dave and Sarah, after the owners of the previous apartments decided to sell. I’m simply agog at the sheer improbability of all this, and in fact I’ve left out half a dozen other odd little coincidences that reinforce the curiosity. If I were the sort of person who believed in cosmic signs, I’d have to say this is a mighty striking one, although I couldn’t even begin to guess what it might be a sign of. I find it noteworthy, though, that my life frequently exhibits patterns like this—at a certain distance, from a certain angle, I can see these forms that are as symmetrical, elegant, and puzzling as crop circles. I don’t know what they mean, but they sure are pretty to look at.

August 14th, 2011

Review of Take Control of Your Paperless Office

New review: Thomas Briant of the MacValley blog reviewed Take Control of Your Paperless Office (August 14, 2011)

August 9th, 2011

Tame Lion’s Mail

New Macworld article: Tame Lion’s Mail (August 9, 2011)