Life in Salt Lake

Wayne accepted my proposal and got a loan from his employer to rent a U-Haul, He drove out from Salt Lake all the way out to Oregon and helped me pack up my household goods: second-hand furniture, books, computer, and some basic kitchen utensils.

We stopped by my parents house on the way out of town.

“I’m so glad you are finally marrying Wayne.” My mom said. I hadn’t known she liked Wayne. He had been a nice guy all along, brought me soup and orange juice when I was sick, helped me out when I was pregnant, but I never suspected my mom thought I should marry him.

“We can’t come to Reno for the wedding. Your dad is still mad about not being able to be at the wedding with Brian, but here is a little wedding gift from me.”

She handed me a silver dollar.

“Maybe you can drop it in a slot machine and win the jackpot.”

It felt like some kind of an insult, but my mom was always so sweet that I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t like I expected them to come to our wedding, only that I should invite them. So with my mom’s silver dollar in my pocket and my dad’s silence, I strapped Kelly into her car seat and climbed in the passenger side of the U-Haul. Wayne drove first, heading south out of town on highway 395 all the way to Reno.

We got a hotel room that night. In spite of the promise in that kiss so long ago, we did not attempt any kind of physical relationship, instead we took turns going down to the casino and watching Kelly. I lost the silver dollar my mother gave me as well as a twenty of my own. I had no luck at all, and Wayne reported the same results with his twenty. And so we started out our married life at a loss.

The next morning we found a wedding chapel and applied for a marriage license. We were married with only the couple at the chapel and Kelly in attendance. But at least we were officially married now, and I hoped there would be less trouble from all the people who had assumed we were living in sin.

I spent my wedding night driving the U-Haul across the desert while Wayne tried to sleep a little so he would be ready for work the next day. By the time we got to the Salt Flats a pretty big snowstorm had developed. I felt the U-Haul fish-tale a little as I changed lanes after passing a big truck.

Wayne woke up and laughed. “Those truck drivers all think you are crazy driving like this.”

“Do you think I should slow down?” I asked. I was not a very experienced driver. I had barely gotten my license before I went in the Army, and only had my own vehicle to drive for about one year of the eight years since then. My only experience on ice had ended when I took a curve too fast. I spun around once or twice before coming to rest pinned between a tree and a guardrail, hanging over the edge of a 50-foot cliff. Thanks to that tree, I walked away from the accident unscratched, but very little wiser about how to drive in winter weather.

“No. You’re doing fine.” Wayne said, and rearranged himself a little against the door before falling asleep again.

We made it to Salt Lake in time for Wayne to go to work in the morning. I did my best to stretch his minimum wage paycheck far enough to pay rent and buy food. We fought over the payments on an entertainment center he got from a rental place. I said we didn’t need it and the $30 a month would be better spent on food. He said he worked hard and deserved some fun on the weekends.

It was hard to argue with that, but harder to keep the three of us fed. I was looking for work, but couldn’t afford day care while I looked which limited me to MLM sales opportunities that held their “interviews” in the evening when Wayne could watch Kelly. I tried selling water filters and expensive shampoo, with about the same results as my evening in the casino.

The financial troubles had me looking for a way out, for a way up. I wanted a normal life. I wanted a house we could call our own and enough money to serve our spaghetti with sauce on top, and to decide to be vegetarian for principles’ sake rather than the inability to afford meat or cheese. As it was we had spaghetti or rice with soy sauce for every meal, and our apartment looked like a second hand store. I wanted new things, nice things. I wanted what it seemed like everyone else had.

And so we made plans. I dreamed out loud and Wayne nodded in agreement. At the time, I thought that meant he wanted the same things I did.

I went to school at nights to get my real estate license and finally managed to use my computer science degree to land a job answering phones and typing memos for just over minimum wage, much of which went to pay for daycare, clothes, and transportation so I could work. It wasn’t much, but it was enough we could afford to send Wayne to a local trucking school.

The school as only three weeks long, and set up through a trucking company that used it to recruit new drivers. They arranged a “no credit check” loan so that you didn’t have to pay for school until you got your CDL, and then they took the loan payments out of your paycheck for the first year. If you stayed the whole year, the remainder of the loan was forgiven, otherwise you had to pay the full balance if you quit. It seemed like a great deal since Wayne was not a quitter.

About the time Wayne finished the three week course and got his CDL, I passed the test for my real estate license and started working for Century 21. They had more classes to take, all for free, but also unpaid. I teamed up with another guy in the class who was good on the phones, but not in person. He set appointments and I talked to potential clients. We were working on a deal to sell a duplex.

After he got his CDL, Wayne had to drive team with a trainer for some “on-the-job” training. It was supposed to be paid at a slightly reduced wage, but Wayne never did bring home a paycheck while he was in training. Each week he would tell me that they had missed the deadline for getting the paperwork in. The first week I was understanding. The second week I was a little confused, didn’t they already have something from the first week that should be paid?
By the third week, I was already out spending that paycheck. I went shopping and got a training toilet for Kelly at the mall. The landlord saw me coming back with this big shopping bag that had the $17 toilet in it.

“When are you going to pay the rent?” he asked, not taking his eyes off that gigantic shopping bag.

“Wayne is going to get a really big paycheck by Friday. We can pay you then. I’m going to be earning a nice commission soon too.”

“It’s already three days late.” he said. And the next morning I found an eviction notice on the door.
I was looking at the notice when one of our neighbors walked by and asked what it was.

“Oh, you better be sure to get out by that day. He shows up with a shotgun when people try to stay. Someone called the cops once, but they just helped the landlord get them out.”

“But I can pay the rent next week…”

“It doesn’t matter. He can’t raise your rent more than what it says in your lease, but if he kicks you out, he can charge the next people over $500 a month.”

Wayne and I were only paying about half that much.

Later that night, I called home. My mom said, “You made your bed, now you have to sleep in it. We can’t keep bailing you out of trouble. I’m really busy right now, I have to go.”

So I turned to the church. I had been going about once a month, still gun-shy from the treatment I’d gotten when Brian left. The Bishop was hesitant to help us.

“Your landlord is a good member of our ward, but he’s an even better business man. I doubt that paying your rent will change your situation.”

In the end though, he did offer to give us the money for the rent if I would spend a month working at the soap factory full-time and start coming to church every Sunday. It didn’t matter that I already had a job, or that I would need day-care to be at the soap factory all day. That was all he could offer, and I did not think it was enough, so I turned it down.

I had no way to contact Wayne. I could only wait and hope he called. I felt lucky when Wayne got back to town a day or two before we had to be out of the apartment. We found a storage unit and moved all our stuff out of the apartment. I cleaned the apartment while he went to take the driving test to upgrade to a solo driver.
When he got home, Wayne was glowing with pride. “I passed. I have my own truck now.”

“That’s great,” I said without much enthusiasm. I was still worried about where I’d be sleeping that night.

“I told them about our problem and I got permission for you and Kelly to ride on the truck with me. They usually make you wait 90 days before you can have a passenger, but because this eviction is their fault for screwing up my paycheck, they waived that requirement.”

It was such a relief to have some place to go. I was expecting to spend the night standing in line with Kelly in hopes of getting in the homeless shelter. I’d never been homeless and was more afraid of that than anything. And I had heard that not everyone in the line actually got in before it filled up. The idea of having to sleep in the park or somewhere else outside scared me most of all.

Now that would not happen. I wasn’t thrilled about living in the truck, but I tried to make the best of it. I would get to see the country and surely we would make enough money now that Wayne was solo to be able to find a new home in a few weeks, maybe a month at the most. So it was only temporary.