Camping in the Burbs

Photo by Kelly on

It has been a summer of lots of work, some play, and many nights sleeping away from our home.  June was filled with opportunities to see grandchildren and other family.  All this activity included a waterpark, an indoor trampoline park (where we had a 4-year old’s birthday party), and a very welcome chance to see our daughter’s new home in rural Northern Virginia.  The waterpark is part of a huge ski resort, and my brother rented a large house for his family to spend a few days there.  That was my first night away from home; little did I know I had many more nights away from my own bed to come.

My autism research has made it clear that mold can impact my thinking and my emotions.  My wife has had a few lingering health challenges, so we felt we had to get serious about every part of our environment, especially our apartment. 

Since we moved in three years ago, I had found a few spores in our HVACs system’s air filter, but when we brought it to our property maintenance team’s attention – 3 times over 3 years – we were always met with the same answer:  “We can’t find any mold.”  Was mold the cause of some of these health issues?  We have a high-quality air filtration system – that has crashed twice since we got it about 2 years ago.  Could mold be overpowering the filtration cell inside?  I have been cleaning that device monthly.  It should not need to have the cell replaced so often.

The next step in this journey was education:   KK attended a presentation from a mold remediation specialist in her networking group, and we decided to take him up on his free evaluation. 

When he came over, he kept a respirator on during the whole visit.  His initial findings were positive for mold in a couple of places.  We felt we had to get his full service with an air and surface sampling with lab testing.   This gave us a complete lab report that we could show to our property manager.  Surprisingly, this moved them to action very quickly.  (Virginia law seems clear that landlords must provide “habitable” lodging which includes protecting the tenant from mold.)

We spent 4 nights with a friend nearby while they lined up their contractors to scrub the HVAC system and remove moldy drywall from our laundry closet. Living out of our suitcases, enjoying homecooked meals, trying to find the right buttons to use on our friends’ microwaves – it was camping.  The contractors did not get the job completed before we had to move again.

We then went on a previously planned vacation – enjoying time with our son and daughter-in-law in Knoxville, TN.  5 days later, we went home, and although we had a completely new HVAC system, there were still evidences of mold where the drywall problem had been.  Fortunately, they could not get their drywall contractor scheduled to finish the wall until much later; this gave the property manager an opportunity to get the “cleaners” back into the apartment and remove the remaining visible mold. 

We were invited to stay with another set of nearby friends, so we did.  Three nights.  But since things seemed to be stretching too long, we decided to take the property manager’s offer for us to stay in a hotel until the drywall was replaced.  Three more nights away from home, and then we were told the work was complete.

If you are keeping score, that’s 10 unplanned nights away, plus 6 nights away on planned travel.  We felt like such vagabonds!  Eating dinner with others, not being able to access our own laundry, kitchen, or other amenities of home. On the positive, we have many generous people in our lives – and we are very grateful for letting us crash at their homes.  Dinner and conversations with friends is something I’d like more of, but not at the expense of having to use their spare bedroom and bath.  It is always easier to relax in our own space without worrying about being in anyone’s way.

This was somewhat amusing – staying in a hotel just a few miles away from home – and over our wedding anniversary!  We were both still working and ended up not going out for a special anniversary dinner until we got back into our apartment.

Now, we seem to be in a much cleaner environment.  We are asking for another test to show a reduction in spores, but the complex tells us that they are looking for someone with both the right credentials and that meets their insurance minimums.

Is mold something we will have to chase down for a few years? Or, are we going to have treat its effects for a long time to come? Either way, I’ll have to keep shifting.

Published by Bart Shoaf

Blogging about victories and challenges as a middle-aged man with a late diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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