the final hour (21)

…. A different security guard sat behind the desk covering the afternoon shift. A new sign in sheet was three quarters full with visitors registered from 2:30 pm forward. The guard was engaged in conversation with a well-dressed, ebony skinned older man leaning on the counter. He appeared to be there for entertainment and asked the guard if the dollar homes had kept them busy.

“Yes, yes they have. There has been a lot of people here today,” the guard answered with a humored smile.

“Is this where she gets the dollar house?” A man with a Jamaican accent who looked like he had just left a job site stood next to a lady staring pessimistically at the ground. They were about  50 something and his movements were purposefully forceful as he signed in.

The guard replied, “You want Landbank, it is on the second floor.” He actually appeared to be enjoying his day. I wondered where they found these amazing people who could keep their peace with all the emotional traffic coming through.

Mr. Jamaica talked with encouraging confidence about the process while we stood waiting for the elevator. “I don’t think we are getting in,” was all she responded softly.

“No, you just go up there and tell them you need to fill out an application and I will sign for your help. We tell them I am a building contractor and I will do the work on whatever you need. That’s how you get the house.”

Stepping out on the second floor, we could hear a woman yelling, “WHY DIDN”T I KNOW ABOUT THIS?  I WAS OUT OF TOWN. I CAN SHOW YOU! I NEED MORE TIME TO GET MY PAPERWORK DONE!”

Mr. Jamaica quit talking and we slowly walked to the Landbank office, not knowing what was on the other side of the door.

A distraut lady wearing a matching hat and suit had breached the reception area and was standing close to the private offices. Mr. Sweater, the same man who had greeted me on February 15th, said “Mam, what are you doing? You cannot go back there.” He was using the same voice seasoned parents use when dealing with a toddler.


“Mam, I need you to stay on the other side of the desk. You cannot go back there.” he said before turning back to Mr. Jamaica who was trying to explain why his friend did not need the proof of $8,500.

Yelling Lady started backing up, still demanding to talk to someone.  Mr. Sweater began to  explain to Mr. Jamaica  what must be done to qualify for a dollar home when I stepped up to Ms. Shurlanda, the receptionist.

“Hello, my name is ….

Now is the time I decide not to give my real name. I will give myself the name Sarahbeth  Waters. Nothing sentimental,  I just like the way it sounds.

….Sarahbeth Waters, I was here on February 15th, I am applying for the home listed on my application. I first saw it on February 15th, and had an official walk about inspection with one of your agents in March. I am applying for one house only, the house on Primrose, I have put the address on my application.”

I could hear Mr. Jamaica telling  Mr. Sweater, “She doesn’t need the $8,500, if you will give her a house, I will fix it.” His friend was standing close to the door with a full understanding of the situation. Not everyone who applied for a dollar home would be receiving one. Mr. Jamaica was handed the same application everyone else had been handed and left looking at the forms.

Ms. Shurlanda, composed as when I first saw her in the morning said, “Ms. Waters, are you ready to submit your application?” I nodded yes. “I will need a completed application, proof of finances, a $25 money order, and valid identification.”

I placed all the requested material on her desk including my passport instead of my out-of-state license. She flipped through the papers and said with a bit of surprise, “Ms. Waters, wow, you actually have everything.”

“Yes I do. The monies were wired this afternoon but will not show in my account until Monday.”

She rolled her eyes, “Oh, you got the money Ms. Waters, you got the money. We need to make a copy of everything for you as we will be keeping the originals.” I felt like a lightly tethered helium balloon as she made copies of everything.

The woman who had been yelling earlier was still pressuring Mr. Sweater to give her additional time with the application process. He was ignoring her like an adult would ignore someone else’s toddler throwing a tantrum.

As I turned to leave, I saw Yelling Lady blocking the only  exit.

I did not want to talk to Yelling Lady, but it seemed like she was waiting for me. As I walked out of the office, she started also started to walk, except she was walking backwards while facing me. “They did not give us enough time. I just got back today, and no one told me about it.”

I turned around and re-entered the office to get the date of the board’s decisions for the dollar houses. Yelling Lady followed me back and began saying she needed to talk to the boss.

Mr. Sweater was talking to one of the seven people who had been filling out their applications in the guest area. He did not respond to yelling lady this time. No one was responding to her, and I mirrored their example when she tried to make eye contact.

“Ms. Shurlanda, when and how will we know if our one dollar bid has been accepted by Landbank?”

“Ms. Waters, you will either receive a phone call or a letter on May 1st.”

“Which will I get, how does that work?”

“We have over 5,000 people applying for less than 300 houses, it takes less time to mail a letter than to make a call,” she responded with raised eyebrows and a wink.

“Thank you Ms. Shurlanda, my name is Sarahbeth Waters and I look forward to getting a phone call from you fabulous people on May 1st.”

“Mam, Mam, you cannot go back there.” Yelling Lady had gone behind the desks again and I could hear her as the elevator doors closed.

Someone was informing security about the Yelling Lady situation when I walked out of the building. I looked at the papers holding my goals for Primrose House. These would have to go into storage at my Godfamily’s until I got a safety deposit box at my bank.

The parking lot construction workers were still on break, I had only been in the building 10 minutes.

….To be continued…. 



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