Drive 20 mins from our apartment in the medical district to Coral Gables where the Zip Van lives. We are buying a sofa off of Craigslist (where 80% of our home furnishings come from) and we need to rent a van to transport said sofa to our apartment.
Climb into the Zip Van and realize the engine won’t start. The van is super hot and stuffy in the Florida heat.
Call ZipCar Help line and resolve the engine problem, get comped 30 minutes on our reservation time. We’re on our way.
Stuck in traffic behind a murderously slow senior citizen.
Depart Mainland USA for Key Biscayne, an island just off the coast of Miami connected via bridge. The city of Key Biscayne appears to be very wealthy and in addition to stunning ocean views has yoga studios, froyo shops, multiple realtor agencies, and more yoga studios, plus numerous people driving on the main thoroughfare in golf carts.
Arrive at the Expensive Gated Community apparently called “The Ocean Club” where the Couch Seller lives. Couch Seller did not mention anything about needed to get through gate access.
Frantically text Couch Seller for entry information. We are told to give the Gate Woman the address and the name “Gustavo.” Gate woman is not impressed, suspiciously eyes our gigantic moving van, and says moving is not permitted after 5pm.
Andrew backs the van away from the gate while Kelsi frantically re-texts the Couch Seller. Turns out Couch Seller is in NYC and is selling the couch on behalf of “Gustavo” who is her dad and actually living in the apartment. Couch Seller tells us to “just say you’re a friend visiting Gustavo Guillen, not that you are there to move anything” which is already too late and blatantly a lie. Also an impossible lie to tell given our huge moving van. She then dismisses herself from the process and gives us “Gustavo”’s number. Andrew is continuing to negotiate with the grumpy Gate Woman who mentions something about a “waiver”. “Gustavo” picks up the phone and agrees to call the gate/manager/somebody but hangs up before Kelsi can get the building number/remembers to ask.
Wait 10 minutes while Gate Woman argues with another person in the Guest Lane by standing awkwardly in the car lane behind a red Mercedes. Approach Gate Woman.
Kelsi: Hi, yeah, I’ve got the building number for the waiver. It’s Ocean Park One.
Gate Woman: Only the Supervisor can grant special permission for moving. She left about three minutes ago, didn’t you see her? (points to the exit gate)
Kelsi: No. Okay, that would have been great to know, say, 3 minutes ago. So how do we reach the Supervisor now?
Gate Woman: We can’t. She leaves at 5. Didn’t you see her?
Kelsi: Okay, great, but like who do you call in an emergency?
Gate Woman: The Supervisor.
Kelsi: Okay great, so let’s call them.
Gate Woman: Nope, can’t reach her, she left at 5.
Kelsi: Right, but like, when you have an emergency, you must have someone you call. Let’s call them.
Gate Woman: Nope, only the Supervisor. *blank stare*
“Gustavo” picks up the phone and says he will come pick us up in his “station wagon” at the gate, we’ll drive to the apartment, and see about fitting the couch in his car and physically carry it out past the gate tower to our van. Kelsi and Andrew get permission from the Gate Woman to park the Zip Van and wait inside the gate.
Gustavo takes his sweet time picking us up in a very shiny black SUV with tinted windows and leather seats with fantastic new-car small and the AC blasting. The car is being driven by an expensively dressed and made-over middle aged woman with the silvering Gustavo in the passenger seat. We hop in, and drive about 5 minutes to the last and largest building in the complex and park in the garage.
Only after parking in the garage does Gustavo step out, open the back seat, and bother to consider whether or not the couch could fit. He thinks it's unlikely. No kidding, Gustavo.
Kelsi tersely asks why he didn’t assess that before picking us up and driving us into his garage.
Gustavo ignores the question.
We decide to go upstairs anyway to see the couch because, well, “just in case.”
Gustavo’s apartment and building are the most luxurious we’ve ever been in. The building is all marble floors, gentle Italian opera playing over the speakers, exotic coffee table books, mirrored walls. Gustavo steps into the first gold-colored elevator with us but can’t find the button for his apartment, 1108, on the button pad. It is unclear why Gustavo doesn’t know how to get up to his own apartment.
Try the elevator next door. This one has the right button. Up we go!
Elevator goes directly into Gustavo’s apartment. It must cost tens of thousand a month to rent. Hand laid mosaic in the entryway, 3+ balconies with ocean views, large artwork. Their yappy white Pomeranian which is groomed into an almost perfectly spherical cotton ball shape is losing its mind that strangers are around.
Looking around, it’s clear that Gustavo and his family must be some type of South American oligarchs, completely unaware of the need to do any logistical arrangements on the Couch-Picker-Uppers behalf. The apartment is clearly getting vacated and they are looking to get rid of their furnishings asap. We examine the couch, and can tell that it's in like-new condition and probably cost lots more than the $200 we’ve offered to pay for it.
There is also no way it’s gonna fit into the SUV. Kelsi protests about all the lost time/money spent on the van rental and asks to be reimbursed lost costs. “Gustavo,” unsympathetic, says something about maybe paying another person buying something from him from Craigslist tomorrow extra cash to drop it off for us. We leave.
Gustavo and the woman drive us back to the front gate and ask for a business card for our phone number. Kelsi hands him hers.
Gustavo: Oh, I see you work at Harvard Business School. You must be a lawyer.
Kelsi: ??? Nope, I’m a researcher.
Gustavo: That’s nice, my grand daughter goes to Harvard.
Kelsi: Cool. Do you know what school she’s at?
Gustavo: Babson College.
Gustavo: She’s studying for the GMAT now.
Gustavo: Ok, I’ll call you.
Andrew and Kelsi, exhausted and thoroughly angry, get in the Zip Van and drive off.
On the drive home, Kelsi Googles Gustavo Guillen. Kelsi is pretty sure the photo matches an elderly Colombian man who is listed on LinkedIn as an economist of some sort at the Colombian Ministry of Housing and Public Credit.
That night, we text back and forth with the Couch Seller about the importance of Gustavo confirming with the main gate to let us in tomorrow so we can try to pick it up again and getting whatever moving elevator permissions we might need.
Leave the house to get the Zip Van and drive to Key Bizcayne.
There is a new gate person this morning. He doesn’t have any permissions for us and has no Gustavo Guillen on his paperwork. New Gate Person is nicer and lets us drive through with less problem after printing us out an entry ticket. The entry ticket lists the Resident as “Inversiones LLC” which means basically “Investments LLC.” Sounds legit.
Kelsi calls Gustavo to tell him we’re in the building. After asking where to park, he says anywhere is fine. When we ask if he’s coming down to meet us, he says no and just “of course” have the Concierge call him when we get inside.
We drive all the way back to their building and park on the main road. A uniformed footman runs out and tells us we can’t park there.
Arguing with the footman. Eventually he backs off when we say we’re gonna get “special concierge permission,” which we totally made up. We go into the sparkling lobby and have the concierge call Gustavo. All thumbs up and we walk to the elevator.
Moving the couch out. Pomeranian yaps a lot more and Gustavo tries to sell us other stuff, saying that we could get his coffee table for $600 but he spent “thousands” on it. We pass on all but the couch. We are gently assisted by the woman who was driving the car yesterday. Boston is her favorite city in the USA. Did we know that her daughter went to Babson?
We drive off and eventually manage to get the couch up into our apartment without much further incident. Andrew discovers a new Middle Eastern grocery on the way home run by a Palestinian guy who used to be a chef at the Intercontinental Hotel in Jerusalem before he moved to Miami 40 some years ago. He makes pungent but wonderful baba ghanoush and will have have repeat customers.
Our couch is fantastic.