Thursday, February 16, 2012

"If that's what you have in mind, if that's what you're all about, good luck moving up 'cause I'm moving out."*

        Well….I got an apartment. Hooray! I will be living by myself finally!
        I’m just scooting in under the wire, too. I have always said I’d live alone before I turned 30, and since I’m turning 30 in August in 5 years, I’ve made it with time to spare.
        But I’m not going to lie like I usually do. I’m scared shitless. I’m 85% sure I’ve made the right decision and I’m just scared because it’s new and different. Not because it’s the wrong apartment and I should hold out and look at 25 more places before deciding. And anyway, there’s no going back because I put down the deposit today and I don’t exactly have tens-of-thousands of dollars to plop down deposits at every apartment in town out of panic.
        I did look at a lot of apartments, and met a lot of interesting people. Apartment managers seem, in general, to be an unappealing sort. Or maybe it’s just that they are in an unappealing position. They have to walk every dipshit off the street through the same apartment over and over again, usually to have that person (like me) show disdain and argue about décor. But since most of them are living next to rent-free, I don’t feel sorry for them one bit. My current apartment manager (a man with a gold medallion tangled in his copious and always exposed chest hair) spends his days driving to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf that is one block away, drinking tea and reading the newspaper, and then driving back home. At least, if I ever get locked out, I know I can walk over and find him. And maybe score a ride back home. (That is, if he recognizes me, which he never does even though he's known me for 8 years.)
My manager's chest hair is like this, without all the sex appeal.
        But here I’d like to share a taste of some of the other apartment managers I’ve met over the past month.
        Apartment Number One:
        After waiting in front of the building for 5 minutes, Ron (who graciously agreed to come with me) and I finally realized that the apartment manager was in the back of the building waiting for us. Why? Because she was a painfully shy woman in her early-thirties, who clearly didn’t want to have any interaction with human beings. She was practically hiding in the bushes when we finally found her. She cowered in the doorway while we “explored” the approximately 400-square-foot apartment. She pointed to the applications lying in a stack in the kitchen and tried to scurry away, but seemed torn knowing that she really wasn’t supposed to leave us alone in there. Things became clearer when she explained that her mom was actually the manager, but she was out at the moment. We thanked her and left her to run back into her own apartment and slam the door.
        Apartment Number Two:
        Sadly, I never met this apartment manager, because when I drove down the street I was so horrified that I immediately turned around and went home.
        Apartment Number Three:
        John was a Chinese man in what appeared to be late-middle age. He wore a Hawaiian shirt and had a truly offensive set of teeth. The first thing he said to me was, “Are you looking at this apartment for your son or brother?” What the hell is that supposed to mean? How old do I look? And who looks at apartments for her brother?
        He kindly offered to let me park in the garage, since it was street-cleaning day, but that was pretty much the last time he was pleasant. He proceeded to walk me through a building in which every hallway and the apartment itself was carpeted in blue pile. I think there must have been a sale on blue carpet (it’s probably an ongoing sale) when the building was erected because the whole place reeked of smoke and mildew. I was almost willing to overlook that, because the apartment was fairly sizable, and a one-bedroom rather than a studio. It also had a really big balcony, which I loved.
        But there were a few problems. There was no overhead lighting, the cabinetry was cheap, dark, hideous wood, and there was virtually no closet space unless you count the “hall closet” which, while being 3-feet wide, was about 8-inches deep, so I’m not sure what you could keep in there besides a broom. Or many brooms.
        I asked about the air conditioning (there was a wall unit in the living room but nothing in the bedroom), and he said I could get one of those “portable” air conditioners. Hmm, I’ve never heard of those. Do you think he was referring to fans? He also suggested that many people don't use the air conditioner because they're concerned about saving the planet. (Don't you guilt-trip me, guy!) Then I asked how old the carpet was and he said it was “only two years old.” I said I’d need new carpet and I’d need it not to be blue. He was surprised. “You don’t like blue?”
The portable air-conditioner is real! And it looks like a spaceship! And it costs as much as a spaceship!

        Then he started acting like I might not even get approved. He started saying things like, “We accept, at the very least, a score of 650, which is average. You’d have to have good credit.”
        I started to get offended and a little mad. Why is the guy with the unfortunate teeth and the Hawaiian shirt who lives in the smelly building talking down to me? Do I not look like a person with a respectable credit score?
        I have to admit that the balcony kept me in that apartment longer than I should’ve been there. I’m a sucker for sitting outside in the California sun. But as soon as I got out of that building, I felt nothing but relief. 
The view from the balcony of my current apartment. Sigh. I'll miss this.**

        Apartment Number Four:
        Jocelyn kept rescheduling me for one reason or another, but that was okay, because I was kind of sick of looking at apartments, and this one was affordable enough to make me suspicious.
        While I was waiting for her on the day of our actual appointment, I looked at the list of names by the intercom. I knew my friend Justin lived on that street, so when I saw his rather uncommon last name on the call box, I was excited. Oh, Justin lives here!
        When I told Jocelyn about Justin, she said he was her “favorite tenant” but that, if I mentioned her, I should refer to her as “Seda” because she’d recently changed her name. Okay.
        Jocelyn showed me all around the building and in the apartment. The apartment was listed as a single, which I’ve since realized is a euphemism for “studio.” I had thought it meant “one bedroom” but it doesn’t. So when I walked down the hallway to see the bedroom, I was bummed to find only a bathroom.
        And it was a nice enough place, and I liked it a lot. I considered applying and even took an application with me.
        But when I sent Justin a text telling him that we might potentially be living across the way from one another, he seemed a little upset. “Wow, that is so weird.” Thanks, Justin!
        But it wasn’t meant to be anyway. I just couldn’t picture myself there.
        My Apartment:
        Robert, my new apartment manager, is a story for another day (perhaps many stories, as time will tell). He’s a very friendly man from Hungary (which is, coincidentally, one of the few places I’ve visited in Europe), and boy, oh boy, can that man talk. In four languages, as it happens.
        But my apartment is quite lovely, has hardwood floors, tons of storage, and lots of western exposure. I will go into more detail on it as I live in it.
        And in the meantime, I’ve finally found a place to hang my “L.” (And lounge around naked, if I ever decide to. But I probably won’t, because I get cold really easily.)
*Lyrics from "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" from Billy Joel's super awesome album/magnum opus The Stranger
**Photo courtesy of Emily Sommer.

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