Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Apartments I Have Had, Part 2c

So the apartment we moved to after that was less than stellar. It’s true that you get what you pay for. We weren’t suspicious of the lower rent because of where we were moving. It was a suburb right next to the town I’d grown up in. It was a suburb that I’d grown up making fun of, making comments like “at least I don’t live there.” That’s what I call karma. That’s what my sister calls a whoopin’ from God. You live your whole life making fun of some place, and you’re going to wind up living there. At first I tried to avoid telling people that we lived there, but after awhile, I gave up and embraced it. Anyway, we assumed that the drop in rent was because of where it was located, not due to the quality of the apartment complex.

That apartment was a tip. Literally. My biggest pet peeve, besides the nightly teenage punk gathering with the loud music in the parking lot, was the fact that people would just randomly leave bags of trash in various places. They couldn’t be bothered to take it to the dumpster, but naturally they didn’t want it sitting in their apartment, so they’d just leave it in the parking lot or in the grass so that the rest of us could enjoy it.

We went through a series of bad neighbors. Our next-door neighbors weren’t too bad. They had this old jalopy parked out front that they almost never drove. When they did drive it, it was to move it from one parking space to another right next to it. Occasionally some one would turn it on, and sometimes it would be running while some kind of tube ran from the engine on into the apartment. We weren’t sure what to make of that. We called the car “old man,” and we developed a kind of affection for it. One day after we’d been there about a year, my sister came tearing in to say “somebody’s driving old man!” She’d seen him going down the street and almost went into an apoplectic fit. We couldn’t believe it. Neither could old man, I would guess. But that didn’t happen very often.

Our upstairs neighbors we didn’t care for. While we were living there, we had three different sets of upstairs neighbors. The middle ones were the worst. They had screaming children and a screaming mom. The dad looked creepy. I think he played the bad guy in Gunga Din. The children systematically peeled off in strips all the paint off of the door to the utility closet on the patio. They liked to stand on their balcony and throw things. Once for no apparent reason they threw a bottle of nutmeg into our flowerbed.

They also seemed to be building something up there. Trust me, I know from apartment noises, and that was the sound of construction. People always scoffed when we told them about that, but one night in our apartment would make them a believer. Once when Kara was visiting, we had all gone to bed, and we heard Kara from the living room saying in disbelief, “what is that, a shop vac?” Probably, Kara. Very probably.

Also, in the shopping center next to the complex, there was a temple or church or mosque of some sort that held services every night. The problem was that many, many of the attendees lived in the apartment complex across the street, and these people apparently do not believe in crossing at a light. No sir, every night they would drift like grey ghosts across the street, supremely unconcerned that this was a four-lane road. They looked neither to left nor right, much less both ways, they just walked right out there, despite the fact that there was very little lighting on the road, and often you didn’t see someone until you’d almost hit them. Only when you slammed on your brakes and came within feet of mowing them down would they look at you, and then only to give you a look that said “why don’t you look where you’re going, I’m walking here.”

We also got mail that didn’t belong to us all the time. I realize this is not the fault of the apartment complex, but it was just one more thing that made living there a constant trial. In particular, we received monthly bills from AT&T addressed to someone who did not live in our apartment. What made this especially annoying was that we also had AT&T for our local phone service, and it seems like they ought to have some sort of system that checks for different phone bills going to the same address. Anyway, we would dutifully write “not at this address” and “return to sender” on the front. The next month, we’d get another one. Finally, one month, the same one came back. I cannot describe to you how I felt when I pulled out the envelope with “return to sender” written across it in my own handwriting. This happens to me now all the time because the woman who had the apartment before me had the same last name as I do, and the post office is determined to give me her mail, despite my protests that she really, honestly, no kidding, doesn’t live there. But at the time, it was a new experience for me. That’s when I decided to call AT&T. I kept getting transferred around to different people, everyone claiming that they weren’t the right department to handle to problem. The third person I spoke with was The Dumbest Person Ever. By the time I got to her, I was tired of explaining the story (Picture the scene from Home Alone where the mom calls from France and talks to the police. "yes, hi, I have a child who's home alone"), so I was already a little exasperated. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Yeah, hi, um, I keep getting mail from you addressed to Jason Alden, and he doesn’t live at my apartment. I’m guessing you want the bill to get to him, so I thought I’d call and tell you that you’re sending it to the wrong place. I tried writing “return to sender” on it, but it kept coming back to me.

Her: Ok, ma’am, what you can do, you can write “return to sender” on it and put it back in the mail.

Me: [ok, maybe she didn't understand me] I did that, and it just keeps coming back to me. Can you look him up in your computer and check if he has a another address? Because he doesn’t live here.

Her: [pause] Ok, you can write “return to sender” on it and put it back in the mail.

Me: [increasingly exasperated] I did that. I’ve already done that a number of times. It comes in the mail, I write “return to sender” on it, I put it in the mail, and the next month, we get his bill again. I need you to put something in your computer to tell it to stop sending his bill to this address.

Her: [long pause during which I swear I could hear the wheels in her head creaking along] Ok, just write “return to sender” on it and put it back in the mail.

Me: [pause] Do you have a supervisor or someone else I can speak with?

So we don’t use AT&T anymore.

Things did seem to pick up after awhile. Well, first things seemed to get worse, culminating in the night someone shot out the window of my sister’s car, but after that things got better. The trash-leavers seemed to be less trash leave-y, the upstairs neighbors moved out (guess they finally finished building that second home) and normal people moved in. Old man and his owners moved out and two women about our age moved in. And that’s when the apartment began to fall apart.

First of all, something started leaking in the ceiling, and apparently, if water gets into your smoke detector, it will go off, and it will keep going off until you disconnect it. Before we discovered this, we had already come to hate that smoke detector. It was very sensitive, and I suppose that’s a good thing, but it was still annoying. We developed a system to prevent the piercing, screeching warnings whereby one of us would open the oven door while the other held a cookie sheet and fanned vigorously in the direction of an open window. That’s the technique we developed the night we accidentally blew up an electric razor. Turns out you cannot use the cord from a 1980s men’s electric razor to plug in a women’s electric razor made roughly 20 years later. As the apartment filled with white, acrid smoke, cookies sheets fanning furiously, we decided it was a valuable lesson to learn.

But then the water started to leak in to the smoke detector, which set it off, and if that’s the problem, no amount of fanning will get it to stop. Plus, it was not a battery-powered smoke detector, but one that plugged into something in the ceiling, so the water+electricity combination was making us a little nervous. That’s why we called the maintenance man at 2 in the morning, and why he gave us instructions on how to disconnect the thing. We still had another smoke detector, but it wasn’t as vigilant, which made us a little worried for our safety. As much as we thought the thing was a little too sensitive, we knew there was no way we would ever, ever sleep through a fire. And it didn't look so hot to have this thing dangling from our ceiling. So it disturbed us that they never came back to reconnect it, or to even check to make sure there was no kind of water damage.

The water leak may be why, right before we moved out, we noticed a crack forming in our ceiling. The crack got so big that we finally went upstairs and told our neighbors, who said that probably explained why the ground kind of gave a little when they stepped in that spot. Great.

But the apartment management was very reluctant to do any real maintenance, even for serious problems. For example, the blinds in the living room were broken when we moved in, and though they promised to replace them, in the three years we lived there, they never did. Periodically they would just fall down.

Then there was the time when, after a heavy rain, the area around and beneath my window developed mildew, they didn’t seem particularly concerned that the mildew spread and ruined some of my furniture, or that I developed a respiratory infection. It took a lot of phone calls and thinly veiled threats before they took remedial action. And by “remedial action,” I mean that they painted over the mildew that was on the baseboard. That’s it. After over a week of harassing phone calls and threats of lawsuits, they sent a guy to paint over the problem.

So we decided that we needed to move. Well, after I’d spent two weeks at my parents’ house, with no apparent intention of ever going back to my apartment, my parents decided that I needed to move. So my mom dragged me out apartment shopping, and we found a place that was within even RR’s price range.

The move was interesting. The movers said they’d be there between 8 and 10am. So when they showed up about 5:30pm, we were a little irritated. The mover in charge was a little annoying. While his crew moved all our furniture, he talked to us and told us all about himself. Apparently, he used to play pro football and is a black belt. He even managed to work his shoe size into the conversation. But I managed to keep and straight face and eventually they got us moved in. It was July 4th weekend. One year ago.

The new place is ok. It does have its own problems. Most recently, there was a leak from the upstairs apartment into my apartment, which resulted in mildew. The mildew must have gotten into the air conditioning some how, because every time we ran the air, it got worse. So there we were on July 4th weekend, very hot, sweaty, and grumpy, in a mildew-infested apartment. More on that later. But you see what I mean? I just can’t pick ‘em.


Ben said...

And then you found yourself sweating... and you have a thing about that.

But are guys really like mildew? ;)

Amanda Sue said...


breaking this into three parts helped so much! i am much less exhausted now because i got to scroll from bottom to top as i read, instead of just reading it straight through.

okay, just kidding. your stories make me think of my apartment drama when i was in college. maybe i will (sub)post about that soon. :)

Amstaff Mom said...

It sounded like a consipracy between AT&T and the Post Office to me. You know the mailman was just laughing, "Return to Sender, HA HA! I'll show her".

MsThang said...

Ben, I hate to say it but most men are like mildew lol. (Except for you of course.. your like a bed of freshly bloomed roses lol)

Ben said...


I keep telling Sydney that. ;)