My in-laws are always telling me to buy a fucking house. Don’t throw your money away on an apartment, they say. It’s smarter to buy. They don’t understand how much has changed in the last few decades. The American dream now comes with a nice apartment. We millennials? We’ll be happy if we can pay off our student loans before middle age. Sure, I could’ve become a lawyer or a politician. Looking back, maybe I should’ve. But someone has to educate future generations, and despite all my bitching I love teaching. Sometimes, people even address me as Dr. Wilder. I still get called Mrs. a lot. Whatever. That’s the least of my problems.
Unfortunately, our country doesn’t love teachers. And they downright hate professors. A lot of people have this idea of professors lounging around with pipes and tweed jackets all day. Most of those anachronisms are retiring soon. Who’s replacing them? People like me.
Think about what you have to go through to become a professor. After you earn a B.A., you’re looking at six more years of poverty. In other words, six years of shitty apartments. I mean, the worst.
You’ll be amazed at what land lords can get away with these days. If you’re like me, maybe you’ll be able to commiserate. And if you’re younger, then maybe there’s a cautionary tale in here. I’ve arranged my apartment experiences in chronological order:
- The Tower: My first apartment was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I was thrilled to escape my family. And even a shitty apartment still somehow beats a dorm. I guess it makes you feel like an adult. The Tower was almost 20 stories, and pretty spacious. On the downside, the pipes leaked and turned our walls into living swamps every winter. Maintenance smashed a huge hole in our kitchen one time and left it that way for weeks. Then came the cockroach infestation. These things wanted to sleep with me so bad. I woke up three mornings straight with roaches crawling on me. The building manager allegedly sent pest control, but in the end I spent almost $200 fumigating it myself with some serious weapons-grade material from Home Depot. My bedroom smelled like Raid for the rest of my lease, and I might’ve given myself cancer, but those roaches vanished after that. Peaceful slumber. But then one more bad thing happened: the elevators somehow flooded with rainwater during a bad storm. They were shut down all spring. I lived on Floor 10.
- The Studio Affair: Why? I was tired of my pothead roommate. It’s one thing to smoke weed, but quite another to keep a gallon-sized bag of it on the coffee table. She also brought over irritating guys all the time that didn’t even meet my criteria for one night stands. Anyway, I was happy to live alone. But I wasn’t happy to live less than a block from train tracks. Lesson: If you’re moving, drive around and look for nearby train tracks or highways. You’d be surprised how trains wailing by every hour, every day, and all night, can erode your sanity. One night at 3 am, I sat in bed and screamed at Fate for a good ten minutes. So cathartic. I won’t mention the time some peeping toms watched me masturbate. No kidding. I was in the beginnings of the act when I heard a faint, “Oh my fucking god, that is awesome.” Turns out my blinds were open just enough that they could see from the parking lot. My fault. Of course, that could happen anywhere.
- The Pit of Despair: By far, the worst. For a short time, I lived in a frigid region of the country where the temperature often dipped below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. My apartment resided in an old, dilapidated house built in the mid 1800s. At first, that sounded exciting. Maybe I’d be haunted by a ghost. Sadly, no. Not even close. Reality settled in. The problem with old houses? They’re a bitch to keep warm. Our land lord gave up on the ancient boiler and installed these awful electric heaters. My power bill soared above $300 in winter, and yet my fingers felt so numb I could barely type. Serious harm to the writing career. I wound up buying all kinds of heated devices, including a mouse and keyboard. An indoor thermometer I bought dropped below 50 degrees in my bedroom, and that’s when some friends cajoled me to call the city. They sent out two inspectors. Their verdict: This was a hellhole guilty of crimes against humanity. It was too bad there was nothing they could do. I put together one helluva case against the land lord. The painful lesson was that when you win against a land lord, your prize sucks. He offered to release me from my lease six months early. That’s it, that’s all he was legally required to do. I couldn’t find another cheap apartment that would let me have a pet, so I stayed and suffered.
The good news? Now, I’m finally living in a halfway decent place. Minimal noise. (Don’t get me started on noise.) Affordable, nice, warm. Knock on wood. So, what have we learned here? If you’re a young one looking to rent your first apartment, exercise caution. Ask about insulation, heating, and cooling costs. Look for gaps where the elements can creep in. Try your best to talk to other people who live in that building. Look at the garbage pins. Ask about pest control. Read online reviews. Go to Zillow. What else? Maybe now would be a good place to offer some etiquette tips. If you live in apartment, please do your neighbors a favor. Use some fucking headphones for your loud music. Don’t play the guitar. I mean, ever. You suck at guitar, you’re never going to be famous, and nobody wants to hear you play 80s hairband songs all day. If you plan on fucking, move your bed so the headboard doesn’t slap against the wall. Please clean up your dog’s shit, and also please train it so we don’t have to listen to yapping or whining when you’re at work. Finally, don’t get drunk and sing Christmas carols in the stairwell. I’ll shove you down the steps and tell the paramedics you fell. Happy holidays. Oh, wait. The holidays are over. That’s not good…