Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Cable Guy

On a rainy Thursday, much like this one, sometime in the middle of November about four years ago, I got home from a long day of teaching and grad school to find that our cable wasn't working.  I tried the second television (remember, Dirty Artie needed to be able to access multiple football games at once, in the same room), but alas, it wasn't working either.  At first I thought the problem might be related to the storm.  There was an announcement on the screen imploring the watcher to call the cable company to get to the bottom of the problem, so I did.  After the inevitable 30 minutes on hold hearing how "Time Warner appreciates your business.  Your call is very important to us and one of our representatives will be with you shortly," I finally got an answer -- no one had paid the bill since June and thus had managed to rack up more than $600 worth of charges.  I would have turned off our cable too.

You might be asking yourself, has does one manage to become that delinquent?  First of all, with the three different cable boxes and the internet, our bill was pretty substantial to begin with, multiply that by five and you've got quite the bill.  How Dirty Artie managed to forget to pay the bill in his name, that came to the apartment addressed to him every month, we'll never know.  For my part, it did occur to me that I hadn't paid any bills since moving in.  No one had asked me for them, and while I was suspicious, I rationalized away any thoughts of the bills by thinking that I'd moved in at the end of August, making me responsible for September bills that would come in October and be due in November.  I mean, no one likes paying bills, so it's pretty easy to pretend they don't exist.

Back to my phone conversation with the Time Warner Customer Service Representative, who was, despite working for Time Warner, perfectly pleasant and actually helpful.  I explained to her that I'd just moved in, the bulk of the cost wasn't mine, but I'd had a long week and really just wanted to watch "Grey's Anatomy."  She told me the minimum payment needed to turn the cable back on, and I charged about $350 to my credit card.  Then I wrote a note.  I tried to be nice.  I said that "somehow" we hadn't paid the bill in awhile and our cable had been turned off.  I calculated exactly what each of the three of us owed, and then what each of them owed me for taking care of the problem.  I expected to see checks on the board the next day.  If it were me, I would have been really embarrassed that my roommate had had to clean up my mess.  Brandon the Bartender delivered and wrote out a check as soon as he saw me.  Dirty Artie was another story.

I think one of the reasons why I was constantly frustrated with Dirty Artie was that I assumed he would act like a considerate human being about things, but instead he was as dense as a doorknob about almost everything.  Friday came and went with no check from Dirty Artie, no apology.  I got angrier.  He could watch one of his three televisions at any time because I fixed his mess.  The cable company could cut off the cable if we didn't pay, but what could I do if he didn't pay me?

Saturday morning, after Dirty Artie woke me up late Friday night by blasting the aforementioned T.V. that I paid for, I decided to remove the remote controls.  It wasn't exactly cutting off the cable, but it would be irritating and make the cable less easy to use.  I went to the gym and the grocery store, and came back to find Dirty Artie watching T.V. and using the remote from his bedroom!  Curses.  My plan was foiled.

At this point, I had to stop being passive aggressive and just confront the oaf.  I steeled my resolve and asked him if he'd seen my note about the cable bill.  He said he had, and "Oh yeah, thanks for taking care of that."  Hmm, shouldn't we be more concerned about the time, effort and money that it took for our roommate to clean up our mess?  
         "So, do you think you could pay me back?  It's a lot of money and I can't really afford to cover you," I say to the pajama-clad couch potato lying inert on the brown and orange flowered frat couch.
         "Well, my checkbook is at work, so I can get that for you next week," he says as he stares glassy-eyed at the pre-game coverage of some college football game.  I'm pretty sure at this point there was actual steam coming out of my ears.  I'm sure that he would have seen a better show if he'd looked in my direction.
          "If you're not going to pay for the cable now," I say, my voice careening into a bit of an angry shout, "then I would prefer that you not watch the TV.  I spent the good part of an hour and more than $300 fixing this mess so that I could watch TV, so as far as I'm concerned anyone who hasn't paid me back should treat the TV as if the cable company has cut it off."  Artie looks at me with this face of dawning recognition, like it just occurred to him that his inability to pay the cable bill for five months might have inconvenienced me.  He got up immediately, put on a more respectable pair of pants, and went to the ATM.  I was happily reimbursed in less than twenty minutes, and Artie once again had three remote controls at his disposal.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Boys: Dirty Artie and Brandon the Bartender

Let me introduce you to my new roommates:  Dirty Artie and Brandon the Bartender.  I'd met Dirty Artie when I first came to see the place, but Brandon the Bartender was out so I actually didn't meet him until after I moved in.  During the week I rarely saw either one of them.  Dirty Artie was a paralegal at a corporate firm in midtown and basically made his own hours, usually leaving our place around 10:30 am and getting back almost twelve hours later.  Brandon the Bartender and I worked completely opposite hours -- I would run into Brandon as he got home in the morning when I was getting ready for school.  He generally got back up around dinner time.  The funniest thing about Brandon is that when he got home from work he would smoke a little pot in his bedroom, which was the converted room in half of the living room right off the kitchen.  Since he worked nights, though, I would generally be in the kitchen getting a cup of coffee in my bathroom when the smoke wafted under the door.  Kind of ridiculous.

Dirty Artie was also a little ridiculous, but not in a silly, "isn't it funny that I'm going to teach eighth graders in a hour and you're smoking pot?" kind of way, but in a "you belong on an episode of 'Hoarders'" way.  Dirty Artie's room was the biggest of three, but he didn't have much to show for it.  His bed was pushed over, almost all the way to closet, leaving a space almost as large as my old bedroom (10' x 7') between the bed and the window.  He could have fit a couch and entertainment center over there, or a nice desk and workstation, but no --  Dirty Artie had piles and piles of garbage.  I'm not joking, he literally lived in garbage.  There were also piles of dirty clothes and old newspapers.  All of the piles reached the height of his bed and there wasn't even a way to reach the window (unlike most self-respecting hoarders, Artie hadn't managed to make any little pathways through the mess).

Now, God knows I am not the neatest person.  I have a relatively high threshold for dirt.  At the moment there is a half-unpacked backpack on my floor that I keep stepping over rather than picking up and my kitchen floor could definitely use a good mopping, but seriously, leaving garbage on your floor, and then sleeping there?  Sober?  And, this is the kicker, chivalrously offering up your bed to your mom and sister when they come to visit and taking the couch . . . without even touching the piles and piles of clutter, newspapers, drycleaning, and old take-out containers?  Disgusting.  It never occurred to me to take pictures, but I did take people on a tour of the filth when they came to visit just so I'd have corroboration for my story.  I am not exaggerating, his room kinda looked like this, but with less floor space and more actual garbage:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Frat House

After the terrifying events of moving out of my SoHo apartment, I was overjoyed as I helped the movers shuttle my stuff off of the elevator in my new building.  As I helped them bring boxes into my new room, complete with a door that opened all the way and a full on closet with doors, I couldn't help but be relieved and excited.  Once everything was in and the movers were paid, I realized I was starving, and headed out to grab some dinner.

Back in the apartment with my grub, I settled down to watch some TV.  Oddly, the TV was on, but no one was in the apartment.  As I looked around, wondering whether I should change the channel, possibly rocking the boat on my first day in the apartment, I noticed some odd things about the living room.  First of all, there were two TVs -- the big one that was left on by the mystery roommate while I was out, and a small one next to it.  They both had cable boxes.  I was sagging into a 20+ year old couch with orange and brown flowers on it.  The other items of furniture in the room consisted of an armchair, and a table with two chairs, all of which were made of plastic, a small coffee table, and a CD/DVD tower.  I was dumbfounded.  I had no memory of seeing any of this when I'd come to visit.

It appears that, in my excitement over the size of the apartment, the dishwasher, and the roofdeck, I'd neglected to notice that I was moving into an apartment decorated by overgrown frat boys.  Just as the full weight of the football banners push-pinned to the wall and the cardboard cutouts of football players started to hit me, Artie (who will quickly be rechristened "Dirty Artie"), walks in the door.  We exchange pleasantries about my move, and he mentions that he went out to get food, but had left the TV on because he was going to watch some pre-season football.  And so it begins . . . 

 My Room

 My brother sitting on the new couch.  Sadly I don't have pictures of the orange and brown flowered one.  You can see some of the plastic furniture and the one framed piece of art -- a picture of an olive doing the backstroke in a martini glass.

 I was opening graduation gifts when this picture was taken.  You can see one of the TVs, the DVD tower, and a taped-up magazine article on the bathroom door.


On the amazing roofdeck.  Please note the Empire State Building in the background.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Parking in SoHo

After a year of living in my little shoebox apartment in SoHo, it was time to move on.  By this point I'd realized that I could get something bigger and cheaper, in an area where I could actually afford to eat and drink.  I settled on the East Village and started planning my move amidst finishing up my thesis for grad school, and starting my student teaching.  I scheduled the movers for 12:00 noon and, having turned in the thesis the day before, finished up the packing just in time for them to get there.  Unfortunately, they were not on time.  They weren't even a little late -- they didn't get there until 3:30!  They told me some sob story about getting a couch stuck in the stairwell of a fifth floor walk-up, and how it took forever to figure out how to get it out.  At this point, on the Friday before Labor Day of 2006, almost four years ago to the day, there was absolutely no parking for the van anywhere near my apartment.  They parked around the corner and started to bring stuff down the stairs (luckily only the third floor with a very wide staircase) as I waited on the street guarding my stuff/scouting for a parking spot.

Just a few buildings down there is a fire-hydrant spot, which I thought would be perfect, except that someone else was already using it to idle in.  When the movers got toward the end of bringing my stuff down the stairs, they told me it would probably add an extra hour to the move to have to bring it all down the street.  At this point, since I was paying by the hour, I went to talk to the man in the car.  He was very nice, but explained to me that he was waiting for some friends from Europe who were shopping and they'd planned to meet back at the car.  He thought they would be back soon, but, being from Europe, they didn't have working cell phones so he had no way of contacting them.  He said that, when they came back, he would let me know and wait in the car until the truck got there.  I went back to stalking for parking spots.

I should mention that my movers were not professional movers.  I found them on craigslist and had hired a guy just to carry my stuff up the stairs when I first moved to the city.  He was great, so I went back to them this time, but went with two men and a van.  They were a white guy with a huge afro, who sounded stoned but carried boxes like a sober person, and his wiry hipster friend who appeared to be in charge.

The wiry hipster had instructed me to jump on any parking spot I saw and stand in it until they could go get the truck, which I did.  Right as they made the last trip up to my apartment, a spot opened up right across the street.  I ran and stood in it, much to the chagrin of other people circling for spots.  Some people just glowered, one woman rolled down her window and asked what I was doing.  She was angry, but moved on.  The next guy who stopped started to pull into the spot.  The movers, who were at this point back down on the sidewalk took notice and started to cross the street.  The driver yelled at me to move out the window; I tried to explain why I was there -- that I was moving and that my stuff was piled on the sidewalk and that my movers were going to get the truck, how all of this would cost me a lot more money if I couldn't park there.  Afro guy tried to reason with the driver, who instead of answering slammed on the gas and tried to run me over.

Yes, indeed, this jackass man thought that the best way to get his way would be to simply kill me.  As the car started to come at me I screamed and the wiry hipster JUMPED ON THE HOOD OF THE CAR.  He slid across shouting something to the effect of "What the fuck is wrong with you?  You thought you could fucking run over a fucking girl to fucking get your way?"  Afro guy is shaking his head in disbelief saying profound things like, "Man, this is really heavy," and I'm shaking with rage.  I'm more angry that he won the parking spot (by now I've moved out of the line of fire) than incensed that he tried to run me over.  I yell, "What the fuck were you thinking?  You fucking asshole!  I'm moving today and all of my worldly possessions are on the sidewalk over there and you think YOU are more deserving of this parking spot?"  To which he replied by pointing to a nearby building and saying, "This is my house and I have luggage to take inside."  His luggage consisted of one rolling suitcase.  

Luckily, while all of this was going on, another neighbor with a car had come outside and said that he was leaving and we could have his spot.  Wiry hipster started barking orders.  To Afro guy:  "Stay here with her and don't let anyone, for any reason take this spot."  To me:  "Go back across the street and watch your stuff."  He then sprinted down the street in the direction of the truck.  He came back a few minutes later, and without further incident we loaded up my stuff and trekked over the East Village, and I said "Good Riddance" to SoHo snobbery.