Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens . . .

Bright shiny clean kitchen and walls free of push-pins
Brown paper moving boxes tied up with string
Dirty Artie's moving day is one of my favorite things.

Even now, three years later, the thought of Dirty Artie's moving day still causes me to spontaneously burst into song.  No more bills paid 3 months late, no more nauseating after-shave (I would have to either close the door to the bathroom or leave the living room entirely right after he put it on), and no more filth in the next bedroom!  Of course, moving out (which I am clearly an expert in) takes some logistical prowess, so the days leading up to Dirty Artie's move weren't without strife.

As you know, Artie had two TVs in the living room and one in his bedroom.  Each one of those TVs had a cable box. Andrea, who was moving from the little room to Artie's room, had decided to keep the cable box in there.  Neither of us saw any reason to have two TVs or two cable boxes in the living room.  More than a week before Artie's move out date, in response to him about something unrelated, I also mentioned that we needed to switch over the names on the cable and electric bills.  Andrea and I, however, were unwilling to switch either of these things into our names until Artie took care of the overdue electric bill and got rid of and canceled the extra cable box.  I worded it a little more diplomatically than that, but I was very clear.

Fast-forward one week, to the Thursday before moving day.  Artie comes up to me at 11:30 at night in the living room with the cable company form saying that all I needed to do was sign the form switching the account into my name and call the cable company and arrange a pick-up of the cable box and they would take it away.  I was not amused.  I said that I would not sign the form until the cable box was gone, that's what I told him last week.  He looked at me funny and said, "You can't make one simple phone call?"  I replied, "Why can't you?"  He replied that he's never around, which is a valid reason why it might be difficult for him to be home for the cable guy, but not a reasonable explanation as to why this was becoming my problem.  Also, we had a doorman, or he could have asked me earlier if I could be around for the pickup, or he could have taken it to Time Warner himself.  In fact, there are many different paths he could have chosen that did not involve passing the buck . . . and I basically told him as much.  Eventually I told him that he could sign the form now, before he moved, and leave it with us.  I would then sign it and mail it in when the cable box got picked up.  As he protested, I said, "It's your cable box and your  responsibility."  He said "fine, do what you want."

I was sure, even after being firmly bitchy, that I was going to end up having to take care of it anyway, but it gave me great pleasure to feel like I'd made Artie's irresponsibility HIS problem for once.  Old roommates running up the cable bill in your name because you never switched it over?  "Lost" cable box billed to Artie Evinton?  The possibilities for roommate revenge abound, but to my surprise, Artie got up early the next morning and dropped the box off at Time Warner on his way to work.  I then happily signed the form and sent it in.  It seems that I finally figured out the key to handling Dirty Artie . . . the last time I ever saw him.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Towels, or the Time I Was Kind of An Asshole

Artie's grossness and lack of consideration continued on to the point where I ceased calling him by his name and only called him Dity Artie, or the Garbage Man.  He left dirty dishes all over the kitchen for weeks.  He clipped his toenails in the living room while I was eating dinner.  He slept on his bed without sheets for two solid weeks.  The piles of garbage in his room remained steadfastly in place.  Bills were never, ever, paid on-time.

For my part, I was having a pretty stressful year.  I'd just started teaching high school, and was absolutely in over my head.  My general craziness was part first year teacher syndrome, part the really difficult population I had no ability to deal with (18 year old ninth graders, functionally illiterate in Spanish and speaking no English), and part my incompetent, bullying, sexually inappropriate assistant principal.  In the midst of all this work madness, which once made me cry so hard on the subway that a stranger offered me a kleenex, I would come home to a filthy apartment.  I've mentioned before that I am absolutely not the cleanest person ever.  If you came over to my house right now you might be a little grossed out, but the thing is that I live by myself.  There's no one else here who might be bothered by the fact that my kitchen floor needs a good scrubbing, and I'm the only one to blame for the dirt in the bathroom sink.  When you have roommates you have to consider that they might not want to be the only one who ever cleans a bathroom used by three people.  We actually had a cleaning schedule when Brandon lived with us, but it had somehow been abandoned when Andrea moved in.

But I digress, I had a story to tell here.  A story about cleaning, and towels, and the possibility that I'm the subject of someone else's jackass roommate story.  I've mentioned before that we had an awesome roofdeck, perfect for parties.  I decided to have a bunch of people over at the beginning of June, right when it really started to get warm, and also, not coincidentally, when both of my roommates were scheduled to be out of town.  It just seemed easier to have a gaggle of friends running in and out to get beer and go to the bathroom without having to worry about what Andrea and Artie were up to.  

An awesome view by day; even better at night.

Before the party I cleaned the entire apartment, since no one else ever did.  There had been two gross, dirty, towels on the back of the door of our bathroom for at least six months.  Since they hadn't moved, been changed or washed in that time period I assumed that they had belonged to Brandon the Bartender.   Cleaning the bathroom for the party, I finally decided that I'd had enough of the gross towels and threw them away.  Andrea and I both kept our towels in our rooms, and Artie had two on the towel rack.  These back-of-the-door towels were actually stiff from God knows what (dirt?  mold?) and I was embarrassed to have people over while they were hanging from (and frequently falling off of) the bathroom door.

Flash forward to the next day.  Artie is home.  He has noticed that the towels are missing.  He is peeved because they were apparently his towels.  A bit of a confrontation ensues:

Artie:  I noticed that the towels from the bathroom were in the kitchen trash this morning.
Me:  Oh yeah, I was trying to clean up for the party.
Artie:  Well, the thing is that they were mine.
Me:  Really?  I thought they were Brandon's since they haven't moved from the back of the door in six months.  I've been meaning to do something about them for a while, but finally got around to it yesterday.
Artie:  No, actually they were mine.
Me:  I'm sorry.  Since they were so dirty, and stiff, and fell on the floor almost every time someone went in and out of the bathroom, I assumed they didn't belong to anyone.
Artie:  Well, I'm not sure what I'm going to do now without those towels.
Me:  Yeah, I'm sorry.  I thought that those other towels hanging on the rack were yours.  You know, I'm planning on washing my towels today, I'd be happy to throw yours in with mine, since I accidentally put them in the trash.
Artie:  I don't think I really want to use them again since they've been in the kitchen trash can.  It's a little gross.  I guess I'll have to buy new ones.
Me:  That's a shame.  Let me know if you change your mind before I put my laundry in.

End Scene.  So the man who lives in garbage, with piles of newspapers, clothes, and take-out cartons taking up half his bedroom is skeeved out by the fact that his towels, with six months of his body dirt on them, have been in the kitchen trash can?  Is there something more offensive about the use of tide after a towel has been in with the coffee grinds and beer bottles than sleeping on your bed without sheets for weeks in a row?   I guess on the surface one roommate throwing away another's towels IS an asshole thing to do, but considering the situation, does it make me a jackass that I only feel a little tiny bit guilty and am actually happy that he had to buy non-disgusting towels? 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

And the door revolves again . . .

After last week's break for a little rumination, reflection, and revelry (albeit abbreviated as a result of whatever illness I caught from the germy little monsters I teach), we're picking up where we left off with Dirty Artie and Brandon the Bartender.  If you hadn't already figured it out, I far preferred Brandon to Artie as far as roommates went, but Brandon, unfortunately for me, would be the next one to move on to bigger and better things.  He got signed on by a band and they went on tour and he was gone.  He left a check for the December rent and his parents came to pick up his stuff and fully move him out.  Artie and I were just left to find ourselves a new roommate.

While I was living in SoHo I found new roommates twice through craigslist.  I'd also by now found two apartments of my own through craigslist and was becoming a bit of a connoisseur.  Artie offered to take care of the craigslist ad since he still had one from the time he'd found me and it would be easy to edit for the new open room.  I was overloaded with teaching and graduate school and more than happy to pass the buck on this one.  Clearly, I had not learned the most important lesson from the cable bill scenario -- Artie does not think like the rest of us.

In passing one day, Artie asked if I was free on Wednesday evening to meet people interested in the apartment.  I was totally fine with it, and Artie said he'd start scheduling appointments.  By the time Wednesday rolled around, I hadn't heard anything from Artie, and with our completely different schedules, we rarely saw eachother around the apartment.  After running around all day teaching and attending an early class, I flew in the door to our apartment and ran to check my e-mail to see if Artie had sent any messages about who was coming when.  Nope.  Nothing.

I started to relax, slipping on my slippers and ripping off my sweater to accommodate our typically overheated New York apartment, when the doorbell rang.  I answered, and a nice, blond girl about my age put out her hand with a smile and said "Hi.  I'm Jennifer."  I looked at her a little quizzically and she added, "I'm here to look at the room . . . "  Ahh.  

It turned out that Artie had made appointments with prospective roommates, he just hadn't bothered to tell me about them, nor had he bothered to get home from work before they started happening.  So there I stood, by myself, in my work pants and a camisole, showing off our third room, a converted room made out of half of the living room (a fact that Artie neglected to mention in the ad), to more than twenty people between the hours of 6:00 and 9:00.  At some point in the middle, Artie got home from work.  He was more of a hazard than a help, though, not picking up on social cues that people were ready to leave, and most famously sitting with his arms behind his head on the couch and announcing after I complained about the heat, "Well I never get hot in here," with large-scale, full-on sweat-stains in both armpits on full display.

Finally at 9:00, in a lull that was unfortunately not the end of the stream of people, I told Artie that I couldn't do it anymore and I had work to do.  I had a project due the next day, and I was going to go in my room to work on it.  If any of the last five people seemed really great and really interested, he could knock on my door and I would meet them.  He did.  Five times.  He seemed to struggle with determining importance . . . 

At 10:30, when the last person finally cycled through, Artie wanted to debrief.  I was pushed to my limit and, as it frequently happened with Artie, lost my cool.   I couldn't discuss which people we liked at that moment because I had a project to work on, and had wasted half my night meeting people who I would have preferred to never have met (like smokers, free-lancers, and 19 year old NYU students), and others who, given all the facts (like that the open room had no real window and was made of plywood) never would have come out in the first place.  I was done.  We could talk about it the next day or through e-mail, but I had no more time to give this particular endeavor.  Artie, for his part, seemed somewhat mystified that I might not enjoy meeting twenty-five strangers in my living room.
Eventually, we settled on Andrea, who turned out to be my ally in combating Artie's insanity and happily moved into this little room until we were free of Artie and his garbage and she rotated into his room.  Andrea is my longest lasting roommate relationship:  December 2006 - August 2008, which, considering the crazies I seem to attract, is saying a lot about Andrea and her general awesomeness (even if she seemed physically incapable of emptying the dishwasher . . .hey, nobody's perfect).

Everyone's favorite part of the room, the window into the living room!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

An Ending and A Beginning

Eleven months ago I decided to start this blog for one reason.  It happened one year ago tomorrow.  My roommate and I had a normal roommate disagreement -- voices were raised and doors were slammed.  We were frustrated with eachother and were both having trouble understanding where the other one was coming from, when she quite literally snapped.  Not in the "laugh about it later" kind of way that any one of us might finally lose our patience and lash out, but in the violent, breaking the law and making the apartment unsafe for me to live in kind of way.  With the help of some fantastic friends, I moved out within 36 hours, and my life as a roommate ended.

I've always found writing cathartic, as any of you who've received an e-mail missive detailing some ridiculous thing that's happened to me already know.  When I started this blog, it was the story of that crazy roommate that I really wanted to tell, but decided that organizing things chronologically made more sense.  And honestly, who doesn't love a good story about a landlady making moonshine in her tenant's kitchen?  But what's funny is that, now, I'm somewhat reluctant to tell the truly crazy roommate story.  Maybe it's related to the little fear in the pit of my stomach I have that I'll run into her on the street sometime.  Maybe it's that, unlike bathing in a bucket, there's nothing funny about filing a police report.  I'll probably still write about it eventually, but it'll have to wait in line.  I've got a few more Dirty Artie stories and of course you'll all have to be introduced to Bahrry with an "H" and his two hour long baths.

So tomorrow, in honor of one full year of living lavishly alone, I'll be celebrating at at least one happy hour.  My New Yorker friends, come on out and lift a glass to all the fantastic friends who helped me one year ago, by giving me a place to stay, being my bodyguard, helping me pack (or really, doing all of the packing while I spun around in circles trying to get my bearings), helping the movers so I didn't have to pay as much, making me dinner and inviting me over for cake so I wouldn't have to be alone, proof-reading e-mails and checking on the landlord-tenant laws in New York State, calling to check-in, and even encouraging me to write this blog.  You're the best!