Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bahrry and Smoking

Ahh, Bahrry.  After posting my last entry, a friend excitedly said, "I'm so excited that your blog has reached the era of Bahrry!" and I have to say, I am too.  Bahrry was, as you'll all soon discover, by far my most ridiculous roommate (even compared to the one who caused me bodily injury).  So today we'll start with our first topic of conversation:  Bahrry and Smoking.

As you may remember, Bahrry sent me an e-mail before I moved in, but after I'd been offered the apartment, with a list of various things to be aware of about the apartment.  One of those little things was the fact that Bahrry "smoked out the window near [his] desk at times."  I replied that I was fine with that as long as it didn't smell up the apartment.  I wasn't anticipating there being too much of a problem, given how large the apartment was.  I've included a schematic to illustrate how easy it would be to keep smoke contained in this lovely brownstone floor-through, if one chose to be considerate:

Now that you're fully acquainted with our layout, the story may begin.  The day after I moved in, a Monday, I spent the day teaching summer school and grabbed some take-out for dinner.  It was a beautiful July evening -- not too much humidity, sunny, and clear.  I was eating dinner in the living room, watching TV and taking in the sunset (we could see the Statue of Liberty!) when Bahrry arrived home from work.  He sat right down at his desk and lit up a cigarette.  He made no attempt to lean even close to the window, nor did he seem to care that I was eating just feet away from him.  I didn't know what to do with myself.  I was stunned (not to mention nauseated), so I just poked around at my food, declared myself finished, and retreated to my room.

Most of the rest of my night was spent unpacking and debating what to do about Bahrry and the smoking.  I knew that I needed to be direct about it, but I really hate being confrontational and I didn't really want to start my second day in the apartment making a rule about something.  On the other hand, I took Bahrry at his word when he said he "smoked out the window at times," and I felt that he should have stuck with that.  I never would have moved in had he said "I smoke in the living room regardless of whether there are non-smoking roommates eating dinner present."

Later that night Bahrry decided to wash dishes (more on how rarely that happened later).  Apparently, smoking is something one can do while washing dishes.  Who knew?  In fact, it's practically essential to the dish-cleaning process, seeing that the smoke wafted into my room for a good twenty minutes . . . even after I closed the door.  I resolved to talk to Bahrry . . .tomorrow.

Tomorrow came and I didn't feel any more comfortable talking to Bahrry about the smoking, but I also didn't really want to have to keep just trying to avoid the smoke.  So I went and talked to him.  I asked nicely if he could try to keep the smoke actually out the window because I could smell it in my room and it really bothered me so I'd appreciate it if he made an effort to keep others from smelling it.  Later I found a scarf at the crack in my door, which Bahrry had, somewhat considerately, put there so that the smoke wouldn't seep in through the crack under the door.  Apparently actually blowing the smoke out the window or going outside was too difficult for him.

A couple of days later I was in my room with the door open and I thought I smelled smoke.  At first I thought I might be crazy, but I went to investigate and Bahrry was just sitting in the living room smoking.  This time I just went right up to Bahrry and confronted him:  "We need to talk about the smoking.  When you e-mailed me and told me that you 'sometimes smoke out the window by your desk' I was OK with that because I thought you meant sometimes when the weather was bad, and that all the smoke went out the window.  Since I've been here you've smoked in the kitchen, in the living room while I was eating dinner, and now I can smell it all the way down the hall in my room.  If you'd been honest with me, we wouldn't be having this conversation because I wouldn't have moved in here.  Smoking is a deal breaker for me, so I don't know what we're going to have to do, but I don't want to have to smell it anymore."

Bahrry was a bit taken aback.  I really don't think he thought I had it in me to be assertive about it.  Bahrry, for all of his faults, wasn't stupid or unaware, he just didn't give a shit.  The look on his face when I told him that "we" needed to find a solution to the smoke problem was not one of bewilderment like those I used to get from Dirty Artie when problems arose, but one of surprise, like, "No one has ever called me out on being such a dick before.  Now I don't know what to do with myself."  What he did do was mutter something about how he didn't know I could smell it my area while halfheartedly opening the window a smidge more.

I left for Tajikistan and Turkey the day after this smoking discussion.  I'm sure Bahrry spent those three weeks I was gone smoking up a storm.  When I got back it was marginally better.  When I wasn't in the living room he would still smoke in there, but come back to my door and put the scarf in the crack.  When I was in the living room he found other places to smoke, like the fire-escape.  He did have one funny squirmy moment about the smoking:  

We were having a bit of hurricane-related rain when Bahrry came home from work to find me in the living room.  He sat on the couch for a while and tried to carry on a conversation, but kept looking out the window at the gale-force wind.  Then he'd get up and pace for a little, all the while keeping an eye on the weather.  I could tell he needed to smoke -- he was practically shaking for a fix.  Eventually he paced himself right out of the room to go smoke in the stairwell.  

Well, that's what you get for being a jackass.  As a wise friend told me at the time, "situations like this are the exact moments that the 'sometimes in the house' standard is made for:  hurricanes . . . blizzards . . . riots . . . " 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Making a Good First Impression

I don't know about you all, but I always strive to make a good first impression -- whether it be with new roommates, a new job, or on a date.  I don't want to bring out the inner crazy until I'm sure people will find my quirks charming and endearing :)  Every time I got new roommates, I proceeded with caution, not letting them in on my visceral hatred of bananas or my weird dislike of dishes in the sink until we were on firmer footing.

Bahrry and Dan apparently didn't think about how important first impressions can be.  I was scheduled to move in on a Sunday, in the mid-afternoon.  After waiting four hours for my absurdly late movers (being Ukrainian, they stopped to take a lunch break after another move ran long), spending most of that time playing Rock Band with poor Dave, who was waiting to move his stuff from the fake room into the one I was vacating, I finally made it to Park Slope around 6:00.  Barry and Dan had planned to be there when I moved in, but because I was so late they had had to leave for a prior engagement.  No matter -- I had the keys and we (by "we" I mean the movers) got things started.

The movers, who now that they were actually there were extremely fast, brought all of my worldly possessions up to my new fourth floor walkup as I did little more than direct traffic.  Things were going on swimmingly when a middle aged woman appeared at the door.  "Who's moving in here?" she asked.
           "I am.  I'm Margaret.  Nice to meet you," I said as I extended my hand.
            Ignoring my hand she replied, "Well I'm the landlord and I didn't know you were coming," turning on her heels and stomping back down the stairs.  Meanwhile, one of my movers is carrying my bed up on his back.

My heart sunk.  What did she mean she didn't know I was coming?  I knew I wasn't on the lease, but I'd done similar things so many times in my three years in the city that it hadn't really occurred to me that that could be a problem.  I texted the boys in a panic.  They apologized and reassured me that they'd fix it and explain the situation to me when they got home.  I was not reassured.  The movers, who I have just paid $300, have just left.  I'm completely moved in whether the landlady likes it or not.

I try to start unpacking as the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach grows.  Then there's a knock on the door.  It's the landlady's husband.  I open the door and explain that I had no idea that they didn't know I was coming.  I'm a teacher with excellent credit.  I'm a really good tenant, I promise!  I smiled a lot and tried not to let my voice quaver.  He was much more polite than his wife, saying things like, "Don't worry, this will all turn out fine."

When Bahrry and Dan finally got home, they explained the whole situation to me.  Before they moved in in March, the apartment had been vacant for months.  At some point the landlady, while her husband was out of the country, had been persuaded by her broker to lower the rent to try to fill the place.  Bahrry and Dan signed the lease, including a clause that said that someone off the lease could fill the third room, and moved in while the landlord was still out of town.  When he got back and found out what happened, he was pissed and had been trying to figure out a way to raise the rent ever since.  A friend of Bahrry and Dan's who'd been subletting before me was subjected to similar scrutiny.  She was given a free pass because she was just there temporarily.  Apparently Bahrry and Dan had chosen not to tell me about this little issue because they were "sure it was going to be fine."

Lovely.  Not only have my new roommates started off our relationship with a lie of omission, but the landlords who live on the first floor hate me.  Oh, and it's possible that the rent might go up $600/month.  I also have not eaten anything all day and it's really hot.  I hate moving.

The boys go down to talk to the landlords, coming back an hour later with good news.  I'm being permitted to stay because the landlord thinks I'm "a real nice lady."  Glad that my sense of manners ended up being helpful.  Bahrry and Dan say it was worth a little abuse from the landlords to get what they wanted.  Dan tells me later that it really wasn't so bad because the landlords really focused their wrath more on Bahrry, since they hate Bahrry, which, in hindsight, is not that surprising.  Bahrry is a piss-ant, and one of the most contrary and aggravating people I have ever met.  Stayed turned for posts devoted solely to different facets of Bahrry:  Bahrry and Smoking, Bahrry and Cleaning, Bahrry and Noise, Bahrry and the Bathroom, Bahrry and Sex, Bahrry and Bills, Bahrry and The Letter, and Bahrry Be Gone.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Park Slope Bound

As I got ready to relocate to Park Slope, I also tried to prepare myself to be a different kind of roommate.  I realized that part of my problems with Dirty Artie had stemmed from the fact that I let things bother me for a long time without saying anything about them.  Bottled-up, all those little things that bothered me would eventually explode or manifest themselves in ridiculous passive-agressivity (see Towels, or the Time I was Kind of an Asshole for an example).  I hoped that I'd have a better roommate experience if I was just honest and upfront about what bothered me when it bothered me.  Bahhry and Dan, apparently, did not get the memo about how it was time to be grown-ups.

Before I moved in to the apartment, Bahrry sent me a kind of odd e-mail.  The content wasn't too weird, it was just weird that he decided to share these things with me after he and Dan had already offered me the apartment.  It made me feel a little like they were hiding something, but at this point it was already July 16th and I couldn't handle looking for another place.  Nothing they said seemed too extreme, except that Bahhry smoked, but since there was absolutely no evidence of the smell when I went to look at the apartment, his story that it was an occasional thing checked-out.  More on how wrong I was about that later.  Brandon the Bartender had occasionally smoked out the window when we lived together as well, and it was never a problem.  In the spirit of being honest, I was exceedingly clear about how I felt and tried to give very detailed answers the questions:

  • do you currently have someone who plans on frequently co-habitating, i.e., bf or gf?  I don't have a boyfriend at the moment.  If I were to acquire one at some point, I'm very respectful about others' space.  Also, I'm lame on "school-nights" so I usually, boyfriend or not, don't have people over during the week.
  • i do at times smoke out the window near my desk (though i should stop at $10 pack!)...so as long as u can live with that  As long as the living room doesn't smell like smoke (which it didn't when I was there) I'd be fine with that.  I had a roommate a while ago who did that and it never caused any problems.
  • we are usually up fairly late and a tv or music at reasonable levels is common (though obvious consideration will be given, just don't want someone annoyed every night)  I go to bed usually between 10 and 11, but generally read or watch a movie on my computer for a while after turning in.  The room seems fairly isolated in regards to the living room, and I'm a really heavy sleeper, so it shouldn't be a problem.  My past two rooms have shared a wall with the living room and I've only had noise problems with one roommate, who is quite possibly the loudest person alive and also maybe deaf.  I'm sort of used to my early bedtime and the idea that normal people are still awake and moving about.
  • the room does not have a "true" window looking out to a view...it is a large casement window into a skylit lightwell  I've come to terms with the window-ish quality. 
  • the room does have shared (but closed) doors to the adjacent rooms  Fine by me.  If you really wanted to get in, you could come through the hallway :)
  • additional storage in the hall closet directly across from your room is available  Excellent.  I definitely have a suitcase that could find a good home there.
  • there is only 1 bathroom...so if u have an earlier morning schedule that is preferred (we usually occupy 7:15-8:15)  That works really well for me too . . . since I've usually already left the house by 7:15.  Right now I get up 6:00, although with the reduced commute it will likely be more like 6:15.  The very, very latest I'll be in the bathroom on a workday is 6:45.  If I'm not working I certainly won't be in there before 8:15 :)
Bahrry wrote back that everything sounded great.  We set up a time for me to drop off the deposit and pick up the keys.  The apartment still looked lovely, although I could have done without the flat-screen TV blocking the view out the fabulous bay window.  I let them know when I would be moving in, and they said they'd be around.  Everything seemed perfect.  Things were finally falling into place.

I recognize that this might be the most boring blog post ever, but I promise you're all in for some crazy stories.  The four months I lived with Bahrry and Dan were quite possibly the most ridiculous four months of my life.  This post is really just the background and set up for everything that happened later.  In Bahrry (whose real name is in fact a middle-aged man's name with a rogue "h" in it) I could not have found a more absurd roommate, or a better caricature of a person to write about.  You are soon in for quite a treat.  Just be patient.

Original craigslist post (in lieu of pictures, since I never managed to take any):

Hi there!

If you have been eagerly awaiting a move into the Heart of Park Slope this summer then your search is finally over!

We have a Wonderful Medium-size Bedroom in our Graciously Charming & Comfortable 3BR Brownstone equally awaiting your arrival!

Available Immediately!..Showing Today! Saturday 7/12/08!

The Apartment: Large 1200sf floor-thru 4th floor walk-up (which means lots of real sunlight, no annoying drunken trampling from above, & no gym membership req'd)
- 3BR/1BA/Kitchen/Workspace/Hall Storage
- Beautiful original stained wood detailing throughout, large 3-bay windows w/ original wood shutters, fireplace w/ ornate mantel & pocketdoors in livingroom
- great refinished original wood floors throughout
- 10' ht. ceilings
- Fully furnished and appointed with WIFI, Cable TV/DVR/Gamesystems, & Large Plasma w/ Surround Sound perfect for the game or movie nights!
- Full Kitchen w/ plenty of storage, usable counterspace, new gas stove, and even a full stereo system (for your listening pleasure while you cook...and hopefully wash your dishes too!)

Location: Prime Park Slope, located on Union/6th Av. nestled perfectly between all the best in cultural/recreational/entertainment amenities, 2 blocks from Prospect Park,short walk to Museum, Botanical Gardens, Library... the apartment is accessible to both 7th Av. shopping/dining & 5th Av. nightlife...if its beverages you desire? Tea Lounge & Union Hall..what more to say? Food?...Park Slope Food Co-op (for the communist in you) or Union Market (for the uber-capitalist in you)
Trains - close 5min walk to B,Q,M,R,2,3...and 10 min walk to Atlantic for more trains and LIRR

The Room: Nice 12'-6" x 9'-6" room, w/ med size built-in closet w/two drawers below, ceiling fan w/ 3light fixture, full length mirror, added nook in addition to room dimension which comfortably fits a full upright dresser 3'-6" wide x 2'-6" deep,large light well window, room will easily fit a queen bed, nightstands, computer desk, bookshelves...the room comes with a 36" sony tv and xbox which you can keep in there and use or we can relocate it. Additional storage may be available in the hall closet directly across your door as well.

Us: 2 professional straight males in mid 20's-30 in architecture & finance. laid back and easy to get along with, fairly active w. busy schedules though still like to go out & have folks over at the house occasionally so we don't have a problem with folks over occasionally as long as its not an everyday party , we are both respectful and clean...and expect the same.

You: gainfully/legally employed w/ proof of income or verifiable assets (No Credit Check!), male or female of similar age group preferred,clean, responsible, no living pets (Pet Rock & Invisible ones - OK!), no hard drugs,someone who likes to have fun too...so no couch potatoes or total pot heads...we would like someone who is actually up for doing something occasionally rather than just breaking in the couch and breathing our air!...also we do enjoy having music or tv on rather late, though at respectful levels...so if you need dead silence for bed by 9pm, probably not the best idea.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


After the year of filth and frustration spent with Dirty Artie, living with Andrea and Dave was a breeze.  With three people living in a small space, we certainly stepped on eachother's toes from time to time -- drunken noise, dirty dishes, bathroom scuffles -- but for the most part we got along really well.  We hung out in the apartment, but certainly weren't best friends.  It was a pretty good deal, but after reverse commuting to my new job in South Brooklyn for just a few months, I knew I had to move when the lease was up in August.

I settled on Park Slope, a cute, fun neighborhood just 15 minutes from my school.  The buildings are beautiful, the rent is a lot cheaper than the East Village, and best of all most of my co-workers (whose company I really enjoy) live there too.  Then, of course, came the arduous task of finding a place (and roommates) who I liked.  I must have gone to see somewhere in the vicinity of thirty different apartments in three weeks at the end of June and beginning of July of 2008.  I went to some places that I didn't like, or the roommates seemed a little off, but most of the places had potential and just didn't work out.  It was really frustrating because I think I sounded cool enough on paper (28 year old teacher, likes to go out and have fun but doesn't bring the party home, spending August in Tajikistan so won't even be around after she moves in!) to invite over to check out the place, but then I'd get there and something wouldn't click.

Finally I had some luck.  I went to see a lovely three bedroom and really hit it off with one of the girls.  She was planning on spending the following summer backpacking around Central Asia and was totally jealous of my Tajikistan adventure.  I didn't get much of a chance to speak to the roommate, but she seemed really nice too.  I was definitely optimistic.  Then I got an e-mail from Shannon, the backpacking girl:  

Okay, I hope this isn’t weird. You came and visited our apartment last Sunday on 4th Street in Park Slope. We filled the room but I thought you were really cool, and my best friend Jill (she lives right down the street) has a room  available starting Aug 1. I told her that I had really liked you and thought that the two of you might get along well.

Apparently I can make new friends while trying to find an apartment.  I checked out Jill's spare room, and I liked it.  She was great and the apartment had a backyard, but a pretty ghetto kitchen.  I was definitely interested, but kept looking through craigslist in case it didn't work out.  

A few days later I found another place that I liked (interestingly enough it had the same floor plan as the first place) and the roommates seemed pretty nice.  They offered me the room and I told them I would give them an answer by the next day.  Then I got this e-mail the same day from Martha, the other roommate from apt #1 who I didn't speak to much on open house day:

I know we bumped you around to Jill (but we like her, and we liked you too). I don't know if you are still looking for a room for Aug 1, but our situation is drastically changed. Please let me know if you are still searching.

Cryptic and intriguing.  After a little investigating it turned out that their landlord and the landlord's real estate agent were trying to dick them around.  Shannon, Martha, and their old roommate had a lease.  Shannon and Martha wanted to sign a lease with a new person when that one ran out.  Like any normal people, they went on a hunt for a roommate.  When they found her and tried to get the new lease drawn up, the landlady told the real estate agent, who decided she was entitled to a broker's fee of two month's rent from each of the three rooms -- despite the fact that two of the girls ALREADY LIVED THERE and that she, the agent, had done nothing at all to get the third roommate into the apartment.  Not surprisingly, the third girl backed out and now they were scrambling . . . which is when they came back to me.

So, just to recap:  It's now July 15th.  I've been looking for apartments for three weeks.  I need to move before August 1st, when my lease ends, someone else moves into my East Village room, and I get on a plane to Tajikistan.  Two days ago I had no apartments and no prospects.  Now I have an offer on a beautiful apartment with some seemingly normal boys, an offer on a place I really liked with roommates I really liked that might cost me $2,000 in illegal fees, and a third place that the second place recommended to me that I didn't like as much but really liked the roommate and I have about 12 hours to figure out what to do.

My head was spinning and I had no idea how to make a decision.  I decided to e-mail the third place and see if it was still an option, since I hadn't heard definitely either way.  Jill's reply made my decision for me:

I am sorry not to have been able to get back to you before. As you mentioned, there are mysterious things going on with Shannon and Martha's apartment, and as a result, Shannon and I have been talking about the possibility of her moving in to my place. It has been a tough decision, but this evening we decided that we would do just that, which unfortunately means that my room is no longer available for August 1. This has caused a fair amount of trauma and drama, and I didn't want to extend any offers that I wasn't able to uphold in the event that a good friend needed a place to live. So, please make a choice based on your offers now, and I hope that you've found a place that you love!

This has all be kind of stressful and ridiculous, but it was really nice to meet you in the process. Again, my apologies for stretching out our decision-making process here, but Shannon and I have been talking all night to determine if and how this would work out. I'd love if you'd be interested in keeping in touch, and hope you have a great time working and relaxing in Tajikistan and Turkey next month.

And thus, my decision was made for me:  the beautiful apartment with the boys.  Jill's explanation of what happened was so nice and genuine that it really made me think that, despite the insanity that is the NYC housing market, normal, decent human beings do exist.  Then I moved in with Bahrry and Dan, and that shook my faith to the core.