Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Penultimate Post

Hello again.  Just dusting off the old blog.  Thought I might try, I don't know, being funny about my crazy roommates again.  It's only been four months.  Apparently some people update these things every day.  Who knew?  As the two year anniversary of the event that started it all looms, I thought it might be nice if I actually managed to share with you what the event actually was.  The big day was October 8th, 2009, so my goal is to have that post up on Saturday.  We'll see if I can do it.  I also will probably be drinking.  Not in sorrow, but in celebration of my freedom from roommates.  Come one, come all.

 But first, I have a story to tell.  When we last spoke, I'd just gotten back from a disappointing summer volunteering and cleaning in Costa Rica.  Yvette and my subletter Miranda had spent a rather uneventful six weeks living together.  I learned the words for chlorine (cloro) and disentangle (desenrollarse) in Spanish.  Miranda saved Yvette from the terrors of mice and met our man-sandal wearing landlord.  It was mid-August by the time Yvette and I started our (brief) tenure as roommates.

Now, up until the week of the fateful event, Yvette really only did some things that were weird or questionable.  To any roommate, in any situation, they would be oddities or irritants.  Given that I was planning on leaving when the lease was up in December, I tried not to let them get to me.  They also prove to be clues to what was to come.

The night I arrived back from Costa Rica was a great night.  I was so excited about my bed and waking up late and drinking coffee in my pajamas that really nothing could harsh my mellow.  I'd talked to Miranda about the timing, but somehow missed telling Yvette.  Ooops!  My bad!  Anyway, when I got back she didn't seem to mind not knowing but said, "Oh!  I wish I had known because I was planning on cleaning the bathroom for you!"  Now, anyone who has actually been in my bathroom knows that that particular household chore is not high on my list.  I assured her it was not a problem.

So Yvette is wandering around the apartment, doing her thing, while Miranda and I catch up on own summers.  At some point Yvette goes into the bathroom.  I can hear the water running and the curtain moving, so I assume she's taking a shower and don't think much of it.  I go back to chatting with Miranda (a native Spanish speaker), attempting to impress her with my new skills.  When Yvette comes out of the bathroom she's still fully dressed, clearly not showered, and carrying the shower curtain, the wastebasket, and the bathmat in her arms.  "Oh," she says, "These weren't yours, were they?  I decided to redo the bathroom."

Um, well, no.  That bathmat wasn't mine.  It was there when I moved in.  But what if it was?  Maybe, just maybe, I liked the bathroom like it was.  Maybe I'm partial to people including me in decisions about our joint space.  Maybe I don't like when people throw away stuff that's not theirs.  Maybe I think that putting down a white bathmat is the stupidest idea ever because it will get so dirty, so quickly that, even though we try to wash it once a week and own a washer-dryer it will never be brighter or less grimy than a wall in a subway station.

Beyond wishing she could have changed the bathroom before I got home, her schedule made no sense.  She worked for the city (something in the payroll department) and had normal city-worker hours, yet for days each week in August she would just appear from her room in her pajamas at 1:00 PM.  I wasn't back to work yet, so I'd had all these plans to get my apartment and life together that I kind of wanted to do uninterrupted.  There's something weird about having roommates and how it makes you (or at least me) act.  There are things that I do now that I live by myself that I wouldn't do with roommates.  Some of it is consideration of shared space (like the pile of mail next to my couch right now -- any time it would like to get up and sort itself would be great), but some of it is social pressure.  I might not spend an entire day watching a Law and Order marathon if I thought someone might be judging me for it, because really, I'm judging myself a little bit for my supreme laziness.  Now, though, with the shades drawn and the closest person a couple of locked doors away, I can feel free to be perfectly ridiculous and say, sing along to Glee (which I may or may not have done tonight because I may or may not have been in "West Side Story" in High School).  Anyway, getting back to the point, when you have roommates, you like them best when they're not around -- whether you just want to relax in peace or give yourself a pedicure in the living room.  So not only was I confused by this bizarre-o schedule of hers, I was annoyed that I didn't get my counted on alone time.

When Yvette was back on her "normal" schedule of getting up between 9:00 and 10:00 to go to work, we sometimes ran into each other on the way to the bathroom.  I was on summer vacation, but the time that I generally started my day of leisurely coffee drinking was around the time she started getting ready for work.  One morning she headed to the bathroom as I came out.  When my back was to her she said good morning.  Being a confused sleepy-head who can barely string two words together when I first get up, I sort of muttered good morning back as I continued my slog to the kitchen.  Suddenly she said in a sing-song-y voice, "What?  I don't get a good morning?"  I turned slowly, resisting the urge to shove her  "Good Morning" down her throat, and simply said, "I'm sorry.  I really not a morning person."  Then I went and made coffee so I could turn into a presentable human being.

The final sort of odd thing about Yvette was her passive aggressiveness.  Now, I'm not claiming not to be a bit pas-agg myself -- in fact, it's kind of how I work best.  I hate confrontation and love dealing in shades of subtlety with gentle nudging.  Yvette took it to a whole new level.  One of the days when Yvette was inexplicably home all day long, she decided it might be time to talk about bills.  Even though we'd been home together all day, she chose not to talk to me about it, but instead to leave a note when I ran out to run an errand.  Fine.  I get it.  Money is a touchy subject, but if you're going to avoid talking to me face to face, let me give you some pointers from a pro:  First, use e-mail.  This is the 21st century.  A piece of paper on my desk is kind of lame.  Second, ensure that the recipient will not receive the note in your presence.  Don't leave the note on your roommate's desk when you're planning on staying in the apartment for another few hours and she might come back and have no idea what to do with your little note.  Third, make sure the issue is note-worthy, makes sense, and includes all the necessary documentation.  When a subletter has been living in the apartment for six weeks and the more permanent roommate for just a few days, said subletter might be who you're looking for to pay bills (sidenote -- Miranda ultimately paid them).  When asking for money for utilities, you might want to actually include the bills.  Most people will not write personal checks for $250 to relative strangers on blind faith.  And finally, bills and distribution of responsibilities are a touchy, but necessary issue for roommates to discus and you should probably expect some kind of negotiations to occur.  Beyond just splitting the cable bill, questions come up like should we have a cleaning lady?  How should we distribute cleaning responsibilities?  Who wants to be in charge of buying toilet paper?

I subscribe to the philosophy of meeting fire with fire . . . or passive-aggressiveness with passive-aggressiveness, as the case may be.  So I waited until she was finally gone and wrote my own note.  I explained that I would talk to Miranda about paying since I didn't live there when the charges were incurred, but that I would like to see the actual bills in the future being paying for anything.  I also explained that I couldn't afford a cleaning lady, but gave an alternative solution that I thought would make us both happy.  This was written on a giant blue post-it in purple ink and stuck to her door.  I'm sure I included a smiley face.  Pas-agg city.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Subletting Era, On the Flip Side

When I moved back into my apartment, after nearly seven weeks away, I was very, very ready to be in my own space.  The fact that my roommate had changed since I'd left wasn't really foremost in my mind.  Mostly, I was thinking about sleeping in my bed, in my apartment, without having to wake up to an alarm clock, do breakfast duty, and clean before even heading out the door.  When I left for Costa Rica for the summer, I had expected an adventure not without hardships, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I spent my first two weeks in Costa Rica taking Spanish classes and living with host families.  This was fine, fun even.  I took classes in the morning and explored the cities I was in in the afternoon.  In Monteverde I went ziplining and hiked through the cloud forest.  At Playa Flamingo my afternoons were spent on the beach perfecting my tan.  One weekend we went to Volcan Arenal, went hiking and spent hours in the hot springs.  Not a bad way to spend a few weeks.


Sunset at the Playa

 At the hot springs

This lovely tourist's existence of lazing about and experiencing the natural wonders that Costa Rica is known for sadly didn't last.  You see, the real reason why I went to Costa Rica was to volunteer teach for the summer with a non-profit.  I knew that the accommodations weren't going to be up to US standards, but I've lived in a lot of places, and wasn't really worried about it.  In fact, the physical amenities weren't that bad.  I actually took a video of the University dorms that we stayed in:

No, the problems really all rested with the organization I worked with.  While I agree, in theory, with their mission to promote social justice through education, I didn't realize until I got there that the organization was more interested in imposing rules on its volunteers than ensuring the promotion of its principles.  There are serious flaws in the idea that we were doing great and indispensable good by teaching kids art appreciation and team-building activities for one hour-long period and then waltzing away to another school to do the same.  The thing that bothered me more was that there was this pompous sense of almost divine purpose in what we were doing -- that the image and reputation of the organization had to be protected at all costs.  And that's where the rules came in:

Las Reglas
  1. Everyone must be up at the same time in the morning and ready for breakfast.
  2. Everyone must do their chores.
  3. Any outing must be done "en grupo," so no one gets left out . . . even if they'd rather not go.
  4. We must have meetings four times a day to ensure unity of the group.
  5. Roommates are to be one local and one estadounisense.
  6. No alcohol.
  7. No relations with people of the opposite sex.
  8. No buying food that isn't part of the group purchase.
  9. You must be back and on time for dinner.
  10. No talking after lights out.
  11. No sitting on the second floor and playing cards, because what if someone thought you weren't playing cards?  What if someone thought you were drinking?  Even though you aren't, you can't socialize in a place where you might be thought to be something as untoward as drinking a beer.
  12. No skirts above the knee.
  13. No tanktops that expose your shoulders.
  14. No shirts that might show your cleavage if you lean over.  Not sure if you're appropriate?  Don't worry, there will be spot checks in the morning before leaving for school.
  15. No shorts when you're picking up trash with the kids on a Saturday.  What if a parent saw that you have legs? 

Cleaning the baños with cloro.

 Teaching (or saving the lives of) three students through a 45 minute discussion of Van Gogh's Starry Night" or "Noche estrallada," as we like to call it.  Not sure how that shirt made the cut.  Looks pretty inappropriate to me.

Needless to say, I came back to the US (via my brother's college graduation in Alabama) wanting nothing more than to be left alone.  It was hard enough to live through that, knowing that I was wasting my summer with an organization that was doing very little good, but I also harbored a great deal of guilt for asking my friends and family to sponsor my trip through donations.  Where was their money really going?  The organization certainly wasn't doing any harm, but the good it was doing was negligible.  I'd left my home and my friends right after the last day of school thinking I would come back with stories of great adventure, but instead I came back conflicted, confused, and sad.  It was with this attitude that I moved back into my apartment and started my tenure with Yvette.   


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Subletting Shenanigans

Before we get on to the wonderful and fascinating story of when Yvette and I lived together, we must first take a trip into someone else's story -- that of my lovely subletter, Miranda (who, for the record, took no part in any shenanigans).  

I spent six weeks that summer in Costa Rica, taking Spanish classes and volunteer teaching, and during that time both Miranda and Yvette moved into my apartment.  In anticipation of their brief tenure together, I "introduced" them via e-mail.  I thought it would be nice for them to be able to communicate directly with each other about their upcoming moves without going through me.  

Yvette, however, managed to change her move-in date three different times without telling either one of us until we inquired.  First she had to stay in her old place through the end of July.  Then, when I asked about mailing in the August rent, she said she'd decided to move mid-July, just to get things started.  Finally, when Miranda mentioned her move-in date, Yvette said she was moving in the same day.  All of this would have been helpful to know when she decided it so we could all plan, not when it just happened to come up in conversation.

Miranda and Yvette were now both supposed to be moving in 4th of July weekend, and Miranda's long-distance boyfriend was coming in to help.  Miranda, being considerate (and far nicer than necessary) offered to have her boyfriend stay somewhere else if Yvette wasn't comfortable with a stranger invading her space the first weekend in a new apartment.  I thought that this was a really generous offer, considering that Yvette is the one who changed her move-in date to the same day as Miranda's.  Had I been in the same situation, I wouldn't have taken Miranda up on the offer.  Just knowing that she would offer shows how accommodating she is and how little imposition her boyfriend's presence would be.  Yvette, however, said yes.  Please do have your out of town boyfriend stay elsewhere.  Moving is stressful to me.

And moving did turn out to be stressful for her.  Hey, it's stressful for all of us (even people like me who do it all the time), but eventually we get over it.  I did my best to help facilitate the transition.  The night before I left for Costa Rica, which was the day after the last day of school, I ran around my apartment trying to get it ready for its new occupants.  Kerri had left in the afternoon the day before, and taken much of the furniture with her.  The apartment was pretty bare.  I had already started clearing out enough of my own stuff that I ate ice cream for dinner.  Then I started remembering when I moved in and all the quirky little things about the apartment that I never would have figured out if Kerri hadn't been there to guide me through it all.  

I decided to leave Miranda and Yvette a note with pertinent information . . . but one little note didn't seem to cut it.  I then ran around the empty apartment in pajamas at 1:00 AM (when I should have been sleeping given that my flight was pretty early the next morning), putting post-its with little notes and reminders on everything I could think of.  Notes in the kitchen as to where each person's food went.  Notes on the trash can and recycling about the days to take them out.  A note on the toilet reminding them to hold the flusher down for at least ten seconds.  Notes on internet router and cable box about the password and what to do when the cable goes out.  Notes on the ancient washer-dryer as to how to keep them functioning at their maximum capacity.  You name it, I put a note on it.  I really wish I had taken a picture of it all, because it looked a little ridiculous.

And then I left a mere four hours later.  I overslept, naturally, because I'd been up too late the night before plastering my apartment "A Beautiful Mind" style with post-its (in different colors, shapes, and sizes -- I am an elementary school teacher, after all).  I woke up five minutes before my car service was scheduled to come pick me up, stepped on a giant roach in the shower (the only one I ever saw in that apartment, perhaps he came out to look at the post-its?), shoved the last of my stuff into my walk-in closet, and left.  I stumbled out of my building carrying two backpacks (one full of donated school supplies) and a cup of coffee to find my driver asleep and completely useless.  I had to rap on the window with my coffee mug to get him to wake up and open the trunk.  And then we were off.  And Miranda and Yvette were left to their own devices.

Miranda kept me updated and she and Yvette seemed to be getting along just fine, but Yvette seemed to be having some trouble adapting to the apartment.  She couldn't figure out how to work the washer-dryer and Miranda had to help her (um, didn't you get the post-it?).  Then the toilet clogged one morning and she couldn't figure out what to do about it.  Then she saw a mouse and totally freaked out,  although I can't really blame her.  Mice are gross and I tend to get a little screechy when I see them too.  But the second time she saw one she called Miranda, on her cell phone, in the middle of the night, while she was asleep, to come rescue her from it . . . because apparently Miranda is better equipped at rodent dispossal than Yvette?  I don't know.  Miranda did in fact do a good job of getting rid of the mouse and saving Yvette, and neither were worse for the wear.  It just made me think, what kind of person calls a roommate they barely know in the middle of the night to do something gross and yucky just because you don't want to?  And although I once had a male roommate check our kitchen for mice before I would go inside (I had just seen one in my tortilla chip bag!), I'm inclined to think that proper protocol leaves late night phone calls for actual emergencies -- like being locked out, fires, and people trying to break into the apartment.  

Are these little isolated events really ominous signs of evil to come?  No, not really.  Just perhaps a hint at how Yvette struggles to problem solve in a rational manner.  Or maybe, just because I don't like her, I'm projecting negative vibes onto actions that I might just find quirky or funny had she not become, in all honesty, the worst roommate I ever had.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Negotiations Part II, or When I Definitely Should Have Cut and Run

After the drama of the Meeting with Yvette, Kerri and I struck an awkward peace.  It was born out of necessity.  We were really both too busy trying to wrap up our lives before the end of June (her move-out date was June 26th, I left for Costa Rica on June 28th) to waste too much time and energy on being mad at eachother.  I believe too that Kerri is a person who finds value in relationships with other people, however fleeting they may be.  She might not see me again after she moved out, but it was important to her to make things right nonetheless.  I honestly strive to be that kind of person, maybe not the person she was as things disintegrated, but the person she was as she tried to rectify the problem.  Left to my own devices I might have just tried to avoid her for the last two weeks.  Not sure how I would have accomplished that, but I would have tried my damnedest.  Funny how avoidance was the mature thing with Bahrry and Dan, but not with Kerri -- probably has something to do with her not being the most insufferable person alive (attn:  Bahrry).

Anyway, after the rent got ironed out, I promptly tried to focus on the things that I needed to do before leaving for a summer of volunteering in Costa Rica, namely, buying things like a mosquito net, collecting donations (both monetary and physical), learning Spanish, and preparing my space for my subletter.  Sadly, this focus on actual important things wasn't meant to be.  Yvette was determined to create more drama.  I'm still not sure exactly what her angle was -- driving me so crazy that I voluntarily left the apartment, allowing her to move in at her leisure (and price point)?  getting her own way for the sake of getting her way?  making her friend hate her as a result of an act that should have indebted Kerri to her for life?  Any one of these scenarios is possible.  I'll let you decide.  In fact, I'm soliciting opinions -- the idea that gets the most votes wins!  In order for you to make an informed decision, I should probably continue telling you the story.

As you all know, Yvette offered to lend Kerri money to pay her portion of the June rent in exchange for moving in in July.  Another reason Kerri had wanted a friend to move in was that the lease was solely in her name at this point, and Kerri didn't want to trust just anyone to her credit.  The fact that she seemingly didn't trust me to do this after nearly six months of responsible roommatedom stung more than just a little.  I chose to ignore it in favor of just moving forward.  One Saturday morning after my disastrous meeting with Yvette, Kerri was discussing the arrangements with our landlord, Reggie.  It turns out that Reggie had actually forgotten to redraw the lease in December when the last lease was up, so instead of Kerri being the sole signer on the lease, there actually wasn't one.  I had about 6 seconds to ruminate on the fact that I hadn't needed to go through anything with Yvette before Kerri piped up, "Reggie wants to know if you want him to draw up a new lease with both of your names on it."  Of course, I agreed.

I wasn't exactly enamored by Yvette, but I know I can sometimes come off as harsh, and I was trying not to let my first impression of her color all of my future dealings (In hindsight I should have followed my intuition . . . but that's a story for another day)  I wanted to be a good roommate.  I had also just felt firsthand the effects of not being on a lease, and this seemed like the perfect solution.  Sign a lease for a year, and then, by June of 2010 I might be ready to live on my own.  I went off on my mosquito-net buying mission buoyed by the idea of legal protection of my housing rights.

Coming in the door leaden with bags from Paragon and Target a few hours later, I was greeted by an unfamiliar noise -- screaming.  It was Kerri.  She wasn't shrieking in pain, but more yelling into the phone.  I tried to make myself scarce to give her some privacy, but she got off of the phone pretty quickly and sought me out.  She had been on the phone with Yvette.  Yvette was being ridiculous.  Kerri was pretty sure that a three-year friendship had just ended.  She just couldn't f*@&ing believe Yvette.

Now, this is how Yvette made me feel when she came over that night to "discuss" our situation.  Except that I'm more of a crier than Kerri.  Kerri is apparently a yeller.  Basically what happened is this:  Kerri called Yvette to say "Good news!  Reggie can put both you and Margaret on the lease."  Yvette did not think this was good news.  In fact, Yvette replied with something like, "Bullshit I'm going to be on the lease with Margaret.  You have to tell her she can't be on the lease."  Kerri, in a redeeming role, did not take Yvette's nonsense lying down.  She said, "You can't do that.  It's not fair to Margaret.  She's been here almost six months.  You don't really have the right to dictate the terms."  I walked in as the conversation escalated into something really productive like, "Fine!  Be that way!"  "Goodbye!"  And then tears.

Kerri got off of the phone and gave me the run-down.  She was pissed.  Not at me, but at Yvette, who was suddenly deciding to have a psychotic moment in the middle of Kerri's crisis.  I, as usual, was the innocent bystander.  Kerri said we could just find a craigslist roommate who would sign the lease with me.  I was a little relieved.  Now I could start with someone I hadn't yet cried in front of.  Reggie the landlord was supposed to come over the next day so Yvette and I could sign the lease, and now Kerri was calling him back to let him know that he'd have to wait a few more days because we were back to square one on the roommate front.  

While Kerri was on the phone with Reggie, my phone rang.  It was Yvette.  "Hi Margaret.  How are you?  It's Yvette."  She's sickly sweet and calm.  Nothing like I was imagining her end of the screaming match with Kerri that ended, oh, two minutes ago.  

"I'm fine," I replied.  "Kerri just told me that you don't want to sign a lease, so she's talking to Reggie right now about how we're going to find another roommate."  

"Oh no, that's not what I meant!" cooed Yvette.  "I'm just really worried about the money and I didn't think I could handle paying $1200 for an entire year."  Ahh.  So what you really meant when you agreed to divvying up the rent $1200 for you, $1050 for me was that you would do it until you were the only one on the lease and then you could change things at your leisure.  Lovely.  FYI, what I really meant by being OK with that rent breakdown was that I was going to stay until I found something better.  Not being protected by the lease also means I don't have to be bound by it either, bitch.

Of course, I didn't actually say that.  Instead I mouthed "It's Yvette!" to Kerri, who was still on the phone with Reggie and then mouthed to me, "He says if she doesn't get her act together he doesn't want her living here anyway."  Yvette, meanwhile was prattling on.  I was saying a lot of "Uhuh"s, tired of hearing her repeated self-congratulations for her selflessness in saving Kerri from financial ruin.  That is, until she had an actual solution to offer.  She wanted a six-month lease.  She thought she could pay $1200 until December.  I said if we signed a six month lease, I would move in December.  Yvette said fine.  I relayed the message to Kerri who passed it on to Reggie in some kind of demented, high-stakes, adult game of telephone.

I thought we were finally done.  I went to sign the lease at Reggie's office with Yvette a few days later.  It was a slightly strained meeting, given what had led up to it, but we were both trying.  She asked me how I felt about dogs.  I professed my love for Elvis, Kerri's dog.  She said one of the reasons why she wanted our apartment was because she wanted a dog.  She was planning on giving herself one as a Christmas present.  As I signed the lease ending December 31st, 2009, I thought to myself, "At least if she gets a dog and is as ridiculous about it as she has been about this lease-signing process, I'll only be living there with them for one more week."

And that is when, in hindsight, I definitely should have cut and run. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Negotiations, or When I Probably Should Have Known to Cut and Run

The month of June 2009 was a tough time for our little household of three.  Kerri was trying her best to figure out what to do with her life -- how to deal with the collapse of her business both emotionally and practically.  We weren't super close, but she had been a good roommate and I was trying to be as supportive as possible while dealing with my own crazy life.  I was trying to wrap up the school year and trying to organize my life before leaving for six weeks in Costa Rica volunteer teaching . . . which I was leaving for just two days after the last day of school.  Not to mention my social life and trying to spend time with friends and do all the fun summer things I love before leaving the country for the bulk of my vacation.  

Anyway, back to the apartment.  Kerri had been doing a bit of e-mailing about furniture and other apartment related things with Yvette and me.  Mostly it was thrilling things like, "Who would like the green chairs?" and "I'm not sure if I'm going to take the kitchen table."  Then one day I got an e-mail with some surprises in it:

Hi Ladies,

So I wanted to email you both so you could have each others info.  And I believe that Yvette is coming over tonight around 7 or after to meet you Margaret.
. . . .
Ok, bills:

So rent overall is $2250, and currently I pay $1250 and Margaret pays $1000.   In the past, the person with the bigger room ( me) paid more more but because i really needed someone to move in in December I lowered it. I also didn't have Margaret pay any of the utilities, so I assume that would have to change. What are your thoughts on this, Margaret do you feel comfortable moving up to $1100 and Yvette at $1150?
. . . 
I hope this all sounds OK and I am not putting you out, trying to just get organized and smart about it all. Sound good? please don't hate me!

So, this was all quite perplexing because Kerri never mentioned a change in the rent if her friend moved in.  She only talked to me about the utilities.  I'm a little bit shocked that she handled it this way, without talking to us separately about it first.  Also, I didn't think I could afford to pay any more, and $100/month is quite a bit more to be thrown at a person.  Furthermore (and I wish I'd taken pictures of the other bedroom to help prove my point), the bigger bedroom is much bigger and doesn't have the annoyance of someone walking through some of the space to deal with.  Also, it has three real windows, as opposed to my one real one in the den and one shaft window to the bathroom in the bedroom.  The size difference and the convenience different are worth more than just a $50 differential.  Have I fully supported my argument yet?  Have I met the burden of proof?  Because this all is getting a little ridiculous.  Anyway, I knew I had to be honest, so I sent the following e-mail in return:


I have no strong feelings about the furniture.  I kind of want to get a full sized couch, but I wouldn't be able to do anything about that until late August, so I'm flexible. 

I am happy to split utilities and other apartment expenses (and would love to keep the DVR in the living room), but I absolutely can't go above $1000 for the rent.  Sorry.  Paying the utilities will already raise my monthly expenses by about $70 and that's the limit of what I can afford.  I'm willing to renegotiate in December when the lease is up, but at this point I just can't.  I know you're dealing with a lot right now Kerri, but I just can't adjust my monthly budget immediately with no warning because of someone else's circumstances.  I hope this doesn't change your feelings about moving in, Yvette, but if it does I totally understand.  Let me know and I'll start looking for someone who can pay the $1250 on craigslist today.

I look forward to talking more tonight.

Kerri was actually quite gracious over e-mail about my response.  She said not to worry, if Yvette couldn't swing it, she would look for another tenant for her room, and it wasn't my responsibility.  I thought that the matter was settled -- Yvette pays what Kerri paid until the lease was up in December, or we find someone else to live in Kerri's room.  Yvette had other ideas:

Margaret – I’m not sure if you’re aware, but stepping in at this last minute also means that I’m paying rent for 2 places (yours and mine) for the month of June.  Realistically, you wouldn’t find anyone who would do that on craigslist.  

Also, because I need to give a month’s notice at my place, I’ll have to pay my current roommate rent for the month of July. Averaged out over the course of the 6 months, plus utilities, I’d be paying well over $1700/mth.  I’m currently paying $900 (which includes utilities). That is a considerable stretch. 

Of course, I sympathized.  Yvette was trying to help her friend, but at the same time she didn't have to.  I know that Kerri didn't ask, much less demand, that Yvette take over her lease.  Yvette offered because she loved the apartment.  $1250, which is what Kerri was paying for the bigger room, was too much for me to afford and the reason why I didn't want to move into the nicer room.  I'm not unreasonable, but I couldn't agree to a $100 increase in rent because Kerri's business failed and her friend realized that she couldn't be as helpful as she thought.  I told them as much, and I tried to be gracious and understanding about it:

I'm really sorry about all of the things that are happening right now with you Kerri.  You've been a great roommate and I'm really sorry to see you go.  Yvette, you're being a great friend offering to step up and take over this responsibility.  I absolutely understand if you can't pay $1250.  It's just not within my budget right now to take on further financial responsibilities.  If this doesn't work out, I'm happy to help Kerri search for another solution that works for both of us.

That was the last I heard from them.  There had been some mention of Yvette coming over around 7:00 to meet me.  I went to pilates to take deep breathes and remember to stay calm.  I also needed to remember that I couldn't agree to something I wasn't comfortable with just because I felt bad for Kerri and everything she was going through.

Almost immediately after I got home from pilates, I got a phone call from Yvette:  "I'm downstairs!" she said.  I replied that Kerri wasn't home yet, but I'd come down and meet her.  I soon found out that Kerri wasn't planning on being there for the meeting.  She'd gone off to have dinner with a friend and left us to hash it out.  I was a bit put out that she'd run when the going got tough.  Even before this, Yvette wouldn't have been my first choice for a roommate -- she and Kerri knew eachother from AA and since I drink, it would have been nice to have a roommate who wanted to share some wine once in a while.  I also knew nothing about her as far as the things I think are important in a roommate, like habits, schedules, etc.

Back to the moment at hand.  Yvette has just entered the apartment and I've just found out that Kerri isn't coming to negotiate this with us.  I'm tense because I basically want to tell Yvette that she needs to step up or step out.  She's moving into my apartment with me, so I'm not going to pay more money.  We start to have a conversation and I basically tell her as much, but more civilly.  We go back and forth for a while until she finally says, "Well, what Kerri didn't tell you is that if you don't agree to this than you have to move out."  I was floored.  Kerri was so nice!  She said she would figure out something if I wasn't comfortable!  What happened to make her so inconsiderate and unreasonable?

Um, well, probably losing her business and dream did that.  I had a really hard time not crying at that moment.  I went into the meeting wondering what would happen if Yvette couldn't pay and I had to go the craigslist route -- especially when Kerri's move out date coincided with my subletting date.  Did I really want to trust two randoms to my apartment and my stuff?  All those questions were wiped from my mind when Yvette said, "If you don't agree to this than you have to move out."  I'm not even sure what I did next.  Everything is a blur.  I think I sat and stared.  At some point I might have said something like, "This is a lot to take right now."  All I remember is awkwardly sitting on the couch in the living room and looking at Yvette in disbelief.  

Somehow, eventually, Yvette asked if I could go up $50/month to $1050 until December.  She thought she could cover $1200 until then.  I agreed.  $300 over the course of six months was worth not having to move last minute. 

Adding to the tension was the fact that Yvette wasn't leaving.  She was waiting for her boyfriend to come look at the place.  I apologize if you are one of those girls who needs her boyfriend's approval for everything she does, but I just don't get it.  It's really only important to get his opinion if you're moving in together.  I understand wanting to show off a new place, or wanting moral support when you're looking, but having the conversation Yvette just had with me, why would she have chosen this moment to ask the boyfriend to come look at the place?  Also, he was late.  So after the tension filled negotiations, as I tried not to cry, Yvette tried to make small talk.  I tried to will her to leave with my mind.

Eventually, this mind control seemed to work.  Yvette couldn't get in touch with the boyfriend and seemed sufficiently uncomfortable to suggest that she leave and meet up with him later.  I was relieved.  As soon as she left I burst into tears.  I wasn't just crying because Yvette was a little aggressive, or because I had to pay more money, or because I didn't win, but because I felt really betrayed by Kerri.  Like I said, we weren't close, but I did consider her a friend and an excellent roommate.  I guess I expected more from her and wondered how little she thought of me that she thought I could be brushed away so easily.  Were we not amicable, happy roommates for more than five months?  Did she not think I at least deserved the decency of being told in person rather than ambushed by her friend?

As I cried in my living room and looked for some solace, the phone rang.  It was Yvette again.  She was downstairs.  The boyfriend had a appeared.  Could they come up?  For God Fucking Sake.  Seriously?  What is the point of having the talent to keep from crying in front of someone if they just come back five minutes later?  Because I couldn't think of any other response, I said yes.  I answered the door with a red and splotchy face, still in my pilates clothes.  They looked around for ten minutes.  She was simpering.  He was doofy.  He crawled on my bed to look through the shaft window, which I thought was rude.  Finally they left me alone.

Later, while I was sobbing my story into the phone, Kerri texted.  She had spoken with Yvette.  She wanted to talk.  I did not.  She came home in the middle of my conversation about her and how bad she made me feel.  I'm sure she heard some of it -- our walls weren't so thick -- but I honestly didn't care.  I texted her back and said that I needed some space to process it all.  We were probably ten feet away from each other at this point.  I felt like I was in middle school.  I told her that.  I just couldn't face her at that moment.  I told her that too.

The next day I arrived at work red-eyed and puffy.  I just have one of those faces that shows my emotions completely transparently.  Also, I get blotchy when I cry.  I wish I didn't but in nearly 31 years I haven't figured out how to fix it.  I was a mess.  I tried to tell the story to a coworker and broke down again.  Things were looking bleak.

Around 1:00, though, everything started to come together.  I got an e-mail from a friend who suddenly needed a sublet for exactly the time I would be in Costa Rica!  She was fine with the rent, liked the layout, loves Brooklyn, and is totally trustworthy.  Yay for saving my rent money!  Then I got an e-mail from Kerri that made me feel much better:

hey there,
I am sorry we didn't  get to talk last night, and when I sent that email yesterday i didn't anticipate what it sparked, and thought it would be fine for Yvette to come over so you guys could chat. But it took a turn and unfortunately i wasn't able to be there and should have said lets just wait. Nonetheless, I am sorry for all of this.  I know its stressful.

Yvette said that you guys came to an agreement and she really likes you a lot, and she felt bad if there was/ is tension. So, I will find a way to pay June so she is not paying and then she can move in in July. Unless you are uncomfortable with the end decision. Please let me know, because I know this is where you live and you don't want to feel stressed. Yvette is awesome- i have traveled and roomed with her a lot and she is fantastic. But let me know your thoughts and we can go from there.
Hope you are having a good day. BTW started Twilight... cant put it down.

I was starting to feel calmer.  I was no longer crying randomly.  I could cover the rent increase much better with my summer rent covered.  Maybe Yvette was actually very nice, but had just been trying to stick up for her friend.  Kerri and I even had a little reconciliation moment when I got home. Things started looking up, but unfortunately the negotiations had only just begun.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Taking the Plunge

Lately I've been downright neglectful of my little blog.  I don't really know what it is.  Maybe it's just the time of year.  I didn't post much last year around this time.  Maybe it's the weather, or the upcoming high stakes tests that sucking up so much of my energy.  Maybe it's the fact that, even though I love the little apartment I live in now, it's in a constant state of disorder.  Maybe it's the broken pipe in my kitchen that consumed my Sunday afternoon.  Maybe it's doing laundry at the laundromat that has kept me away from typing.  Maybe it's more.  Maybe it's more closely related to the fact that I've run into Kerri at the gym twice lately and haven't known what to say to her about what happened after . . . wondering if she's avoiding me for the same reasons, or if in the haze of sweat and treadmills she just hasn't noticed me.  Maybe it's that the next story marks the beginning of the big story, the reason this blog exists at all.  Maybe it's that the next story is the catalyst for everything that happened over the next four months.  Maybe it's just that, by not progressing past that spring and the time of the studly firemen, I can stay in a time before things started getting serious -- when Bahrry and Dan and Dirty Artie were funny characters in the revolving housing issues that surrounded my life.  When the whole idea of random roommates seemed more like a game of Russian Roulette than the reality of it all -- by moving in with craislisters, you're entrusting your possessions, your credit, and your well-being to a total stranger you just "had a good feeling about," or shared your philosophy on dishwashing.  Maybe by just staying in those first few months of my twenty-ninth year, I won't need to really think about all those things that happened later.  The ones that make me reconsider my little plan to start counting backward with my upcoming birthday -- to turn twenty-nine again instead of thirty-one.  Twenty-nine wasn't exactly a year worthy of revisiting for me.

I'm probably being a little melodramatic.  Most people get along with their random roommates well enough.  Some people even become friends with them.  Many people leave with stories of hoarder roommates, or crazy people who talk to their cats, or exhibitionists.  I had plenty of good times at twenty-nine.  Maybe I should just tell the stories you've all been waiting for, consider it all character building, and turn thirty-one with pride.  Maybe one of the reasons I haven't been writing lately is because I've been wasting time having an existential crisis not about the futility of life but of . . . blogging.  Which is ridiculous.  Maybe I should remember that I still have some pretty funny stories to tell too -- like some of the things Racist Reggie the landlord said, or the middle of the night bathroom leak that led to another too-short-clothing-and-strangers-in-my-house problem.  Or maybe the fact that I was bound and determined to set up my current apartment myself, without any help, despite knowing that I'm the least handy person alive, thus leading to a nearly severed toe during some bathroom demo (do not wear flip-flops while wielding a hammer at ceramic tiles), and a coat rack that I've given up on after it fell down twice.  Now I just pile my coats on top of it next to the front door.

I think I promised you a story somewhere up there.  Better get to it despite the fact that it's not funny.  If you're in the mood to laugh, might I suggest:  Bathing in the Lap of Luxury, The Stomper, Towels, or the Time I was Kind of an Asshole, or perhaps a good dose of Bahrry in Bahrry the Bizarre.  So anyway, back to Kerri, Elvis the dog, and our lovely little place with the big windows and the washer-dryer.  The spring of 2009 was chugging along pretty well.  Even though  I'd initially only planned on subletting, Kerri had broken up with the boyfriend who was supposed to move in, and my future roommate's job start-date got pushed back by a year, so Kerri and I decided to stay living together.  We were both happily busy with our lives, content in the apartment, and didn't want to mess with a good thing.  We were barely around at the same time, and when we were we'd watch movies, or eat dinner together, or retreat to our rooms for some solitude.  By the time we decided to continue to live together, we were both dating people and in and out of the apartment for days at a time, with or without the boys, to the point where we weren't really sure who to yell at for forgetting to put the toilet seat down.  It was an amicable, comfortable, nice place to live and neither one of us was itching to move.

Without any warning, one day in June, our lives got turned upside down.  Well, more precisely, Kerri's did.  Mine was just collateral damage.  Kerri had moved to NYC five years before and spent the intervening time successfully building up her own business.  She'd suffered a bit during the financial crisis, but managed to hold on thanks to some loyal clients.  Unfortunately, on June 1st, the day our rent was due, that luck ran out.  Right around the same time I was running around with studly firemen in a teeny-tiny bathrobe, Kerri got a phone call while on vacation with the new boy.  Her biggest client, the one who owed her the check that would cover her rent, called to say that they couldn't use her services anymore.  They were going under.  Not only that, but they couldn't pay her what they owed her.  They would try to get it to her eventually, but she certainly wasn't going to have it by the due date.  Kerri collapsed in the airport.  She was basically told that her business had failed.  She still had a few small clients, but not enough to sustain a living, particularly in such a high-cost place like NYC.

So Kerri spent the rest of her vacation trying to figure out the rest of her life.  Instead of reading trashy magazines on the beach, she had to figure out whether to cut her loses and close her business, her dream.  She had to figure out how to pay the rent in a year that already had been pretty tough financially.  She had to figure out if she could even stay in NYC.  Far, far down on the list, I'm sure, was what to do about this roommate back in Brooklyn who was enjoying being roommate-free for the week but kind of liked having her roommate and the dog around from time to time.  The roommate whose rent-check, courtesy of a worry-free City Employee payroll system, was waiting on the kitchen table for its mate so they could be sent together.

When Kerri got home the next weekend, she told me everything.  She had figured out that that only way to save her business was to move back home with her parents in Massachusetts, keep the clients she had and work remotely to try to build up a larger client base with the hope to eventually come back.  The issue of the rent was still up in the air, but she had a friend who was willing to help her out.  This friend, Yvette, had always loved the apartment and had a little savings.  She wanted to lend the June rent to Kerri, provided she could move into her room in July.  I could stay, of course, it just hinged on me being OK with Yvette as a roommate, and with sharing the cost of the utilities (which Kerri had covered in full because of the dog).  I agreed.  It's not like I could advertise on craigslist for a roommate who would have to pay all of the coned bill, or that I even had the time to look for a roommate before heading to Costa Rica to volunteer for six weeks for summer vacation.  I'd only met Yvette once, but she seemed nice enough, and really, who could be worse than Bahrry?  Famous last words . . .

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Firemen are Studly

On a dreary and unseasonably cold Friday morning in early June, five months after moving in with Kerri and Elvis, I got up at 6:00 am as I always do.  Kerri and Elvis were out of town, so I might have made a little more noise than usual, but otherwise it was an unremarkable first fifteen minutes of my day.  I took a shower, slipped on my bathrobe, and twisted a towel onto my head.  When I walked out of the bathroom I noticed that there were a bunch of firetrucks parked on my street.  I wandered over to the living room window and saw some firemen waving their arms.  Still being a bit addled by sleepiness and not having had my coffee yet, I simply thought, "How weird that the firemen are waving their arms."

I set about going through my normal morning routine, walking into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee.  I always set the timer on my coffee machine the night before because I literally can't handle making a pot of coffee without having had any in the morning.  I'm that kind of not-a-morning-person -- the kind who needs to have a firmly routed routine because she can't process information in the morning.  The kind of not-a-morning-person who doesn't process firetrucks and firemen frantically flailing their arms as odd and something to investigate.  So I'm in the kitchen pouring myself a cup of coffee when another fireman catches my eye, points to me, and then points to the door to the building.  "Oooooooh.  You want me to open the door . . . "  Perhaps it was the aroma of the coffee (because at this point I still hadn't actually had any), but it finally dawned on me that maybe the firemen were hanging out in my front of my building because there was something wrong.

I ran down the stairs, still wearing nothing but the world's shortest bathrobe and a towel on my head, thinking, "Shit.  The doorbells don't work.  I wonder how long they've been trying to get in here?"  I opened the door muttering a more polite version of that thought and found approximately twenty firemen, in full regalia (helmets, boots, axes, oxygen tanks, etc.).  Apparently there was black smoke billowing from the roof and they were worried about carbon monoxide buildup.  I stood on the stairs, still in the world's shortest bathrobe with a towel on my head, as they kicked down the door to the boiler room and streamed down into the basement, battle ready.  The few remaining firemen followed me up the stairs (have I mentioned I'm wearing nothing but the world's shortest bathrobe?) asking me questions I couldn't answer and opening windows.  "Is anyone else in the building?  Who is in charge of the boiler?  Do you have a carbon monoxide detector?"

They finally left me alone to call my landlord and let him know what was going on.  I also finally got my cup of coffee.  They came back a few minutes later and discovered that I did in fact have a carbon monoxide detector, making me feel like even more of an airhead, since at this point I was still wearing the world's shortest bathrobe and a towel on my head, but now I was also carrying a cup of coffee standing in my living room saying, "Really?  I didn't know we had one.  Well that's good,"  to about ten firemen in full gear who were trying to keep me from asphyxiating.  I couldn't even blame whatever noxious fumes were filling my building for my idiocy, since apparently they hadn't made it to the third floor.

Satisfied that I was not going to die, the firemen left again and I finally got a chance to change into something a little more presentable.  Mind you, I still needed to get to work eventually, but everything had happened so fast that it was barely 6:30 at this point.  Five minutes later they knocked again to say that while I was fine on the third floor, and the second floor neighbors didn't appear to be home, the basement was completely full of a dangerous level of carbon monoxide.  They needed to leave all the doors and windows open for a few hours to clear the building.  Great.  I was the only person in the building (since Jimmy the Bookie didn't open the bodega until 8:00 or 9:00, what with it not actually being a bodega and all) and I needed to leave for work in twenty minutes and my landlord, very unhelpfully, was not answering my calls.  So I left most of the doors and windows open, left a few more messages on my landlord's voicemail, and left the building with the knowledge that, if there ever really were a fire in my building, I would definitely save my coffee machine first.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kerri and Elvis

One of the reasons why I managed to hang on so long living with Bahrry was that I had a plan as to where I was going to move next.  My very good friend from Peace Corps, Jane, was planning on moving to the city after law school the next summer.  She already had a job lined up and we'd spent the four years since the end of Peace Corps using eachother as sounding boards for our various roommate dilemmas.  She was there through all of Artie's dirt, and I was there when she needed to vent too.  Granted, her issues were a little less dramatic than mine, but still, we knew eachother well enough to know what would and wouldn't bother the other one.  In fact, while I was still living with Bahrry, we started to make a list of things we wouldn't stand for from the other.  My list for her included candle thievery.

When I set out to find a new place after receiving the letter, I actually was only looking for a sublet or a place with a flexible move out policy.  I saw four apartments, all of which were nice, but settled on a lovely two bedroom just 15 blocks south of my old place.  I would still be in the neighborhood that I loved, but with a different grocery store, post office, liquor store, entrance to the park, and subway station -- all the things I needed to continue my avoidance of Bahhry and Dan.  

This new apartment came complete with Kerri, a friendly 31 year old with her own PR business and her own dog!  I love dogs and had felt deprived ever since my family's amazing black lab, Bart, died right before I came home from Peace Corps (he died on election night, 2004, so my friends concluded that he just couldn't live through four more Bush years, which is fair enough).  I met Elvis (the dog) when I went to check out the apartment.  I fell in love immediately as he jumped and danced and tried to eat my hat!  Kerri was pretty great too -- a morning person with a teacher-boyfriend, she was totally on board with the no blaring music at 3:00 am thing.  She was personable and open, but she had a lot going on and didn't seem to be looking for a new best friend.

 Elvis dancing in the living room.

Elvis begging for treats in the kitchen.

 And just because I'm feeling sentimental, a tribute picture of my awesome dog Bart, who apparently (wisely), was a liberal democrat.

The apartment was pretty great too.  The building was a little dumpy, but we had the whole third floor with only one other apartment in the building directly below us.  On the first floor was a hugely ghetto bodega -- the only one I've ever encountered in NYC that doesn't actually sell any food -- which I later discovered was a front for a bookie.  We couldn't buy milk there, but Jimmy the Bookie (I swear to God that's his real name) would collect our packages for us, which was a nice perk considering our doorbell didn't work. 

The apartment was set up railroad style, with Kerri's room at the far end, then my space, then the living room, and finally the kitchen.  My space was split into a bedroom with two closets (one walk-in!) and a den with a nice big window.  Kerri had to walk through my den to get to her bedroom, but she was extremely considerate about it being my space, and with doors between my bedroom and her walkway, it was actually quite nice.  The living room was open and airy; lovely in the spring but freezing in the winter.  The bathroom was standard, expect for the shaft window that looked into my bedroom.  The kitchen, however, held the key to my heart -- a washer-dryer!!  If you don't live in NYC, you probably don't understand how amazing one of these contraptions can be, but despite the fact that our was about twenty years old and somewhat temperamental, it was by-far my favorite appliance ever.  Living in that apartment, I actually managed to do my laundry before it started overflowing out of the laundry basket.

 My bedroom.  Picture taken from the walk-in closet looking at the other closet and the shaft window to the bathroom.

 Looking from my bedroom into my den.

 My Den

 My Pretty Street

Living with Kerri and Elvis was easy.  She was sweet and easygoing and considerate.  I found myself responding in kind.  I never usually washed my roommates dishes, but Kerri would sometimes wash that aforementioned cereal bowl of mine, so I'd wash hers from time to time as well.  Kerri didn't drink, but didn't seem to mind that I occasionally had a glass of wine with dinner.  She totally understood that I couldn't have a coherent conversation until I'd finished at least one cup of coffee, despite the fact that she'd often already gone to the gym and the store by the time I got up on a Saturday morning.  I got home from work first and Elvis would greet me with full fanfare.  Kerri never expected me to care for him, arranging for other people to do it if she went out of town, only asking me if she were in a pinch.  She really was one of the best roommates I've ever had.  Too bad it didn't last . . . 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bahrry and the Aftermath

It should first be said that, within 24 hours of getting The Letter, I had seen four new apartments and secured my favorite for a late December move-in.  Oddly, my reaction to the letter, other than shock at its pomposity, was fairly neutral.  All I thought was, "Well, I guess I have to leave now."  I'd basically been ready to leave for months, but just needed a little push.  I'm an incredibly persistent person, which has served me well in many instances (Peace Corps, anyone?), but it can sometimes get me in trouble.  Whether it be with a job, in a relationship, or with roommates, I have a really hard time realizing when its time to move on.  I always think that things will get better if I do this or that, since I've invested so much time/energy/money in this endeavor, it has to work; there must be a solution.  Often it does, and I'm rewarded for my resilience, but the mere four months I lived with Bahrry and Dan just was not one of these times.

Now, getting back to the infamous letter.  Lets start with content, and then we'll tackle what might be referred to as "craft," or "voice" were it not so preposterous.  Bahrry (as it was undoubtedly Bahrry's doing, although Dan remains culpable since he signed his name to it) made two points that I don't disagree with:  1) none of us was happy, so it was time for us to end our time living together; and 2) generally when a person moves into an apartment, they conform to the established order of things.  This is why it is especially important to be upfront and honest about your expectations before moving in with someone.  Of the three areas that were the biggest problem in our apartment (smoking, cleaning, and noise), any one of them could have been avoided by simply being honest about the situation before I moved in -- because in all honesty I wouldn't have.  No one is going to post a craigslist ad saying "we're hoarders!  come live in our filth with us!" but if you're going to say "we are both respectful and clean...and expect the same," you might want to wash your dishes at least once in the first month your new roommate lives with you.  If that seems a little too restrictive to you, you might want to reword your ad to say something along the lines of  "We're really busy people, and sometimes household cleaning gets away from us.  We're not hoarders, but neat freaks beware, there are no chore wheels here.  Hey, we don't even own a mop!"  

Honesty about the cleaning probably wouldn't have kept me away from the apartment, since I have a pretty high threshold for dirt, but a change of tactic (ie, the truth) about the noise and the smoking definitely would have.  I'm a teacher, and I get up 6:00 am (which is positively late in teacher world).  I'm passionate about my career and I care about my job.  I'm comfortable with the fact that I don't live the "work hard; play hard" existence of many New Yorkers.  If you've never experienced the pain of dealing with 25+ 9 year olds running about being needy (anything from "I need a pencil," to "She called me stupid," to "A boy beat me up in the bathroom") hungover, than you may not know what I'm talking about.  Try it sometime -- I guarantee you'll barely last the day.  Did I mention that you can't leave the little buggers alone if you start feeling sick and need to run to the bathroom?  This is not your "drink lots of water and try not to move your head too much" hangover of an office job, this is serious business.  But I digress, Bahrry and Dan and noise was where I was headed.  When Bahrry and Dan told me that they were "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)," and I replied that I usually go to bed between 10:00 and 11:00, but am a fairly heavy sleeper, I thought we were all on the same page.  Clearly we were not, since they weren't interested in consideration and I was interested in sleeping.  All they needed to do was tweak their ad to:  We are usually up fairly late watching TV or listening to music.  We are interested in a roommate with a similar schedule.  I never would have responded to that ad.

And finally, the easiest and most simple thing to have kept me away from that apartment:  The Smoking.  Smoking is bad for you and non-smokers don't like smelling it.  Most smokers don't even like smelling it in their homes.  It's illegal to smoke inside public buildings in New York City and recently college campuses have started going smoke free.  Almost every shared ad on craigslist mentions smoking in some capacity, and I would be willing to bet that, after the rent and the location, it's the most often mentioned characteristic in an apartment ad anywhere.  People are serious and unsubtle about it because it's a deal-breaker for most.  Had Bahrry simply said, "I sometimes smoke in the living room," I never would have moved in there . . . and I said just that within the first week I moved in.  If he didn't want to change his habits, it was his responsibility to be honest.

Of course, Bahrry and Dan didn't simply send me an e-mail saying "Hey, it hasn't been working out.  We all know this, and we think it's time for you to move on."  They decided that their message was best delivered in an overblown, pretentious, simile-ridden word document modified multiple times for amplified douche-baggy effect.  I'm not sure that comparing me to "a rodent held captive," or "missionaries whose purpose is to correct & save the heathen classes," actually makes me the one who looks badAttacking my job and the volunteering I've done by claiming that these "good deeds . . . are performed out of the desire for self-fulfillment, accomplishment, & ego-centric gratification of your own will & self-righteousness, rather than any selfless endeavor," really only serves to reveal what a condescending ass Bahrry really is.  Believe me, anyone who spends that much time in the bathroom couldn't handle spending a few hours in the airports of Ukraine, Tajikistan, Romania, or any other country I've volunteered in.  As anyone who has ever volunteered knows, rarely is anything truly done selflessly, but attacking others' work is a sign of a cold, resentful soul.

When I got the letter, I didn't want to dignify it with a rebuttal, but I did know that I'd have to respond in some way.  Living situations don't always bring out the best in people, me included, and I certainly didn't post Bahrry and the Blowup to absolve myself of responsibility.  It is just another chapter in my seemingly endless quest for a perfect place to live.  I sent Bahrry and Dan a quick e-mail stating:  "It is clear that we are all in agreement that we made a terrible mistake last summer agreeing to live together.  I did not read the whole letter, but got the gist of the hurtful language -- no wonder I've been so miserable here.  It's just really hard for me to be live with and hang out with people I don't respect and who clearly don't respect me."  I then asked for my deposit back and said I would leave by the end of the month.  Bahrry had a little trouble with that response.  I'm not sure how he wanted me to react -- sobbing?  a heartfelt note promising to mend my evil ways?

In my very last interaction with Bahrry, before I moved and set my gmail account to automatically send anything from his e-mail address to my trash, he sent the following (typos and all):

first of all, it appears our definitions of what constitutes respect are clearly at odds, as we believe we have never maliciously or intentionally willed any disrespect unto you and quite to the contrary have made considerable efforts & altered our own defined living standards to appease whatever concerns you have brought forth. We obviously had a certain level of respect for you from the onset otherwise we would have never invited you into our home. It is unfortunate that you have clearly chosen to brand us with such a negative image from your definitition of what constitutes respect which seems to hinge upon a couple dirty dishes & occassional noise...if we were to view the world through your lens, then we should be aghast, offended, & totally disrespected by your odd daily ritual of dirty dishes especially with spoiling milk on the kitchen countertop...i hope you weren't trying to be disrespectful with that??? has been clear that in spite of our best attempts at honoring your wishes, your negative perceptions are steadfast.

it is not surprising that you did not read the entire letter, as it clearly illustrates that you lack the respect or do not wish to be bothered by  the expressions or concerns of others...especially when it is critical or does not suit your self revolving purpose.

Also, he included a copy of my note and bolded the part that said "people I don't respect," as if that were some kind of damning evidence for his case that I might not have remembered writing.  Well thanks Bahrry,  now we're all on the same page.  You're right -- my morning cereal bowl that I can't be bothered to clean up until I come back from school, the one that I mentioned before I even moved in to illustrate how I feel about cleaning, the one that neither one of you ever seemed to mind sitting on the counter since you never asked me if I could wash it before I left, that cereal bowl is the key to our problems.  Now that I know that all that is wrong with me as a human being is embodied in a cereal bowl I can start on the path to righteousness.

While I, and most of my girlfriends, reacted right away to the flowery language and the length of Bahrry's initial letter, one of my guy friends saw right through it to the heart of the matter.  He picked up on lines like:  "we still do not know you," "we were not anticipating on sharing our home with some sort of distant transient or fleeting boarder," "We are not accustomed to, nor enthused about the obvious lack of communication, interest, & engagement associated with your hostile presence," and most importantly: "Although, we have in the past made honest attempts to extend an invitation in hopes of offering some chance for engagement & social interaction it is apparent that you possess no interest in pursuing any involvement with your housemates."  This friend (happily married with three kids) said that their letter wasn't about a blowup, or dirty dishes, but instead about not being their friend.  They met a cute girl, and thought "Hey, we could be friends with her and she'll bring more cute girls over to the apartment, won't this be great?" and apparently didn't think about the fact that they'd have to be good roommates in order for any of that to happen.  So to Bahrry and Dan, if you ever read this, you were right -- I moved into your apartment because it was beautiful and close to the subway and I never had any expectation of hanging out with you or bringing my cute friends over.  I wasn't against it, and it would have been a great space for a party, but my friends don't like to smoke and I never would have subjected them to that, or to Bahrry's general doucheyness.  And for Dan -- you missed out big time.  I always thought you were a nice guy, and had you not set your fortunes with someone as disreputable as Bahrry, I definitely would have set you up with one of my cute friends. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bahrry and the Letter

After the blow-up, things improved a bit in the noise, smoking, and cleaning departments, but I'd be lying if I said things were fine and dandy.  Things were a little bit tense.  I mostly just kept to myself.  While that may seem like a slightly ridiculous existence, I was hoping I could tough it out until the summer when a friend of mine planned on moving to the city and we could move in together.  I acknowledged Bahrry and Dan with a nod or a smile if we ran into eachother in the hallway, but we certainly weren't friends.  Quite frankly, I wasn't looking for two new best friends when I moved in anyway.  Looking back at the roommates I had prior to these two fools, I got along best with Jake, Brandon the Bartender, Andrea, and Dave.  We definitely got on eachother's nerves from time to time, but for the most part we were respectful of common spaces, of our roommates general needs, and shared responsibilities.  We all liked to have fun, and occasionally did it together, but there was never any pressure or expectation for the lot of us to be best friends.  That's all I really wanted out of my roommates.  My issues with the other roommates were myriad, but for me, I couldn't ever separate those living problems from social interactions, so the question of being friends never came up.  It's also one of the reasons I was wary of living with friends -- fear of ruing a perfectly good friendship over roommate disagreements.

Getting back to the topic at hand -- Bahrry.  Bahrry clearly didn't understand the concept of being respectful of your roommates leading to friendly roommates that might lead to genuine friendship.  I mean, he was missing step one, so it honestly didn't occur to me that he was interested in steps two or three.  But I digress, we're actually working with a chronology here, and you're probably wondering why I entitled this blog "Bahrry and the Letter" when all I've been doing is waxing poetic about friendships with roommates.  The blow-up happened in the middle of November, and in the weeks before the December rent was due, things did get better, and I made the decision to stay and take it month by month, all the while looking on craigslist for something perfect.  I paid my December rent.  At 1:05 AM on Sunday, December 7th (ie, late at night on Saturday), I was sent the following e-mail from Bahrry, which I opened the next morning:

Please see the attached.

Attached was a file entitled "Margaret Letter -- Final," clearly indicating that there had been multiple drafts of said letter, which is included below.  I will let you draw your own conclusions about the letter, posting my own next week.  I haven't altered or changed the following at all from the original.  I should also mention that, as a word document, this is three full pages, single spaced.

Dearest Margaret,

As the warmth & light of your late summer arrival has since faded & we find ourselves fast approaching the grey chill of first snow, signaling your third season with us, we find it forthright & necessary to present you with some of our most sincere & honest concerns regarding our current living situation.

As apparent from our initial invitation we were eagerly optimistic about the prospects of your arrival and the idea of having someone new & interesting to share our household with.  We were openly looking forward to the rewarding experience afforded by the opportunity of sharing a home enhanced by the exchange & interaction of unique individuals stemming from diverse backgrounds, interests & experiences all contributing to create a pleasant & enriching environment. In short, our expectations were hinged upon a living arrangement & atmosphere no different than the values that govern most customary human relations, bound on the premise of communication, consideration, & willingness to compromise when the inevitable conflict arises.  We do not believe our expectations were unreasonable in assuming this type of living situation could have been enjoyable & beneficial to all.  We were, perhaps falsely, anticipating the fruitful prospects of a peaceful & friendly living environment fed by the common will to enjoy & benefit from our shared interests as well as attempt to understand our differences.  

We feel as though we may have been unduly deceived by a quickly fleeting false façade of personality & charm, strategically wielded with the sole intent of selfish acquisition of our residence, rather than the will to engage or contribute to it. We were originally impressed in finding someone of your caliber so involved in such noble & admirable pursuits, with works of charity & compassion in her arms, that we felt compelled to accept you into our home. Unfortunately, from our experiences with you, it appears a shadow has been cast on the glow of these seemingly good deeds, which we may only speculate (since we still do not know you) are performed out of the desire for self-fulfillment, accomplishment, & ego-centric gratification of your own will & self-righteousness, rather than any selfless endeavor.  Similar to the good works of missionaries whose purpose is to correct & save the heathen classes, whose manner of living is deemed unsuitable, by forcing upon them with charitable acts a new measure of order & control. Thereby attaining the salvation of their captor’s will & providing him with a sense of fulfillment. We feel this is perhaps analogous to our present situation, where we have suddenly been rendered into a subservient class restrained & chastised, subject to the new laws of our captor’s will.  

Upon your arrival, we can only assume that perhaps you were too overwhelmed with the daunting task of perusing listings & endless appointments to visit apartments, that perhaps you never thoroughly read our listing beyond the geographic location or just assumed the rest was inconsequential or malleable & could eventually be tailored to suit your specific needs upon gaining entry. If this was to be your modus operandi, then we unfortunately must inform you that it was never our intent to somehow misdirect you into the assumption that this would be an acceptable arrangement.

It seems as though you entered this household with a false set of expectations led by a belief that somehow we were looking to adapt and alter our lifestyle to the whims of some third party candidate entering anew.  Our contention is that any prospective candidate entertaining the notion of joining an already established entity does so with the understanding or will to either actively engage in, accept,  or assimilate to the set standards, and if not the party possess the freedom to decide otherwise. To us the onus of this decision bares solely on the third party and its substance should have been considered from the onset.     

In particular, we were not anticipating on sharing our home with some sort of distant transient or fleeting boarder, hence our taking the time to offer prospective roommates a very descriptive & thorough listing detailing not only the physical realities of the apartment, but also the existing lifestyles & personalities contained within. 

Though we have made avid attempts to accommodate & appease your recently expressed concerns and were perfectly willing to reach some mutual & respectful accord; we have yet to see our earnest efforts yield any positive results in the way of any improved “relations” other than a rather awkward and uncomfortable stalemate of silence & indifference. 

Perhaps you are accustomed to & prefer maintaining an aloof anonymity in your prior living situations, we on the contrary find it especially disconcerting & annoying.  We are not accustomed to, nor enthused about the obvious lack of communication, interest, & engagement associated with your hostile presence.

It would appear that the only contact & communication you wish to maintain with us as your housemates is limited exclusively to the realm of dictating mundane task-oriented functions to create some semblance of a simulated order borne out of an egotistic desire for control over an environment which you prefer not to have any true engagement with.   Although, we have in the past made honest attempts to extend an invitation in hopes of offering some chance for engagement & social interaction it is apparent that you possess no interest in pursuing any involvement with your housemates. We are uncertain whether this is customary in your previous experiences or are we exclusively so blessed?  Whether this behavior is intentional or incidental we can only speculate though no one is blind to the looming mountain of animosity which casts a foreboding shadow as you make entry into our once peaceful abode.

In spite of this overriding sense of some underlying hostility emanating from within you, we have made genuine attempts to entertain some level of conversation & engagement in hopes of eventually achieving some form of friendly common ground & peaceful co-existence, which we were optimistically certain could be an attainable endeavor…that is, assuming one possess the will to entertain the possibility.    It would appear through your behaviors & our increasingly limited interaction that the only relations you wish to entertain us with is that which is authoritative in nature & at times blatantly disrespectful in manner. 

Of particular note, we do not appreciate nor have the patience for the asinine, immature antics & temper tantrums suggestive of a self-centered child, such as those expressed in such sudden violent outburst one fateful night.  To further exacerbate an already uncomfortable situation, you exhibited the audacity to make idol threats foretelling of your intentions to abandon, as some sort of leverage over our living arrangements, which is equally intolerable & frankly absurd. This situation could have easily been averted & addressed as adults had you possessed the respect and courtesy of simply expressing your special needs in advance.  It would not have been a request so out of the ordinary that we would be unwilling to honor had we been respectfully made aware of the circumstance. We are not that unreasonable or intentionally disruptive & one would be hard pressed to make note of any deliberate actions on our part to exert any undue stress & suffering on your life.  Many of the problems we encounter appear to stem from a genuine lack of communication amongst us, whose root perhaps is the most bothersome as we portend it grows from some unknown branch of your personality inherently fixed upon the notion that we are somehow inconsequential or below the common respect of acknowledgement.  The seeds of such thought continue to perplex us though seem to bear fruit in the everyday behaviors & interactions, or lack thereof that we experience.  It is rather odd how customary, polite social engagements ,shared even amongst relative strangers,  such as “hellos” & “goodbyes” or the occasional “thank you” seem to deliberately evade our discourse. As brought to your attention previously, one would hardly know of your remote existence which lies somewhere in the silence between the occasional slamming door.       

We are not entertained with the pervasive presence of such festering hostility emanating from within the silent confines of your quarters.    It is as if the hostility brewing within the environs of your insulated yellow shell of solitude permeates the house much like the once loved lingering aroma of fresh ground coffee suddenly tainted, whose taste has never been rendered so bitter & unfamiliar.
We would assume & hope that you did not originally envision yourself forced into hiding like a rodent or recluse held captive within the isolated confines of your self-inflicted cage of repressed resentment. 
Although we do truly appreciate your responsibility in matters of household duties & punctuality with payments their benefits are typically short lived beyond the first of the month once the routine bare necessities of shared “living” have been fulfilled….but what better part of living remains beyond this rudimentary  form of existence, unfortunately as you would will it, nothing more. 

Even the crispness of a fresh $1000 bill to subsidize the outrageous cost of New York living has grown soft & worn, weathered by the daily toll & sacrifice from which it is earned. At what dollar amount does one sacrifice the enjoyment of life? Though the question is rhetorical & relative…the subsidy is simply not enough for this household.

It is obvious from your conduct that your time & experiences in our company have been nothing short of miserable & were it not for the convenience of the location, proximity to the train, & the considerable expenses associated with moving, you would have left, as alluded to, long ago.   
Though we would have loved things to have worked out more amicably, the trials of conflicting schedules & lifestyles exacerbated by what appears to be a genuine indifference or uninterested attitude towards attempting some friendly compromise or dialogue, have created an unpleasant atmosphere for all. It is not fair or healthy for any party involved to endure the constant feelings of annoyance & aggravation which frames the perspective of a burdensome & unpleasant living environment.

It is for the aforementioned reasons, which I’m sure you are duly aware of, that we are regrettably, respectfully & officially requesting you vacate our premises within (30) days or 1/5/09 .  Your deposit of $1000 will be returned in full for your compliance.  If arrangements cannot be made within said period your deposit shall be used on a per diem basis as needed.   

We do not harbor any ill-will towards you & wish you the best in finding a more suitable situation for yourself. We are quite certain that this is most certainly not the outcome any of us would have desired or anticipated, however we feel it is the best solution for all…. 

Bahrry & Dan