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. 

1 comment:

  1. I've heard this story so many times and it's always still quite entertaining! you are a great story-teller, M'arg! :)