As a renter that has moved all over the US, I have lived in some insane situations. Not the kind where the water pipe bursts, although that has happened. I’m talking about the kind where my neighbor has multiple personality disorder and introduces herself by accusing me of stealing her scale the first morning I wake up there.
My first place.
When I was 19 years old, I moved to Colorado to become a snowboard bunny. I was totally over college, and just needed a break to get my head together. I found a place to live through the internet. It wasn’t as easy as it is now. I had to go through the ski resort I was working at, click on the page that said, “Housing Match” and then scroll through hundreds of people looking for roomies. After searching and searching, I found a place where the price was right and my would-be-roomie would also be from Michigan. I even met her before we moved out there. So, I kind of knew what to expect and was totally stoked to get out of Michigan.
I arrived 2 weeks before she did, and it was a horrible surprise. The landlords were hardcore Bible thumpers. In the lease it said that you can’t have anybody of the opposite sex stay in your “apartment.” I asked, “That doesn’t apply to my brother, does it?” It did. He was not family to my roomie, so it was against their beliefs.
While going over the lease further, they informed me they would do random inspections to make sure that there was no alcohol in the apartments of minors. If they found it, they would call the police immediately. I drank. So did my roommate. I haven’t even seen my room yet and my first attempt to be free from adults was already becoming a HUGE fail. I asked if I could look over the lease and sign it later. They said that that would be fine.
The “apartment” was really a motel room with a cabin feel. So, there were 12 other ones just like it, and they said that my brother could just rent out one of those when he came to visit. Now I get it. They want more money. “Will you offer him a deal since he’s my family?” Of course not.
Off to see my adorable apartment! I’d already seen pictures of it online and it’s fully furnished. At least this was going to be really nice…. Fuck. It is NOTHING like the pictures. There was supposed to be a couch, and a kitchen table and chairs set. Instead, there were two seats that swiveled on a tiny metallic pole. No couch. These chairs had no arm rests, and I’m guessing the landlords had found them in a dump around 1978. The dining room table was there, but not quite as pictured. Normal people would call it a plant stand. And where were the kitchen chairs? Oh, yeah, they thought pulling the chairs/couch four feet to the “dining room table” would be fine with us.
They shut the door on their way out and I started bawling. I called my mom. She agreed this was all ridiculous. Internet wasn’t every where like it is now. I didn’t have it at my place, and I certainly didn’t own a PC. I had no way to look for a new place. I didn’t even have a car. My roommate and I had the same job as ski lift operators and were going to share rides. We’re so screwed. I called her, and told her about the lease. She was just as pissed, but was clear that we needed the furniture they had in the pictures, not their side-of-the-road “scores.”
I got the furniture we were promised, and my roomie showed up. After a grocery shopping adventure, we were taking care of things, and she informed me she was bipolar. No biggy. Until she told me that she was taking this as her first chance to try being off of her meds, because her mom wouldn’t be around to make her take them. Awesome. The third night she was there, she brought home a good looking homeless guy to sleep on our couch. He was 21, so she also had him buy us a bunch of liquor. Seriously. This is going to be a long winter. I’m going to get robbed and raped by this guy we don’t know, and then we’re going to get kicked out for having a man and liquor in our place. I wanted out of that situation SO bad. I was tired that evening, so I did want any sane person would do- I went to bed with a knife under my pillow.
The guy ended up not being a rapist. There was bad news from that night, though. I wasn’t simply “tired” and I ended up being really sick with mono. Yep, the kissing disease that my boyfriend in Michigan had given me before I moved to Colorado. Since he cheated on me the whole time we were together, I’m lucky that’s all he gave me. I digress. I had the worst case of mono the 70 year old doctor had ever seen. He said I couldn’t work for at least three months, but was guessing it would be more like six. I couldn’t afford to live on my own. So, I had to move back to Michigan.
I found a sub-letter to take my place. My roommate approved of her. The new chick signed the lease and moved in the weekend after I left. A week after that, the Bible thumpers called to tell me she had decided to move somewhere else. I wonder why? Then the landlord’s said that they were holding my deposit. Not hers. Why? I have no idea. Good Christians.
My Uncle Larry ended up taking care of that, and I got my money back. Thank goodness for family!
After getting back to college and deciding to become a Biotechnologist, I moved to Minnesota during the summer I was 22 to intern at the Mayo Clinic. This was one of the more normal situations I have yet to come across. I lived at the Kahler Hotel, with around 50 other interns, and hundreds of sick people. Minus the sick and dying people, it was like living in a dorm room without all of the partying. Plus, somebody came and cleaned my room once a week. The other interns were from all over the world, with Spanish being the most popular language. I got to use my 4 years of high school Spanish, and they got to use their 4 years of high school English. It was the most beautiful Spanglish of all time! Thank goodness for the five or so people that were fluent in both. They had to help out when we were at a total loss for words and miming was getting us nowhere. Other than the ghosts the other people saw in their rooms (the Kahler was the original Mayo Clinic hospital), it was all very normal. Plus, I’m still good friends with one of the guys I met there. I even met up with three of the people when we were all in Seattle (still to come).
Once I graduated college, at age 23, I decided to take a summer off and party until my heart was content. I moved in with one of my best friends and we both served/bartended at a local restaurant and night club. She and I found an entire house that was super cheap. It wasn’t a big place, but she knew the landlord’s daughter, and everything was honky dory.
We turned the house into the grossest place that two women have ever lived. Neither of us ever cleaned the toilet, because there was black mold growing in it when we moved in, and we didn’t want to touch it, even with a ten foot pole. Oddly enough, a guy known as “Sparty” who paints himself for Michigan State games, ended up going and buying bleach and cleaning it for us during the one night we allowed him to crash at our place. He turned into a creeper and asked me to marry him after 24 hours of knowing me. Ummm… thanks for cleaning the toilet, now leave.
Other grossness came from the fact that we both worked about 60 hours a week and typically came home wasted. Then, we’d bake whatever frozen food we could chisel out of the freezer, which had been last maintained in 1955. We always baked on a stone that my roommate insisted NEVER needed to be cleaned because it added flavor. Three months later, it was no longer a baking stone, but a layer of burned food crumbs on top of a baking stone.
We never did the dishes and loved our paper plates. Her cat hated fresh cat litter and flung it out of the litter box whenever we poured it in. He also ripped open the cat food bag and had a riot strewing it across the living room that we never used. Plus, we didn’t have a vacuum. It was fine.
I haven’t even told you about the garage. This was where we spent most of our time. We decorated it like a tacky front yard. Pin wheels, ugly flags with butterflies, and a frog that would swing in the wind, if there was wind in a garage. There was also a dart board against the wall where we hung the huge Budweiser sign that we stole. Darts was oodles of fun until I started a new game. I’d always wanted to do it… and I did it. I finished my beer and threw it across the room with all of my strength. SMASH!!! Oh my God that felt GOOD!!! It was so cathartic. Starting then, we did this with every beer bottle we finished. We also made all of our guests do it. If they didn’t manage to break it, we called them pansies for the rest of the night. If you’ve never done it, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s a riot and can be swept up easily, which we were going to until we got ready to move out. Plus, the wall was cement bricks and covered by the Budweiser sign. No damage was being done, except to the beer bottles, and the feet of people who insisted on playing darts.
Then came the chaos. The landlord came by when neither of us was home about a week before we moved out. He was horrified. He should have been… but we hadn’t damaged anything. The floors, walls, carpet, everything was fine. The cat litter on the carpet didn’t stink because he only pushed it out when it was first poured in. So, it was pee and poop free. Granted, I could see why he was pissed about all of it. But, we had not given him the okay to come in, because we knew he wouldn’t approve. He called us both screaming, on different occasions. Both of our dads happened to be with us during these two phone calls and they set him straight. He was not supposed to have entered, and he could scream all he wanted when we moved out if it still looked like trash, which it was never going to.
A week after we were all moved out, I called him to ask if everything was like it was when we moved in. He informed me that it was fine, but that he’s never seen two girls live in such filth, all the while screaming again. I said I’d be by to get my deposit. There, he screamed at me again. I was not phased. I was a good tenant for all intents and purposes. I paid rent on time, and returned the home in a dandy fashion. Get over it.
I moved back in with my parents for a short stint so I could focus on finding a job that used my newly earned degree. I landed a job and then a place in Seattle. There, I had an entirely different cast to make my home memorable. First, I met the lady next door. She was a six feet tall, black, 45 years old, and “introduced” herself the morning after I moved in when she knocked on my door to ask if I’d stolen her scale. It turned out that this neighbor was bipolar, had multiple personality disorder (four of them, if I remember properly), and had substance abuse problems. She was my best friend and was so sweet. She’d bring me over plates of food when she heard me get in late from work. She’d sit on the patio with me and share a bottle of wine. We’d head over to the pool together and swim for hours. When we were resting by the pool, she would cover herself with towels and umbrellas, and I’d have her rub my back with tanning lotion. I love that woman… all three of the ones that I met. The fourth stayed in bed and prayed for the other personalities, and me.
The neighbors that lived on the third story were in their 40s and I met them while they were having a screaming match in the parking lot. They wanted me to be their referee. “You did say that!!! Hey, you heard him, didn’t you!?!” I ran inside. Later, while enjoying the patio with my best-friend, they introduced themselves further. They joined us down in the grass and we were all soaking up some rays, except for my best friend, who was chasing the shade of the tree.
The upstairs husband had been a genius during the computer boom in the 80s. He’d worked directly with Bill Gates. Somewhere, he lost his marbles and he hadn’t touched a computer since his break down. The wife had elephantitis of the leg, which was fascinating to look at while we sat in the sun and had some wine. One day, I was complaining about my computer monitor not working and the guy said he’d look at it. His wife looked SO happy. He was finally going to touch a computer, for the first time in twenty years. They came down a few nights later. They brought some wine coolers, so I realized this was also a social thing for them. I let him hook up the computer. It was old and had a monster-sized monitor. He was working on it, and it was obvious he really knew what he was doing. Screens were flashing back and forth. He was running programs from DOS, while he mumbled, “Hmmm… yeah. See!?!”. I felt confident that he was going to fix it.
She, however, was being peculiar. I think she was drunk when she arrived. She was weird and nervous. She kept saying how pretty I looked that day and that I’m always gorgeous. He’s typing away, and I swear I can smell my monitor working it’s ass off to keep up with everything he’s having it do. I was drinking a wine cooler. Then *SNAP*. It came from the computer. Holy shit! The monitor is smoking. Wait… no. It’s on fire!!! He quickly unhooked it and I threw it out into the grass. He looked sheepish and apologized. He said he got a little over excited and should have slowed down. Oh well. It was a free-to-me monitor anyways. Then they asked me if I wanted to be in a threesome. WHAT!?! NO! With you!?! NO!!! You’re like forty… and unattractive. And… NO!!! No threesomes!!! No. They packed up their wine coolers and went back to their apartment, disappointed. I went and got my friend next door. They had asked her once too. I told her a warning would have been nice. She said I was way out of their league and didn’t think they’d ever have the balls to ask me. We drank and laughed for the rest of the night, joking about the elephantitis leg positions that would have to be made for her to have sex, let alone during a threesome. I loved this woman, craziness and all.
The neighbors one floor above me were a 70 year old Russian couple in a one bedroom apartment just like mine. They had a computer in their bedroom and one squeeky chair, which I could hear whenever they were sitting in it. They had a 35 year old son that would come stay with them, with his son, who was about six. They had parties at least once a week. If you’ve been around Russians, you know that their voices are strong, and carry extremely well, right down into lower apartments. During the day, I turned my music up, dance and sang, and they never complained, so I decided their partying evened out my music.
When my mom stayed with me, she was interested to learn that the husband had a prostate problem. There was no bathroom noise insulation. He peed all of the time, and it was, at strongest, a tinkle, with frequent stops. I never spoke one word to the Russians, in person. I did, however, scream at them through my ceiling and their floor. Not about their parties. Not about the squeeky chair (okay, maybe I yelled once or twice from my bed about that). The reason that finally threw me over the edge? The pounding on their kitchen floor. The first time it was the middle of the night. I guessed they were crushing a bag of ice. The second time it was the middle of the night (it was ALWAYS the middle of the night) and I could not figure out what it was they were doing. I would hear five solid, loud, random bangs in one minute. Twenty minutes later, another bang. An hour later, fifteen. It wasn’t just a hammer. It was louder. It shook things in my apartment. It went on the entire time they lived there. Bang. Bang. Bang. One night, I decided that they were Russian Mafia and it was probably a human head or frozen leg. Once I sobered up, I decided that it really was frozen flesh. I still swear to this day that it was them throwing, not dropping, a frozen turkey on the floor. It’s the only explanation. It makes no sense, but makes more sense than anything else I came up with, sober or not.
After I’d been there about a year, one of my best friends and coworkers moved in to the third floor next to the swingers. Within two months, he and I had ran the Russians out with our singing and dancing. They had lived there for twelve years. It was living between us that ran them out. Did we do it on purpose? You bet we did!!! Once Jeremy had moved in, they had at minimum, four people living in their one bedroom. I couldn’t take the foot traffic and turkey tossing. He couldn’t take their late night parties and vodka-induced hoopla. As soon as they moved out, another of my best friends from work moved in. All was right in the world. Hours and hours out in the yard and in the pool visiting with my favorite people.
Then I gave all of that up for Alaska. I moved there for a guy. I won’t even go into his craziness, other than the parts of the house that he found acceptable that were not.
No running water. He had promised he would get it hooked up by October, so we would have it come winter. I was okay with that, because lots of people use public showers in this area of Alaska. Drilling down to water costs more than it does to build a home. Plus, the bar I was working at had a shower, and I was the only one using it since the summer camping season was over. So, I got over not having running water. Except, that we didn’t have running water for our toilet. If I peed, I would pee into the toilet, and then step on the lever to open the toilet valve that let the contents down. When I had to poop, I had to pour water into the toilet first, otherwise the poop just stuck all over the toilet and stunk up the house. Why did it stink up the house and not just the bathroom? Because there were no walls or doors. We had a flag wrapped around the bathroom for “privacy.” By the way, I moved out in February, and there was till no running water.
Next up, no electricity. This wasn’t a big deal during the summer when the sun was up 24/7. We both read a lot, and it was nice. During the winter, when it’s dark 24/7, it was en entirely different story. We had a generator that would power up these huge batteries that would last about 24 hours, if we just had a few lights on and the stereo playing. Then, it got cold enough the batteries started freezing. They each weighed about 80 lbs and had to be carried into the house to warm around the oven. No explosion concerns there. !?!
Really, this situation was so ridiculous, I’m not going to explain it all in detail. One sentence descriptions will be plenty.
It was minus 50 degrees during three of the months I was there. Wind blew through the walls, when mosquitoes weren’t crawling through. We had a wood burning stove that needed stocked every 5 hours which turned in to VERY cold mornings. The town included a grocery store, quilting center, two gas stations, and five bars. Bears. Wolves. Creepy patrons doing lines of coke on my bar at work and threatening to come back after I closed.
That’s enough. I could write an entire book, if I hadn’t done such a good job of repressing this experience.
After Alaska, I had lost my own marbles, and I moved in with my brother and sister-in-law in Michigan. They watched and nursed me back to an emotionally stable point, which was only found after I got a DWI. Reality check! Then I got a job in my field. Thank goodness for family, because I am not an easy person to live with. I believe that my sister-in-law is a saint for putting up with me as long as she did. Love you, Susan!!!
I moved to Allegan where I would be using my degree. I had to live close to work, because the DWI meant I wasn’t able to drive. I walked to work every day and told my coworkers I was doing it to save the Earth. I lied. This place was pretty normal to live in. It was the DWI restrictions that made it complicated. But, this was when my parents brought me my cat for the first time. It was nice to have him around.
At this time, while stuck in a tiny town, I started ordering Netflix. A movie that ended up changing how I see living situations is called, “He Died with a Falafel in His Hand.” The quick storyline is, “A search for love, meaning and bathroom solitude. Danny goes through a series of shared housing experiences in a succession of cities on the east coast of Australia.” It was hysterical, and got me thinking about shared housing as a way to live in a home, while not having to pay ridiculous amounts to do so.
I now have you caught up to the first of the year in 2009. How many more places could I have lived in? You’ll find out shortly.