Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Very "Fly" Summer

To paraphrase a famous movie, renting an apartment is like a box of chocolates.  You never know when one will be filled with deadly, arsenic-laced coconut cream.  Renting a place is an exciting time in your life.  You’re not in a dorm anymore, you’re not living with your parents anymore, and you actually have a place large enough to cook more than ramen noodles for dinner. 

Sometimes, renting can be a fantastic experience with cooperative and caring land lords who go out of their way to make sure their tenants are happy.  Sometimes it can feel like the person you’re renting from is Lucifer in disguise and you’ve actually been assigned your own little slice of fiery doom on Brimstone Boulevard.

I'm not sure why a house in Hell would have a chimney.  I don't ask questions, though.
I used to live in a quadriplex that we got because our previous place was very very small, and also pretty expensive, and because we needed a place to live that was not a dorm room..  The place I found was cheap and pretty big, so I tended to look over little things, like the fact that my bathroom hadn’t been finished when I moved in.  Or that there appeared to be a bullet hole in window for the room I used as my office.

When your lease is running out and you don’t have the money to renew it and you realize that if you don’t find a new place soon you’ll be hauling the contents of your fridge around in the trunk of your car...something happens to you.  You begin hanging around outside of low budget shopping malls wearing ratty army jackets and telling people you’ve “seen things, man.  Things like you wouldn’t believe!”

When we first moved into the quadriplex, it was like a godsend.  It was the only place in town that wasn’t filled with beer soaked frat boys.  Because of this, I over looked a lot of cosmetic things.  I mean, who cares if the baseboards are splintered and/or not attached, right?  That’s just a cosmetic thing.  But then…it’s hard to overlook things like…

At first when we tried to use the oven, I chalked our burned pizzas and poorly cooked porkchops up to my wife not paying attention to the time and/or temperature, much to her dismay.  However, the more often we tried to use the oven, the more closely our food resembled ashes instead of dinner.  When that blazing, gaping maw ate my freakin’ pumpkin pie, I vowed vengeance.  Never again…never again.

I called several times to my landlord, desperate to get them to come down and fix the oven.  I explained that I thought the temperature regulator was broken and it was messing with how things were cooking.  They said they’d see what they could do.  In the meantime, we ate stovetop meals.  However, there are only so many stovetop meals that you can make before you’re eating the same extremely fatty meals over and over again.  I ate so much stovetop stuffing the sight of it began to make my stomach roll.

Finally the maintenance man came by our apartment to change our air filter and I cornered him.  Half mad, with visions of properly baked cookies dancing through my head, I begged him to examine our oven.  By that point, we had been living there 5 months and they still hadn’t looked at our oven.  He said he’d check it, and he was true to his word.  The next day he showed up with a temperature gauge in hand.  He set the oven to 200^F and watched it heat up.  When it reached to 200, he turned and said, “Well it seems to heat up fine.”

“Just watch,” I warned with a grim expression.

I watched his eyes grow wider and wider as the temperature climbed.  250, 300, 350, 400.  He finally stopped the oven at 450 and said, “Welp…it looks like your temperature regulator is busted.”

The neighborhood echoed with my victorious shouts of “I KNEW IT!!!!!”

Everyone has those neighbors they don’t like.  They’re too loud, they listen to their music at obscene volumes (and at even more obscene times), or it’s clear they have more love for people who talk during movies than for each other from the way they scream at each other.

Our neighbors were worse.  For example, if I ever went anywhere after dark, say to get groceries or something, I would have to worry about one of my neighbors hiding in the shadows outside her door like some kind of creepy hobo Batman with cigarettes, only instead of protecting the city from crime, she was just protecting any surrounding people from healthy lungs.

Worse than that, though, was her boyfriend’s love of working on his truck.  I have nothing against mechanics.  I envy them.  I wish I had the patience to figure out what makes automobiles tick.  However, most days when we came home, we’d see him standing at the front of his truck, oil and grease smearing his naked, pasty-white torso.  Unsettling, but no worse than what you’d see at a public pool.  Then, one day, my wife greeted me at the door mortified.  After I got inside and coaxed her a little more, she spilled that she had just driven up to see our neighbor standing outside, working on his truck, completely naked.

There was nothing I could do but hold her and hope that the nightmares wouldn’t last much longer than a few weeks.  From that day on, every time we pulled into our parking space and my wife saw his truck, she would shudder and get a horrified, far-away look in her eyes.

This was the one that was honestly the tipping point.  One day I came home from a long day of research paper writing.  While gathering all of my research materials from my car, I heard a very strange buzzing noise.  I’m not a coward…per se…but I do have what I feel is a healthy fear of things that can chase me down and stab me repeatedly.  Muggers, bumblebees, mistaken vampire hunters, wasps, all of these things should be avoided.

To me, these are all essentially the same thing.
Anyway, I hurried past the offending bush and quickly made the assessment that one of our bushes had become infested with bees.  When I mentioned it to my wife, she told me she was allergic to bees, which did not exactly put me at ease.  I called, reported the problem, and they told me they would handle it.

What happened?  Weeks passed.  Every day a new bush was claimed by the advancing horde.  By the end of the third week they still hadn’t come up to even investigate, and all 10 of the bushes lining our walkway had been claimed.  Going to check the mail became a harrowing test of my nerves.  One day, however, I decided to be a man—which is a rare occasion, indeed—and did some investigating of the bushes.  What I found was that the bushes were not infested with bees, but rather, they were infested with thousands, if not millions, of flies.

Based on our experiences, can you guess how quickly the management fixed the problem?  THEY DIDN’T.  The day that we moved out of that place, the flies were still buzzing and stirring in every freakin’ bush despite several more complaining phone calls.

Have you ever had bad and/or unresponsive landlords?  What about terrible neighbors?  Various other problematic household things?  Share with us in the comments!


  1. Boy, you lucked into a wonderful place there. I honestly don't think I've ever had that many problems with a place. The biggest problem I had was a place we rented in Turkey that had no water for the first month we lived there, and no heat. I huddled around a space heater all winter. Brr!

    The art work you have on here - is it all yours?

  2. Heh, yeah. It was certainly an experience. But no heat?! Goodness, I don't know how you did it!

    Yeah, the artwork is all mine. I sort of borrowed the idea from a blog called Hyperbole and a Half, but I didn't want to copy her simplistic style, so I tried to come up with my own. I hope it's entertaining. I like to think of them like bonus features.


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