Downsizing

Image Source: Wallstreet Journal

Image Source: Wallstreet Journal

It’s been almost three months since I sat down to write creatively. I think about it daily, writing stories in my head but lately, as is my usual excuse for everything – life got in the way. Seriously, I don’t have kids. It’s the only excuse I have.

I started this blog after moving to the suburbs with Tom being the only person I knew and vice versa. While the space was amazing, the rest of it was mundane and boring. Writing filled the time as I stared out the window wondering why our neighbors never spent time outside. From the moment, I moved in with Tom, we talked about moving back to the city. After all, he was commuting everyday into the city, and I missed the hustle and bustle immediately. So after a year of talking about it, we finally made it happen. We put our (technically it’s his) house on the market and crossed our fingers. We accepted an offer in six days and closed six weeks later! We were tremendously lucky except that we had no idea where we were going to live next.

We had already started looking for places to buy in the city but we still hadn’t found “the place”. Being in a time crunch, we weighed our options, took a break from house hunting to pack up the suburban house and find a temporary place in the city. Together, we put together a list of must haves for the temporary place, which in retrospect was an absolutely ridiculous list. It’s amazing how a year in single family home with a yard changes the perspective on apartment living. Among the requirements on the list was a short term lease, a place that allowed a dog, cheap rent, in the neighborhood we wanted to buy, had parking, an in unit washer and dryer, dishwasher, no elevator and non-radiant heat – oh and central air. The only one of those things I had when I lived in my last apartment was no lease.

“So what do you think?” I asked Tom as he read over the list.

“It looks good. Are you taking this one on?”

“Sure! I’m good at apartment hunting.” He wrinkled his and looked at me skeptically.

“Seriously, Elyse? I hope you don’t call your last apartment good apartment hunting. That place was gross and questionable.”

“Well, I loved it. It was the first place I could ever call my own. I promise, I’ll find something that meets our criteria.”

In the past, I walked around neighborhoods looking for “For Rent” signs on the doors of buildings. I would run up the steps immediately calling the number of places that interested me. It’s how I had found every apartment but this time was different. Craigslist has single handedly ruined apartment hunting. Continue reading

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The Craigslist Roommates

For the most part, strangers don’t scare me. Call me naïve but I believe people are inherently nice. So when I needed a place to live the second summer I lived in Chicago, I went to the most logical place – Craigslist.

I was in search for a mostly furnished place, roommates and cheap rent. I was working at Nine West again. I was lucky they hired me back. While I showed up for every shift on time, I was usually pale, not showered and reeked of booze from the prior night. It was a minimum wage job with few hours that left me with little options.

The first person I contacted was a guy in his early thirties. I had never lived with a boy outside of family. I was open to the idea but it made me uneasy. This was before the Craigslist killer so the worst I was asking myself – could he be a creep? He lived a few blocks from my sister, Lana, so I wandered down to meet the guy and to see the apartment, by myself no less (maybe I am naïve). The place was nice but I couldn’t get over the lone book he had on his bookshelf – The Nanny Diaries. I love the book but it was a red flag. The only book you own is the The Nanny Diaries? I don’t care if you are a boy or girl, I need more variety in my life. Seriously, you own one book and that’s the one you choose? It was a deal breaker.

The next ad I answered was a furnished apartment full of Columbia students. They were all my age (21), and it was 100% furnished, which was perfect. My parents refused to buy me a bed for the summers between the school year, so they bought me a $50 cot from Bed, Bath and Beyond instead. It was extremely uncomfortable. I imagine it was similar to sleeping on a hammock made of bones. I made it through one summer on the cot, and if I had anything to do with it, I would not make it a second.

When I showed up there were three roommates. They gave me a tour of the place ending with the bedroom I would be renting. Their roommate was studying abroad for the summer. I eyed the oak bed confirming it came furnished. When I was done asking questions, things got weird. They brought me to a room where I sat on a different bed. They left the room and returned with a video camera. I was confused. They were already recording; the red light was blinking. They informed me they would be asking a series of questions. If my answers proved to be the best of the other candidates, I would get the room. I went along with the charade because I am a sucker.

I left their apartment feeling violated. I didn’t want to be filmed. I certainly didn’t want the room but it didn’t matter. They never called.

I think about that video from time to time. I wonder if it still exists. If it does and tragedy strikes landing me on Nancy Grace, I guarantee you that video will show up. But don’t be fooled, it wasn’t my proudest moment.

The final ad I answered was a three bedroom apartment with two Columbia students. They were looking for a roommate(s) to help with the rent for the summer. I walked through the door and fell in love. It was an open floor plan with central air. I was sold.
I moved in the next week – my cot, bedding, a suitcase of clothes and two boxes. I traveled light.

I was so excited. I had such a good feeling. It was in a great neighborhood and I couldn’t wait to bond with my new roommates over drinks at the neighborhood bar. Once I was unpacked and settled in – approximately twenty minutes after I arrived – I was ready to go.
Ten minutes later, I realized this may not be the summer I thought it was going to be.

 Here’s why:

• Two other girls move into the apartment. Since there were only three bedrooms, I shared a room with the girl, Anna, who had two cats. My cot fit nicely in the corner. The other girl, Jenny, lived in the pantry. It fit a twin size mattress and nothing else. I must admit, I was envious of her shelf space. Continue reading