Angie just told a story about nightmare apartment neighbors, and it reminded me of my worst apartment experience. And rather than leaving a mile-long comment on her blog, I thought I’d steal the idea and make my own little blog entry out of it. (Can you tell I’m hard up for material? Life has been pretty dull lately. Good, but dull.)
Back in 2000, I had moved home with my parents for a brief stint while I went to school for a Microsoft certification. I was in Mississippi in the middle of summer, very depressed because I was 24 and living with my parents, and I seem to remember crying a LOT during that time. I also had a lot of migraines, most likely due to a combination of the weather (me no likey the heat) and proximity to my father (I love him, I just can’t be around him for too long or we fight). So when I finally finished the certification and got a job offer from a company in Massachusetts, I said yes even though I had never been there before. I figured that anything would be an upgrade from my current situation. (Blatant foreshadowing.)
So, the job was in Worcester, which the locals pronounce “Woostah.” Don’t ask me why. There’s also a town there called Leicester that’s pronounced “Lestah.” However, Dorchester is pronounced just the way it’s spelled, so I guess there’s something in that one little magical “h” that makes the world of difference between saying something properly and f*cking it all to hell. Whatever. So, I was in Woostah, or Worcester, or whatever you want to call it. I didn’t realize just how tight the housing market was in Massachusetts. This was my first major IT job, and I thought it was a pretty good salary, but I quickly figured out that there was no way I could afford most of the apartments in that area. I finally found one that I could afford – a very tiny one-bedroom for $475 a month. I should’ve known that was way too cheap, since most of the other comparable apartments were at least $1000 per month. Perhaps I should have talked to the other tenants, or explored the neighborhood a bit more, or driven through the area at night. Ah, hindsight.
Basically, it was a really old house (built in the mid-1800’s) that had been converted to apartments. The main cool thing I remember about the apartment was that it still had the original doorknobs, which didn’t turn, they had a button in the center that you pushed to make the latch retract. I had to explain to everyone who came over how they worked so they wouldn’t accidentally lock themselves in the bathroom. But that’s about where the cool features of this apartment ended. The dishwasher never worked properly, so it was more of a dish-drying rack than anything, and there was zero closet space so I had to get one of those free-standing wardrobe racks for my clothes. The laundry was in what I called the Blair Witch Basement – it was absolutely terrifying to go down there. As for the neighborhood… well. For starters, there was a methadone clinic four blocks away. Drug dealers lived next door. (I’m guessing a lot of their client base came directly from the methadone clinic, and vice versa.) Also, I’m pretty sure that my neighbors across the street were involved in some form of organized crime. Starting to figure out why the place was so cheap? Yeah, it was ghetto.
Besides the run-of-the-mill stuff that happens when you live in a bad neighborhood – like my car getting broken into, little neighborhood thug kids throwing snowballs at my windows because they wanted to scare my cat, and having what I’m pretty sure were obscene comments yelled in Spanish at me every time I left the apartment to go to my car, two major incidents really stand out in my memory. First was the guy upstairs. He was the landlord’s son, so there was no way to get him evicted. I’m honestly not sure if he was on drugs or if he was mentally ill. But apparently since his parents owned the place, he had keys to everyone’s apartments. There were 3 very pretty college girls who lived on the third floor (the converted attic), and they told me that he occasionally let himself into their apartment and would just hang out and babble about things like “God is a frog” and all kinds of random nonsense, and they had no idea what to say or how to get rid of him. (They thought maybe he was schizophrenic, since he didn’t seem like a druggie type, but who knows.) There were a few times that I came home and suspected that he had been in my apartment. He didn’t take anything, but certain things were “off” – Teenie would be hiding under the bed (she’s usually scared of men), items would be misplaced, the TV would be on a different channel than the one I had last been watching, that kind of thing. It was very creepy. He only came into my apartment once when I was home. It was a Saturday morning, I had been sleeping late, and he opened the back door, which just happened to be in my bedroom. Since the door was only a couple of feet away from my bed, I woke up when I heard him fooling with the lock, and when he opened it, I screamed. He quickly closed the door, and said, “umm, there’s a package for you out here.” Right, ok. So you just thought you’d come into my apartment and leave it on the bed for me? The hell? I said I’d be out to get it in a minute, and I waited until I heard his feet running back upstairs before I stuck my head out. There was no package. Surprise. I suppose that he thought I wasn’t home, or maybe it was my screaming that scared him, I don’t know.
Oh, also? If you left your clothes while they were in the laundry (because seriously, who can stand to hang out in the Blair Witch Basement for an hour or longer? I know I couldn’t, the spiders alone freaked me the hell out), he’d inevitably end up taking them out when the dryer was done, and putting them on the big table (which was there if you wanted to fold your clothes as soon as they came out of the dryer). But, my panties were always in a separate stack off to the side, all by themselves. Ew, ew, ew.
Now, incident number two might be even creepier than the dude upstairs, if you can imagine. I mentioned this apartment was tiny, right? So my bed was right up against the window, which had curtains, but they were very sheer, so you could see straight through them. I woke up in the middle of the night once to Teenie making a weird half-growl/half-meow sound. It’s the noise she usually reserved for when she found a bug, and since she was in bed with me, I thought I’d better open my eyes and check out the situation. So I rolled over, and I saw that Teenie was actually looking through the window, and… there was a guy on the other side of the window. If the window had been open, I could have reached out and slapped him, he was that close. I grabbed my cordless phone, pulled the covers over my head, and called 911. The operator was very cool, and kept me on the phone while she dispatched a squad car to the house. She asked me to peek out from under the covers and tell her if the guy looked like he was trying to open my window. I looked, and said, “No, he’s just staring really closely, but his hands are down low…. um, what on earth is he doing? I think he might be peeing on the side of the house, maybe?” I’m not sure if it’s because I had just woken up, or if I’m just really naive (maybe both), but I figured out a few minutes later that he was definitely NOT peeing on the house. Yes, folks, I had a window wanker. Gross. Keep in mind that it was February in Massachusetts, and there was at least a couple of feet of snow on the ground. Plus, I was sleeping in a sweatshirt and flannel pajama pants, and had the covers pulled up to my nose. But I suppose that I must have a particularly provocative forehead (since that’s all he could’ve seen of me), and apparently sub-zero temperatures do nothing to deter hardcore perverts. By the time the police showed up, he had finished his business and gone on his way, so that was pretty much useless.
The next day, I heard the maintenance man outside, and went to talk to him about it. He said that my next-door neighbor (another single woman) had seen the guy and reported him to the police at least 12 to 14 times, and the cops hadn’t been able to catch the perv yet. The maintenance guy rigged up some big floodlights all around the side of the house, which made my bedroom uncomfortably bright at night, but I never saw the window wanker again, so I guess it was worth it. I got really creeped out about how many times my neighbor saw him, and I wondered how many times he was watching me that I didn’t know about it. Or maybe he was just her personal stalker, and it was only that one time that he got confused about whose window he was looking into. I comforted myself by thinking that it was probably the latter and not the former. And I was very careful that for the rest of my apartment-dwelling years, as a single female, I would NEVER live on the first floor again.
Just to finish the story: the job in Massachusetts sucked, but they were the company that transferred me to Washington and paid my moving expenses, so I have no complaints about them. Of course, they transferred me right after September 11th, which happened to be right before the company started to go under, and I got laid off a few months after I got here. But I wound up in the state that I wanted to live in, so it all worked out in the end. And I’ve never had a window wanker since (that I know of).