Jun 13, 2010

Feeling Strangely Rental: A Memoir of a Last Month Lease

Dorothea Lange, "Migrant Mother"
In the 1930 Census there is a ton of data about how Americans lived during the Great Depression. Few people had radios in their homes and most middle class citizens rented. My maternal grandmother grew up in a house on Ursulines in New Orleans and her family paid sixteen dollars a month for the rent.

Today, renting is not so run-of-the-mill, at least, from my perspective. Two of my friends bought in the last several months, one a thirty-something with a professional job and the other, a couple, who bought a house after renting for thirty-five years. Wow.

I used to joke that I would never own. Who wants to cut grass? I am not really keen on mortgage notes. If I can't pay the bill I rather be evicted than post foreclosure.

Renting is the only vestige link I have to my ancestors.

Is that the real reason I rent?

Nah.

I decided to rent long before I knew Grandma lived in a rental and didn't have a radio.

Renting is the only Bohemian side to my pretty complacent, post-MA existence. Renting says, "Hey! I am free, sort of. I may have tons of student loans to pay off but at least you're not going to take my house (because I don't have one!).

There are obvious downsides to renting. The landlord is number one. Most complaints by renters can be traced back to the landlord. She doesn't fix the leak. He never installed that new water heater. Ya da ya da ya da.

There's more.

Like, have you ever had your landlord walk in on you naked (yep, that's me)? What about when you are leaving an apartment, have you ever had embarrassing moments with what I like to call the prospective-tenant-old-tenant-landlord triangle?

It goes like this.

Your lease is up. You got a raise. So you decide to take a bite out of the icing and do a "moving on up" gig. You get a better crib.

Your last paying month is rather raunchy. You know you have thirty days. So you pack up slowly. You think you have all the time in the world.

The landlord leaves a message that he's showing the apartment. Cool. You haven't stepped outside all day, so you take a walk to the local coffee shop. That day goes by fine. You are a little creeped out that the prospective tenant may be sizing up YOU rather than the PLACE, but you never met them, so who cares.

It's a little worse, though, when the prospective tenant, you, and the landlord meet up despite your best attempts at preventative medicine.

The door knocks. It's your landlord with a twenty-something wanting to look at the place. "Hey, can I show her around?"

"Sure," you say. All of a sudden you feel naked and you wonder if everything is put away. Neat. In order, as if this is a blind date or something.

"So, how do you like living here?" she nonchalantly asks?

"Oh. Yeah. It's great." The landlord eyes you to shut-up but you keep going. "I love it. Here. It's great." And just when you think you're home free, you say something like, "Except for the showers. It's like running a marathon in there." Dammit. SNAFU.

"Well, I'm just going to show her the laundry room."

"Bye." The landlord gives you an even worse evil eye than before. You put your head down in shame, and go back to whatever renters do in their rented apartments.

Have you experienced any odd triangulations with your landlord? Feel free to post and share! (See that comment button down there? Use it. Don't be a lurker).


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