The Great Apartment Hunt, Pt. II
August 8, 2012 § 3 Comments
During the whole process of looking for an apartment, I felt incredibly single-minded. I didn’t have the time or patience to make small talk over IM with any friends who were curious about my move (sorry guys!) because I was too busy scouring New York Craigslist for listings within my price range and geographical location. I had a Google doc set up where I summarized all the ads I applied to, linked to them for reference, and wrote a personal introductory spiel that I copy/pasted into all my emails. The process became almost muscle memory, and I fired off as many emails as I could each day. If only I could apply that kind of focus to every other part of my life…
On Monday, father had to go to work, so he dropped mother and me off at the Newark Path station bright and early, where we rode the train for over an hour to get into Manhattan. I brought my laptop with me so I could do some extra Craigslisting throughout the day, and though it only weighs about five pounds, my laptop bag (including camera, notebook and other things) felt like it weighed about 30 pounds by the end of the day.
I didn’t have any appointments until the afternoon, so mother and I had quite a few hours to kill. We walked north to Times Square and took some pictures before stopping in a McDonald’s for some free Wifi. All of the Starbucks and Wifi in NYC have free Wifi! That was a really great discovery. We only ended up seeing two apartments that day, one that was a cute place that cost $1300 plus utilities, and another that cost $1000 plus utilities. Neither was very close to campus, and the second one was unfurnished, so we weren’t too keen on either one.
Despite the meager number of places we visited, mother and I still ended up walking more than 10 miles. It was absolutely exhausting. I had actually been a bit nervous about spending the whole day with her. Our relationship, which I’ve documented here and there, is never on the best of terms (really, it’s rarely even on good terms), but we actually made it through most of the day pretty pleasantly. Could things be improving for good? I wondered. But nothing lasts forever (except mold in a Hong Kong apartment), and on our way to the second apartment of the day, we had a bit of a spat.
Mother was basically speedwalking through the crowded sidewalk traffic, while I was keeping a more sedate pace to nurse my aching feet (I’m normally a slow walker anyway). I thought she just really wanted to be on time for our appointment, which annoyed me because we had rushed to the first apartment and then waited outside for 15 minutes because the landlady wasn’t home yet. I mean, we were going to look at an apartment, not taking the last flight to China or something! Timing was flexible!
So I exasperatedly told her to relax after she scolded me for making her wait on the opposite side of the street because I had missed the tail end of the green light (she was almost half a block ahead of me). “I’m walking fast because it hurts my feet to walk any slower!” she snapped. “I injured my feet last year and now blisters are forming!” Well if you had just told me, mother, instead of racing down the street like your hair is on fire…
At the end of the day, we definitely felt better than the first day, but our options were still not ideal. I continued reaching out to Craigslisters.
On the third day, we had a lot of appointments — six, to be exact. The first one, a $1050 place located up in Hell’s Kitchen, was cute, but mother thought it was too far away. The next one was more than two miles away, so instead of walking, we took the NYC subway for the first time. Boy oh boy do I have some thoughts on the subway system, but I’ll save that for a later post once I get a better feel for how things are done around here (read: inefficient).
The second one, $1000 in the Financial District, was a total dud because the girls I was in contact with had found the place using a broker (which would probably cost an extra $1000 per person), and he didn’t have keys to the place and nobody was around to let us in. It was a total waste of an hour. I gave the broker my phone number so he could contact me when the place was open, but I never heard back from him or the girls again. Whatever!
Disappointed, mother and I wandered over to the World Trade Center a few blocks away and saw nothing but fenced-in construction and heaps of other tourists. It’s a bit weird to feel and act like a tourist in a place that will be my home for the next two years; all I want to do is fit in already! Having frittered away enough time in the area, mother and I walked all the way back up to 14th Street and stopped by an Italian place before the next viewing.
I hadn’t planned to bring my laptop that day, hoping to rely on mother’s iPad if I really needed to check my email. But she made a comment about it as we were leaving our hotel room that morning, so I ended up hauling it with me for another day. Bad idea. By the middle of the day, I had already run out of painless ways to carry it, and by evening, I thought my lower spine was going to snap. I had never experienced such severe back pain before :(
Our third appointment was an interesting one. A 66-year-old Egyptian-Algerian lady named Inas (I know her age only because it was her birthday that day) was renting out a room for $1250, utilities included, in the apartment she shared with her cat. The location was Stuyvesant Town, an apparently well-known huge apartment compound that takes itself seriously and does indeed house enough people to be called a town. I was impressed.
She had told me that her apartment was filled with eclectic things, and it most certainly was filled to the brim with a lifetime of international knick-knacks. Mother was actually dismayed by the cluttered state of the apartment — she and my father had spent much of the preceding days nagging me about my sloppy habits and overall laziness, at which I took great offense because I found these allegations to be simply untrue. Anyway, I was unfazed by the disorder. What’s a little dust on the shelf as long as the rest of the place is clean and carpeted? Plus, the bedroom was pretty big and furnished; I wouldn’t even need to buy sheets!
Inas was a sweet and smart lady, and she was extremely talkative as well. We spent about an hour and a half with her, making me an hour late to my next appointment. I didn’t really care, though, because I got to spend half the time petting her cat, which was sadly the only cat I’ve encountered that has actually been friendly to me. It was thrilling because I freaking love cats, and I optimistically thought that my allergies were under control (I only sneezed a few times in the apartment) until I stepped out of the shower later that night and saw that my eyes were completely bloodshot and inflamed. So much for living there…
Our next appointment was west of campus, all the way across town. Mother was already exhausted and decided not to walk with me. I dragged myself over to West Village to see Rami’s apartment, $1300 plus utilities. I was concerned that 1. he was a man, and 2. he had an indistinguishable foreign accent. I really hoped he wouldn’t turn out as creepy as Maurice.
Rami turned out to be a 29-year-old guy from Israel who ran his own IT business. Because I was delayed by an hour, I arrived at the same time as another girl who was looking at the place, but she had to rush off to a work meeting, whereas I wasn’t looking forward to making the trek back across town to my next appointment quite so soon. Thus, I gladly accepted Rami’s invitation to sit and chat with him for a bit. Of all the people I had met in my search so far, I actually liked him the most. He reminded me of a friend from high school (my class valedictorian) – goofy, harmless and probably really smart. The apartment was clean but small (the kitchen and living room were merged together), but as with all the other places, there was one thing that made us incompatible: he wanted someone to move in immediately, while I was looking for mid- or end of August so that I could stay at my aunt’s house in New Jersey for a few weeks and save some money on rent.
With that, I headed off to meet mother in East Village.
Of my last two appointments, the first one, at $1300 plus utilities, was a somewhat awkward encounter. The person who was showing the apartment forgot to (or just didn’t think to?) tell her roommate that she was having an open house, so he and two of his friends were in the living room chatting over some beers when we arrived; we had to walk and talk around them as we navigated through the confined space. They were all in their mid-20s, and I think it would’ve been fine if mother weren’t with me and secretly judging them for drinking on a Tuesday. The layout of the apartment was really strange in that the bedrooms and kitchen were all tiny, but there were actually two full bathrooms that were of decent size. Really? Who designed that?
The final place we looked at, just down the street, was a somewhat unique case. I already knew that the woman renting out the room in her two-bedroom apartment was living there with her toddler. Hey, at least I’m not allergic to kids! I noted the Obama and other left-leaning bumper stickers plastered on her front door — we had a political connection before even meeting face-to-face.
As I previously mentioned, all of the homes we saw had one flaw or another, whether it was distance from campus, just out-of-reach rent or simply a dirty vibe (I have a very low tolerance for uncleanliness). But with Catherine, everything just clicked. The bedroom, for one, is quite spacious. The location is only a 15-minute walk to campus, and the neighborhood is quite vibrant and safe. Our desired move-in dates were compatible. Unlike all of the white people I’ve ever lived with, she takes off her shoes in her home! I wasn’t afraid to wander into the bathroom and kitchen in my bare feet! She has Wifi! (It’s something you can’t take for granted in Chinatown.) The rent ($1180 plus utilities) was affordable, even though cable and DVR cost twice as much as the actual utilities!
Her daughter is also very cute and friendly. Some people might balk at living with a child, especially if it means having toys and such strewn around the apartment, but I liked the fact that I really felt like I was stepping into someone’s home, not just a haphazard temporary living situation. There’s that comforting feeling. The only downside is that her current roommate is taking the bed, so I would have to buy a new one. And with bedbugs and whatnot floating around, it’s not something I can grab off Craigslist.
So, after talking to Catherine for 45 minutes, mother and I bid her farewell with the promise to get in touch as soon as possible, for she was eager to find a tenant quickly and had a number of other viewers lined up.
“What do you think?” mother asked me as we walked down the stairs. We paused on the third floor landing.
“I liked it,” I replied.
“Well, can you accept it?” she pressed. “We have to choose fast if you want to take it.”
My mind started racing. I mean, I knew that our sole mission for the past few days had been to find me a place to live for the year, but it was such a huge decision! But the more I thought about it, the more I could picture myself living there.
“Yes,” I said.
“Then you have to call her right now.”
I popped a squat by the stairs (my back was killing me) and dialed Catherine’s number. She was surprised by our swift reaction and needed a bit of time to mull it over, so mother and I started heading back to the Path train station, expecting to have to return tomorrow to seal the deal. Catherine called back 15 minutes later. Mother stayed behind (with my two-ton laptop bag) at a nearby Starbucks, and I walked back to the apartment, checkbook in hand, to drop off the deposit and acquire the keys. It’s official!
With that, the burden of finding a home for the school year was lifted from my shoulders. I’m sure I’ll post photos and more details about the apartment once I move in at the end of the month. In the meantime, I’m staying at my aunt’s house in New Jersey and preparing for school!