It was during one of these moments, as I stood there freezing my tits off, that I started to wonder why the hell I still lived in New Jersey. This led to a not-so-nostalgic-but-highly-entertaining walk down Memory Lane, and I thought about all the places I had lived in this great state.
Here's the lowdown--I have moved approximately eleven times in the past thirteen-ish years and have shared living space with 20+ in that time, 99% of whom were total strangers. I won't bore you with each and every one of these situations because if I did, this post would become a Gone-With-the-Wind epic but with less Southern ladies and plantations and more psychopathic roommates, questionable (if not dangerous) living conditions, and absurd situations, such as the one that involved my living room, a downstairs neighbor, and a lit string of fire-crackers, or an attempted car-jacking that I thwarted by driving my car directly into the house and then my roommate's work van. Nothing like a little property damage to scare off would-be thieves.
Did I mention I've lived in some iffy neighborhoods over the years?
The names and places may have been different, but there were a few constants in all those situations, and one of them has even haunted me all the way up to my current I-own-this-now-OH-Crap! abode: the heating system always sucks ass. Why?
Mother fucking radiators. They are the bane of my existence.
The ghetto (see car jacking referenced above.) I lived in this apartment for about two years with three dudes, a neurotic dog and a horde of special-ops ninja mice, 95% of whom could take the bait without setting off the trap and would gleefully run all over us while we watched TV.
It was a shithole.
Anyway, it had radiators. Except, they didn't work. They were more like hideous floor decorations, or a place for the ninja mice to run under when I chased them with a boot in my hand. I even found a pair of manties stuffed under one once (dry heaving and a bout of apoplectic cursing ensued). Occasionally, one of us would get drunk or stoned enough to decide they knew how to fix them (and sometimes this worked), but for the most part we wandered around all winter in hats and blankets or huddled around electric heaters, or alternated between drinking, chain smoking, and waging an endless battle against the ninja mice. The cabinet under our kitchen sink was the mousy version of D-Day.
Take this guy and times it by... a fucking lot. Ever open your fridge to find a mouse sitting on top of the mayo jar? It's not pretty.
I know you're probably thinking, "why didn't you just call the landlord, you fucking moron?" but we couldn't, mainly because we didn't want him to find out that someone ripped the bathroom sink from the wall while standing on it in an attempt to clean the black
So we chose to freeze instead. Of course, I was only 22 at the time and this decision made total sense.
A few apartments (and years) later, I found myself sharing a house (in the town I currently live in) with a revolving door of graduate students. There was the all-American girl, who had healthy teeth, shiny hair and a penchant for lounging around in her bed butt naked; the Doctorate student from Russia who had a habit of downing a case of Coronas with breakfast and then falling down the stairs, and the Korean kid who was devoutly religious and completely horrified when ML stayed the night. But that might have been because his room was the closest to mine.
I never said I was an awesome roommate, after all... (Passive Aggressive Notes )
One blustery December day I come home and realize the entire house is like an icebox. I check the thermostat and look at the furnace and pretend I know what the fuck I'm doing. Memories of the ghetto (sans the mice or firecrackers) come rushing back. I'm older now so no fucking way am I going to spend the entire winter freezing my ass off again. I mean, I was all Scarlett O'Hara at that point-- "And, as god is my witness, I'll never freeze my ass off again!!"
So I do what any responsible renter would do: I call the landlord and complain. I mean, there was no broken bathroom sink or blood on the walls, so there was no reason not to call him.
The landlord was alarmingly unconcerned. And by "unconcerned" I mean "didn't give a shit." Three weeks and thirty phone calls later, we were still walking around in our coats and hats. Except naked girl but at least she got under the covers finally. It was only after I threatened to take legal action that he finally came over and fixed the heat. I left a pile of ferret shit in the corner of the closet when I moved anyway. Childish or not, sometimes spite feels good.
Moving right along...
Example #3 (well, 3 & 4, I guess)
Eventually, ML and I end up shacking up together in an itty bitty one and 1/2 bedroom apartment, except that the 1/2 bedroom was off limits because somehow squirrels claimed it. The landlady was a fucking downright twat and I kept telling ML I will kill her the next time she complains about me blow-drying my hair too early in the morning or leaving the blinds up at uneven levels, so we decided to move out. Quickly.
We found a cute apartment in a quad (which is basically a really big-ass house with four apartments in it -- two on the second floor and two on the first) and yay! we moved in. Everything was all hunky dory and then one night it's kind of cold so I turned on the heat and ML and I head to bed.
CLANK! CLACK! CLACKETY CLACKETY CLACKCLACKCLACKCLAAAAA--
ML and I bolted out of bed, each of us clutching our weapons of choice and fully prepared to bludgeon each other to death because OH MAH GAHD WHO THE FUCK IS SHOOTING UP OUR ROOM???
No one. It was just the little unassuming fucking radiator in the corner. The tiny, meek little coil of metal and whatever-the-fuck those things are made out of is emitting a staccato machine gun fire like it's fucking Scarface.
ML and I are baffled. For the next few weeks we try to suffer through it but by mid-January we're both suffering from PTSD and lack of sleep from the "shock and awe" coming from our radiators. We called the landlord, who was a really nice Orthodox Jewish guy with a stammer and a twitch. He told us to bleed the radiators. He didn't tell us to turn off the heat before we do this. Scalded, we called him back and told him to come do it. Naturally, as was his habit, he showed up unannounced when ML isn't around and I'm tipsy and half-naked. Mr. Landlord didn't want to come into the house without ML there and it was all awkward so eventually we stopped calling him (I think he did that on purpose, the bastard) and just lowered the heat waaaaaaay down before we go to bed. I wore a hat to bed for the first time in a few years.
Life is such a cunt sometimes.
But everything's all good now, right? I mean, we bought a house and no one has these kind of problems in a house that is almost one hundred years old. Right?
Uh huh. Shockingly, the radiators seemed to be in good working order at first, something that made me insanely happy. Sure, the windows are totally useless - there is a constant not-so-summer breeze on the second floor... But no biggie - I still have my electric heater from the ghetto. I'm adaptable! And what else could possibly go wrong?
A few things, apparently. I discovered this the other night when I was lying in bed and...
CLANK! CLACK! CLAAAAACKETY CLACK!!!
Wait, what the fuck was that sound?
Fuck me. Hard.