When you’re a renter, moving to a new place is always a crap shoot. The manager/super/owner always makes the place seem awesome when you’re looking at it, they promise you the world just before you sign the lease, and then when you move in and the toilet doesn’t work, they act like they’ve never heard of you when you call to complain.
While Carlene is the main tenant, I have a bedroom in her new apartment. This way I get the best of both worlds: I’m Granny Nanny at Cassie’s house Wednesdays and Thursdays, and I get quality Mom time with Carlene in the evenings.
Anyway, I hope this week was merely an aberration for poor Carlene. She just moved in five days ago and already the chain in the toilet tank broke, the new garbage disposal stopped running, the new stove heats only to 250 degrees, the bathroom sink leaks all over the floor, and there’s a big glob of ceiling repair goop permanently affixed to the shower curtain rod that causes the curtain rings to catch. When you’re barely awake and naked, you don’t want to be fighting with a shower curtain.
Of course, the shower curtain is the least of your concerns when you don’t have hot water at 5:45 a.m.
With everything that went wrong last night, it killed me this morning to wake up Carlene and tell her there was no hot water.
“Carly,” I whispered as I gently shook her shoulder. “Honey, there’s no hot water.”
I couldn’t see her face in the dark, but I knew by the tone of her voice that she was rolling her eyes.
“I hate this place,” she sighed.
I haven’t lived in an apartment complex in a very long time. I never thought of this before, but living communally seems so odd.
Looking out of my hotel room in Chicago last November, I was struck by the number of apartment high-rises I saw. Thousands of people live in what amounts to the space of a few city blocks, and yet each apartment is unique with its own furnishings, personality, and occasional backed up toilets. You might park amongst hundreds of cars, walk down a hallway with doors on either side, but when you turn the key to your own front door, you’re home. That space is all yours, and what you do inside that space is what makes it a home. It might have the same layout as the apartment above and apartment below, the same brown shag carpet and avocado green appliances, the same “marble” bathroom counter and mauve window treatments in the living room, but it’s still the place you run to after work, to hide, to relax, to commune with your stuff and just be yourself.
I’m glad to have a “second” home, even if it is an apartment with onerous leaks and quirks. It’s interesting to be the secondary renter in my daughter’s home. I have a shelf in the refrigerator, a rung for my towel, a place in the cupboard for my coffee mug. I live among her furniture, her books, her movies, her shampoo, her hairspray, her pictures on the wall. I have a key, a bed, a lamp, a clock, and, for now, a blanket over the window until Carlene buys the curtains she wants.
I like this arrangement. I’m not the primary worrier of this place. I don’t have to call maintenance or unpack or hang things on the wall. I don’t mind a few days a week living in a place that’s not my own because the apartment is familiar enough with my own child’s things around to be comfortable. It’s a relaxing place to be after a day of nannying Claire.
I left my second home this afternoon to go back to my primary home. Carlene called and said the toilet works and water doesn’t leak from the sink anymore. The garbage disposal works again, but she hasn’t tried the oven. There’s hot water and she’s happy.
I’m happy, too. Renting really is a crap shoot, but this time, it’s not my crap to shoot.