…get out of The Woods.
But let’s back up. A few weeks ago Jimmy, the boyfriend of my neighbor Angela, sold me a window unit air conditioner that belonged to his recently deceased mother. I put it in my bedroom window and have been sleeping better than I have in years.
This is the third summer I’ve lived in this apartment complex. It was built in the 1950′s, presumably by workers on loan from the local chapter of the Special Olympics. On the ground floor there is a single unit that has heat and A/C, similar to what you see in hotel rooms, but older and less efficient. The bedrooms are upstairs, with no A/C, and windows that slide horizontally rather than lift up. Of course hot air rises, so the ground level unit doesn’t do jack shit for the bedrooms, and putting anything in the window requires a solid understanding of architectural physics. Essentially, I placed the window unit on the window sill, one bracket pushed up against the wall and the other against the sliding window. I slid a piece of plexiglass into the window frame to weigh down upon the unit. I then filled in the cracks with foam insulation tape and covered almost everything in duct tape for extra security. Fun times.
The first summer I lived in this complex was bad, but mostly bearable. Last summer had several days that topped 100 degrees, with nights when it was still in the 80′s until dawn. I got physically sick on numerous occasions, getting headaches, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. It was then that I hatched the plexiglass idea, and I was determined that this year things would change. And it’s been great – like I said, I’ve been sleeping like a baby and things seem wonderful. Or they did, until the other day.
I got a letter in the mail from my landlord saying that window units were not allowed. Friday morning I called up to the office with the intention of telling them how secure it was, and how I didn’t have to drill any holes or do any modifications, so therefore didn’t violate anything in the lease. Evidently none of this matters as much as how a unit looks hanging from the window. To quote the property manager, “If everyone had window units hanging out this place would look like the hood.” Nevermind the fact that it is the hood. I offered to pay a fee, but they still wouldn’t budge. I told them how last year I was physically sick from the heat, but he assured me that since there are 190 units and only two have installed air conditioners, there was no reason I shouldn’t be able to cope with the heat like everyone else. He said that one option some people choose is a portable A/C, but those typically cost around $300, still require feeding a tube out the window, and don’t cool nearly as well. When I brought up those objections, he had the audacity to suggest I should start looking for a new place. Three years as a tenant in good standing, always paying my rent on time and never causing any problems, and that was as close as he would come to a compromise. So I told him I would find a new place, but I planned on leaving the unit in the window until I move out. He said that if that was my choice, then they would send a notice and I would have seven days from then before they began the eviction process.
This long phone call ended up making me late for work, but it didn’t matter. When I got there I was still so worked up I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I told my manager what had happened and asked if I could just take the day off to calm down and look for a new place. I came home and hit up Craigslist and started searching. I ended up going to a rental office downtown and applying for a trailer in Woodfin, so in 3-5 days I should find out if I’m approved or not. Then I went by the complex I nearly moved into before this one to see if they had any open apartments. There was a note on the door saying the office manager would be gone until Tuesday. Then I went to my bank to see if I qualify for a personal loan, so I won’t have to do a cash advance on my credit card to pay for a new place and a security deposit. I’ll most likely find that much out on Monday, which will determine what I’ll do next.
My roommate was pretty pissed when I told him all of this. Not that I really care about his feelings anymore. He constantly uses and consumes everything of mine without asking, and he is quite possibly the most disgusting person I’ve ever lived with from a personal hygiene standpoint. But he is a pretty nice guy, so I’ve done my best to tolerate his shit and convince myself that the problem isn’t him, but my own OCD. So I told him I would pay for this coming month’s rent to help him out and not leave him in a bad place on such short notice. Tomorrow morning I’ll go down to the office and give them a check dated for Friday, which is when I get paid. I’ll find out the absolute last day I can keep my A/C before they start to evict me, and take it down at the last minute. Hopefully by then I will know where I’m living next, maybe even have the keys to a new place so I can sleep in a cold bedroom there instead of sweating it out here. After work and on my only day off I’ll do a bunch of packing and moving, and if I need to a friend has agreed to let me store some non-essential stuff at her place.
Also tomorrow morning before work I will call a few other places that weren’t open on Friday. There’s a string of “affordable housing” complexes in town, most run by the same rental agency, which is only open four days a week. The main ones I’m interested in are the apartments I mentioned before that I almost moved into, and a complex they just built in the River Arts District. The place I almost moved into had a waiting list, and by the time a unit came open I had just signed a lease at my current place. Hopefully they have something open right away this time, because it would be pretty much perfect. They have two bedroom units starting at $345 (only $70 more than what I’m currently paying) and the complex is really nice. It’s also right off the highway, so it might even be more convenient than my current location. The complex in the River Arts District is around the same price for a one bedroom, but a two bedroom is about $50 more. And then there’s the place I applied to Friday. It’s a trailer park, which isn’t ideal, but the location is good. The price is a little more, and a quick drive-by revealed that these are pretty old trailers. They couldn’t show me the inside because the tenants hadn’t moved out yet, but hopefully I’ll find a way to see it on my lunch break or something one day this week. As long as the inside looks okay I don’t really care about the outside, and if the other places have waiting lists this might be my only option.
I’m so sick of living with people, so that’s a distant last option. I replied to a Craigslist ad thinking it was for an apartment, but when I got there it became evident it was a room for rent. The guy seems pretty cool, but he’s older and the place smelled like smoke. He also has a big dog that doesn’t like new people. If that wasn’t enough, I just don’t think all of my stuff would fit in the available space. Today I attempted to go see a trailer out in Candler, not realizing just how far away it would be. I found the street but couldn’t find the trailer. The guy had said to call him if I had any trouble finding it, but I didn’t get any cell phone service from the second I turned onto the street until the second I decided to give up and turn back onto the main highway. I don’t like the idea of a half hour commute to anything, and not getting any service would make life inconvenient on so many levels.
After giving up and heading home, I decided to make a quick trip to Wal-Mart in Weaverville before doing my laundry. On my way home it began to pour, and all of a sudden my car wouldn’t get out of second gear. I put my hazard lights on and turned off the highway onto Merrimon and drove 30 miles an hour the whole way back home. I braved the rain and popped the hood, but didn’t see anything unusual at all. I waited a little while to see if the rain would stop, and eventually decided to just head to the laundromat. This time my car drove beautifully, so I have no idea what its problem was. This is the second time in two days my car has done something like that. Yesterday on the way to work my brakes squealed. Then they suddenly stopped and it braked normally. I attempted to take it to the shop just to get it looked at rather than take a chance, but they were too backed up to do anything because of all the people bringing their cars in before the 4th of July. So yeah. My car is weird. But I already knew that.
And that’s pretty much where I am now. I’m sitting in my cool, air-conditioned room (for now) not sure where I’ll be in a week’s time. I’ll still be working crazy hours at my shitty job, but I’ll probably be having to cut into them for a while so I can look at places and sign leases and all that good stuff. And hopefully I’ll have a car that will take me to all of those things without any hassle. If I have to bring my car to the shop, the only option is to bum a ride to and from work. By the time I get off work the last bus has already departed the station for Merrimon, and in the event I move into one of those places in Woodfin, the bus doesn’t go that far anyway. Maybe I’ll finally get a fat check from unemployment. Maybe I’ll get approved for that loan. Or maybe I’ll give up and decide that I’ve had enough of Asheville and its low wages, high rents, and hot summers. All I know is, I wish I could find this Murphy guy and teach him a few laws of my own…