Two weeks had passed since I first sent the managers a written petition seeking a rent adjustment. After ten unreturned phone calls and two additional letters, I finally tracked down the building manager last week. When he realized that it was me on the phone, he tersely responded, “I got your letter, but I’m not in a mood to negotiate so call me tomorrow if you want to talk.” He then hung up. Totally professional. As instructed, I called him the following afternoon and he told me that after giving it some thought, he had decided that he “wouldn’t pay a dime.” He insisted that I didn’t have a case, and when I tried to share my perspective, he interrupted with childish quips like, “I’m not listening” and “You’re talking to yourself.” The only time that he acknowledged hearing me was when I pointed out that my apartment had gone without hot water for five days. His response was, “Big deal! You don’t need hot water to take a shit.” Classy stuff. The conversation wasn’t going anywhere, so when he challenged me to take him to court, I accepted his proposition. He ended the call by saying, “I look forward to facing off with you in front of a judge.” Yeah, me too, jackass.
My entire life, people have told me that I would make a great lawyer (probably because I argue so much), so I’m actually looking forward to my courtroom debut. I admit that 99% of my legal knowledge comes from television shows, but they make winning look easy enough. Also, I’ve been watching a lot of Ally McBeal reruns on Netflix lately, so I’m fairly well-versed in my courtroom lingo: Objection! Contempt! Bailiff! Subpoena! Magistrate! I’m not entirely sure what all of these words mean, or when to use them, but if I can string enough of them together to form a sentence, then I think it will send a message to the opposing counsel. Bam! And if that doesn’t work, I plan on dropping a briefcase on the courtroom floor like Mike Brady did in the classic Brady Bunch episode in which Mike proved that Mr. Duggan could turn his neck. OK, so maybe my degree in sitcoms isn’t going to help my case against my building managers, but that’s why I’ve surrounded myself with friends who are lawyers. Well, for this reason, and also to defend me against the hundreds of defamation lawsuits I’m expecting to receive once my first book of memoirs gets published. I expect that it will take a village to keep this Hollywood Hoosier out of legal trouble! But I digress. To prep me for my day in court, I have enlisted the legal help of Clare and Saurish, my two lawyer friends who recently wed in South Bend. Since I’m not allowed to take an actual attorney into Small Claims court with me, I’ve been trying to soak up as much legal expertise from them to prepare myself to go into battle with the slumlord. I pondered a Cyrano de Bergerac scenario, in which Saurish would coach me through a hidden earpiece, but eventually decided that plan probably works better in sitcoms than in real life. And I’m also afraid that if we got caught, Saurish would be disbarred. (I told you that my legal vernacular was extensive.)
Once I determined that I was going to sue my building’s managers, I decided that it was finally time to move out of the building. When I informed my roommate of my plan to move out at the end of the month, he didn’t seem very surprised. He only asked that I find a new tenant to replace me on the lease, which seemed fair enough. I figured that I could unload it on some poor sap on Craigslist who was in search of cheap rent, despite the building’s conditions.
Before posting the ad on Craigslist, I began to have second thoughts about my decision to leave the apartment. Yes, the managers were horrible and the neighbors sketchy, but the rent was dirt cheap and the location was excellent. Later that night, as I was trying to get some much needed sleep, I woke up to the smell of smoke. A few seconds later, I heard a ditzy girl’s voice say, “I think have an extinguisher, but I don’t know how to use it.” I wasn’t sure what was going on, but after five minutes, I heard the familiar sounds of sirens outside of my bedroom window. I peeked through the blinds and noticed two fire trucks and a police car parked right outside of our parking garage (which is directly below my bedroom). Unfazed, I tried to go back to bed, but the firemen’s voices kept me awake for the next hour. I decided that I should double-check whether or not the building was on fire, so I walked outside to inquire about the situation. The officer told me that someone had tried to light a car on fire in our parking garage, as well as a few other items. The firemen then asked me if I had noticed any suspicious characters roaming around the area. I frankly replied, “About everyone who lives in the building.” The officers laughed, and I sauntered back to my apartment, pretending not to worry about some maniac lighting cars on fire beneath my bedroom. As I nodded off, I decided that this incident validated my decision to move out of the apartment.
A few days later, I drafted the ad for a new tenant on Craigslist. I knew that posting, “Creepy Apartment Equipped with Crazies” wouldn’t produce the best candidates, so I kept it simple, only including the location and dimensions of the apartment. Within an hour, I had over twenty applicants. I started sorting through the applications, finding it difficult to narrow the pool for my roommate. To be honest, any applicant who passed the credit check and would reimburse my security deposit was good enough for me, but my roommate had stricter standards. Fair enough. I forwarded the responses onto him, and he finally settled on three tenants to interview. I asked each to come by the apartment on Saturday, so my roommate, his girlfriend, and I could evaluate them together (power in numbers in case the Craigslist Killer arrived).
I woke up early on Saturday morning to spruce the place up a bit before the “Open House.” I vacuumed, bought new room freshener plug-ins, and contemplated putting cookies out for the candidates. In short, I was determined to get some poor schmuck to take this apartment off my hands. When the first person arrived, I was actually taken aback by how normal he seemed. He played tennis and was from a cool town in Florida. I debated asking him if he wanted to go look for a nicer 2-bedroom apartment with me, but decided that my first goal was removing my name from the lease. I craftily escorted him through the apartment building, avoiding the decrepit back staircase and steering clear of any chance encounters with the neighbors. When he asked about the other areas of the building (parking structure, laundry unit), I acknowledged their presence, but quickly changed the subject. He wondered why I leas moving, and I struggled to come up with an answer that wouldn’t send him running. I settled on, “Oh, I’m moving to a more central location for work, but I’m really going to miss the area.” That wasn’t entirely false, but it also wasn’t the whole truth. The fact that he and my roommate seemed to really hit it off led me to believe our work here was done. However, my roommate insisted that we meet the other two candidates so he could have options.
The next “option” was named Roberto. I don’t know any other way to state this other than just coming out with it: Roberto smelled. Now, it should be noted that I have a terrible sense of smell, so the fact that I could smell him from across the room indicated that he reeked. As I rushed Roberto through the apartment and toward the air fresheners, he asked if he could sit down on the couch. I fumbled for an answer but my roommate chimed in and said, “Yeah go ahead.” Roberto stayed for about five minutes and then I finally said, “Well, we’ll let you know.” Over the next three days, Roberto texted me numerous times to see if my roommate had made a decision. He hadn’t, but I wanted Roberto to lose my number, so I told him that my roommate’s best friend had decided to move in. Fortunately, I haven’t heard from Roberto since. The final candidate was named Nathan. I looked him up on Facebook, and he looked like a dorky computer nerd. Apparently he’s into Catfishing, as the Nathan that arrived at our apartment looked nothing like the Nathan from his Facebook profile picture. He arrived on an electric scooter wearing a bomber jacket, his lip was pierced, and he wore a sharktooth around his neck. I was apprehensive about bringing him up to the apartment, but my roommate wanted options. He ended up being a lot more normal than his appearance suggested, but the getup still seemed to be a flag.
After my roommate carefully weighed his options, he finally settled on the first visitor. What a surprise. I immediately sent the new tenant the paperwork to get my name off of the lease, and he said that he’d send me the security deposit shortly thereafter (I’ll be running that check to the bank as soon as it’s in my possession). We made tentative plans to play tennis, but I’m a bit nervous about becoming too friendly with him. I don’t want him finding my blog and uncovering the truth about the unit. I must admit to feeling slightly guilty about letting someone who is seemingly normal move into the building, but sometimes you just have to look out for your own welfare. It’s like when flight attendants instruct you to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others. Well, it’s sort of like that. And to be fair, the new tenant never asked me if there was a registered sex offender living down the hall or whether gallons of water had been pouring through his bedroom wall just two months ago. Caveat emptor…hopefully he’ll learn to ask more detailed questions before his next move!