We’re not locking you in, we’re locking them out

I’m a week older but it feels like I’ve gained about a thousand year’s worth of Living-in-the-US points just from the seemingly simple tasks of finding an apartment, buying new furniture and moving in.

Yes, that’s right. After exactly 10 days of wading through real-estate jargon, meeting some colourful characters masquerading as potential room mates and being knocked back for places, I finally found an apartment of my own.

But first, a bit about the joys of the hunt. It’s less about stalking your prey and skewering it than it is about lulling it into a false sense of security and charming it into submission.

I quickly learned that Craigslist is the home of the deftly-employed euphemism.

  • ‘Cute’ means don’t bother trying to take more than one step in any direction once you get out of bed, you’re hitting wall whichever way you turn.
  • If they list the fridge and sink as features of the kitchen it means you don’t get a stove or oven. Or fixtures to plug said appliances into.
  • ‘Close to Caltrain’ means you will be kept awake by train horns ALL NIGHT LONG.
  • ‘Gated community’ translates to ‘we have to lock you in because it’s too dangerous for you outside these walls. Seriously. I walked through one neighbourhood where I was sure they’d work out a way to steal my feet and put me up on blocks before I’d even realised.

And then there’s the people. Let it be said that I am not a socialite at the best of times. Meeting new people is not my strong point and I get so nervous with small talk that I’m prone to sit and say nothing. But I put my best bubbly personality game face on and went to meet what sounded like a perfectly normal person in a share house.

A Guide to stimulus payments and visas for expats in the USA

I won’t go through the entire ordeal except to say that it was loud, brash, and included her admitting that she smokes ‘a lot of pot, and I mean a lot’, didn’t have the income to support her side of the rent and didn’t like to clean or to keep things clean. She couldn’t understand why all the previous potential room mates had ‘flaked out’ on her.

When I did nab a place of my own I practically ran into the city to sign the lease, but showing up at the property management office did not offer any relief from the strange.

Me: Hi, I’m the intrepid traveller, here to sign a lease.
Receptionist:*pause* What?
Me: I spoke to someone earlier about renting this apartment.
Receptionist: *staring pause* Oh, you’re from Australia. I just read two books about Australia by Australian authors. I think they were good.
Me: That’s nice, what books were they?
Receptionist: I don’t remember. Here’s your lease, have a read and sign it.

When I found mistakes in the lease she looked back at my job description, looked at me and said ‘that makes sense, only a technical writer would notice that’, then walks away for 20 minutes.

Good times.

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