for rent

I’ve got to get out of here.

It’s like Eraserhead over here.

One of my new neighbors has a baby that screams at odd hours of the day. Not too long ago, a strange industrial, pulsating noise started humming constantly on the other side of my bedroom wall. And last week I couldn’t sleep while the guy in the wheel chair who just moved in watched the Lord of the Rings. I felt like I was at Helm’s Deep.

The two things I hate more than anything else in the world are looking for a job and looking for a place to live. It’s nothing but rejection. An incredibly complicated social ritual wherein one sells themselves based on otherwise meaningless criteria. An employer asks, “What do you consider your weakest characteristic?” Where else do people talk like that? And where else would you answer “If anything, I work too hard”?

Looking for a place to live is even worse. It reminds me of a junior high school dance. At least in a job interview you know who’s in charge, who’s the boss. The person hiring you. But when you’re looking at an apartment, especially now in a post-boom Bay Area housing market, who’s holding all the keys is a little fuzzier than it used to be. So you and the landlord flirt with each other. They gingerly walk you through the place, not sure how to explain — if at all — the water stains on the wall in the hallway. You want to ask about how noisy the neighbors are, but you know you’re not going to get the truth. You’ll get some watered down version of it. “Well, mostly single folks live above you. They’ve been here for a few years.”

At least now I’ve got some time. A year and a half ago, last time I was looking for an apartment, I was living in my car. So my desire to sleep in a bed forced me to fill my off-hours looking at anything with four walls and a roof. And sometimes three walls. At least now I can be a little more selective. I can seek out that perfect place. But no matter how much time I may have, it doesn’t change the obsessive feel I have about the house-hunting procedure. My eyes are always darting sideways. Riding my bike, I’m paying less and less attention to the road and more attention to the facades of apartment buildings looking for that ever-elusive “For Rent” sign.

At least now we’re a bit further removed from the dot-com boom. Summer before last landlords thought they could still get away with things. But you knew it was all a lie. I did, anyway. At the Bakery Lofts in Emmeryville, a realtor had gone from trying to sell the over-priced “live-work” spaces to renting them. And I had to laugh at her for renting them at $1600 a pop. Across the Bay, I was taken on a tour of a dozen buildings around Nob Hill and the ‘loin owned by the same property management group. Near the end of this whirlwind, the tour guide told us that he had held a job at a software company the year before that had since folded. The irony of the situation was almost too much. And he still had the audacity to show us “cozy” studios on the corner of Polk and Grove for a thousand bucks, complete with gas leaks and crack addicts.

So things are looking up. At least that’s what I’m going to tell myself, because believing otherwise would lead to a sort of complacency in my current housing situation. But I’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got to get away from the noise, the babies, the man in the wheelchair and the sound of the Lord of the Rings through my ceiling.

If you hear of anything, let me know.