Your First Apartment In NYC Will Probably Be Really Underwhelming…Like Mine Was.


When the going gets tough, man, I’m going, I’m out of here. Like when the washing machine broke down at my first apartment, my roommate Bill was like, “Should we call a repairman?” and I was like, “No, Bill, just call the super, OK, it’s not like it’s our washer and dryer, all right, that’s the owner’s problem, that’s what you call the super for.”

And the super, he didn’t live in the building, he lived somewhere else. I think he might have been the super for a bunch of buildings. I never asked him, he was always on the move. The few times I did manage to catch him in the hallways or the lobby, he was always acting like he had to be going somewhere else, “I gotta get out of here man, sorry, I can’t really chit-chat, all right, I gotta get across town,” totally preempting me from even possibly asking a question, like hey man, maybe you could come upstairs and check out the sink, just, it’s not urgent, but you know, a little clogged, so when you get a chance.

“Maybe if we call the repairman we can just have them send a bill to the owner.” That was Bill again. And yeah, it did suck not having a functioning washing machine. It was definitely one of, if not the sole reason we chose this place over all of the other apartments we looked at. Like that one six blocks closer to the subway. Or the one that had the lofted bedroom, the one with the spiral staircase.

“No way, Bill, come on man,” I remember making my argument, “we have to get this place. Do you know how many apartments in New York City have washers and dryers? Zero. None of them.” And yeah, even though Bill was like, “Well, not zero, I mean, what about this one? This one has a washer and dryer. So it’s got to be at least one, not zero,” I’m pretty sure he was joking. I mean, he’s thick, but he’s not that thick. And he wanted it too. How could you not want your own washer and dryer?

“Bill,” I tried to spell it out for him, “If we get some repairman to come in, you might as well bust out the checkbook, because I can see it going down right now, the super’s going to be like, ‘I don’t know boss, I don’t think the owner’s gonna go for this,’ and we’ll be like, ‘Why not?’ and he’ll say, ‘Well I could have fixed that, all right, I was going to fix that. Why didn’t you guys call me up?’”

Because we could never call him up. I didn’t even have his number. We were supposed to go through the management company, even though the address on those envelopes we had to put our rent check in every month was just the building owner’s house up in Westchester, not a real management company. I’d called, plenty of times, the pipes were clogged, or we needed the exterminator, there was never any answer, just two minutes of ringing followed by an answering machine that told me it was too full to take any new messages. And when I’d run into the super and beg him to help me relight the pilot light in the oven, it was always some version of, “Sorry man, I’m really busy, you gotta go through the management company, all right?”

“You can’t just give me your cell number?” I tried to ask the super one time when I caught him in the hall, I wanted to ask about the heat, to see if there was any way to turn it down, I mean I get it, it was an old building, but this was just a really, really dry heat, non-stop. “Sorry boss, you gotta make an appointment, OK? I gotta get across town, all right? You gotta call up the management company.”

But the management office, the owner, whatever, he never picked up the phone, and after a month or two I figured that nobody was ever planning on making any room on the answering machine. Bill was getting impatient, telling me stuff like, “Rob, this place, it totally wasn’t worth it for the washer and dryer.” And yet it was all I had left to cling to, “Of course it’s worth it for the washer and dryer. You’re just spoiled. You don’t remember what it was like, putting all of your clothes in a big sack, you think, OK, this week I’m not going to put it off, I’m not going to make it like I’m trying to shove every piece of clothing I own into this sack that clearly doesn’t want to close, I’m not going to break my back carrying that sack over my shoulders, walking, what, two? Three blocks? You want to go back to that? You don’t know how good we have it here.”

And maybe Bill was a little more attached to the apartment than he let on, maybe even more than I was, which I didn’t think was possible, willing to put his own money on the line to get a repairman in. I asked him, “You really want to risk putting your own money down on that old washing machine?” and he was like, “Yeah man, whatever, let’s just get it fixed, it is pretty convenient, and we can fight with management about the money later.”

Did he just say management? “Listen, Bill, there is no management company, OK, it’s just …” but I couldn’t, I couldn’t get myself to say management company one more time, I totally gave up. “You want to figure it out? Figure it out.” At least the owner never gave us a chance to sign that lease. For the first couple of months, I kept bugging the super whenever I’d see him, “You know anything about the lease?” I thought, these guys are going to try to kick us out on a whim, jack up the prices, no, I wanted this deal in writing, I wanted signatures. But now it was like, man, I really am glad we never signed any lease.

Because I totally backed out. “Bill, I’m out man, I’m going to go stay with my parents on Long Island.” He was like, “What?” Yep, Long Island, my parents had a washer and dryer, my old bed, I’d just take the train to work until Bill figured it out with management. Too bad for Bill, his parents still lived in Nevada. Arizona. Something like that. They came to visit once, but it was such a small place. Bill made all of these plans for the four of us to have dinner, go see a Broadway show, but I bailed last second, I said I had a family party on Long Island. Really I just didn’t feel like meeting his folks, keeping up with the fake smiling all weekend.

Nah man, it was way too much, I was out. Remember what I said at the beginning? I was like, “When the going gets tough,” because you naturally think I’m going to say, “The tough get going,” but no, it’s, “I’m out, I’m going, I’m going home to Long Island, I’m calling up the owner and telling him I’m not paying any more rent, nope, sorry Bill, you should get out too man, let me know if you find any cool apartments, I’ll borrow my dad’s truck and we’ll do the move in one swoop.”

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