How to Survive Apartment Living: A Primer for the New Bachelor
by Kane X. Faucher
Chances are you lack the financial credibility to purchase your own castle, let alone even a small lean-to beside a rendering plant. Someone like you is an urban metrosexual or perhaps just a hapless bachelor who walks around naked save for his socks while deep-frying whatever you can rummage from your near-empty larder. If this sounds like you, then you probably live in an apartment.
Apartment living is not commonly associated with responsibility to the same degree as house ownership is, and judging by the fact that you’ve probably been making grilled cheese sandwiches with a steaming iron, this may be partially true. However, responsibility can be gauged by other means than the last year you bothered to clean the ancient filth in your toilet.
Apartment living is not for the misanthropic or claustrophobic. It is likely that each of your walls is contiguous with the walls of others in your Box in the Sky. However, apartment living has a host of other benefits that your fellow more successful friends who own houses cannot enjoy. There are no mortgages to pay. There is no lawn to mow unless you were foolish enough to live in a co-op or have seeded your balcony. There are no Christmas lights to put up and ignore for years. There is no property tax. If something breaks down, a landlord or superintendent can be informed so that they won’t fix it instead of you. There are no driveways to have cardiac arrests in when shoveling snow.
The great thing about apartment living compared to owning a house is your nomadic flexibility. When the dishes are too daunting, your parties have made your abode on par with Bosnia, and cockroaches are claiming dominion, you can always move.
Cleaning your apartment
An apartment is not something you own, unless you live in a condo. Treat your place like you would a hotel or someone else’s home: with flagrant disregard and neglect. If you insist on being in a clean environment for the betterment of your mental state, go to a library, rent a hotel, or stay with clean friends.
An apartment complex is a shared accommodation with many people with many different lifestyles, most of them inconvenient to you. I have patented a sure-fire way of dealing with neighbours who play Skynrd at top volume at silly hours. If you have a connected balcony, do the following with a next-door neighbour: purchase an axe and a sharpener. When “Free Bird” is playing on repeat for the seventh time, go out on your balcony and peer over with a straight yet psychotic face. With axe in hand, begin sharpening. Say nothing. Retreat slowly back into your dwelling and let their fear adjust the volume to proper personal listening levels.
Another strategy is to call the cops. However, don’t go for the humdrum noise complaint. Be creative. Claim brutal pedophilia and drug trafficking. There’s nothing quite so satisfying a revenge than the Fear of your neighbours as a SWAT team breaks down their door in search of buggered wee ones or prosecutable amounts of crack.
Cook-offs can also be lots of fun. Boil a whole head of cabbage and rabbit in a pot all day long. Open your vents so that they can get a whiff of your culinary terrorism.
Don’t bother leaving notes on their door. Your neighbours can’t read anyway. Also avoid personal confrontations. These yield no results, or if they do, things revert to status quo ante in time. Consider sabotaging their untended laundry in the communal facilities or pouring sugar in their gas tanks.
For a truly vengeful riddance, fill out the forms for the army on your neighbour’s behalf.
Dealing with landlords
One of the best ways of mediating complaints with landlords is to be hard of hearing. If rent is late, yell that you can’t hear them. If they appeal to the contract, either insist that it was signed under duress (a fine way of getting it dismissed in court) or claim illiteracy.
There are provisions in every landlord-tenant agreement that stipulate that the landlord can enter your premises if he or she gives you 24-hour prior notice. There are no provisions, however, for injury to the landlord if they do come in. Consider coating your floors with Vaseline. This is a good parting gift if you are evicted.
Don’t be bullied by rent increases. Chances are they would rather have the devil-tenant they know with a payment history than one they don’t. Advertising an apartment for rent costs money. They didn’t fix your oven, thermostat, or replace your window (never mind that the cause was that you threw your empty whiskey bottle at it).
If you are evicted for whatever reason (delinquency on back rent, breeding pandas, or a catastrophic incident involving trying to make your own still in the bathtub), you can delay your move by dragging it through the courts. Sure, you’ll lose, but you stay rent-free for as long as the courts arbitrate on the case. Judicial process is slow, so relax.
Get a lawyer and a set of lock picks.
Maintenance and Repairs
Stuff breaks down, especially when you have a fridge that is a 70s avocado model or an oven that smells like Auschwitz.
Superintendents are usually the people to go to, but they are generally creepy types with about as much technical know-how as you. However, don’t elect to do repairs yourself since that attracts the bugaboo of liability when you invariably fuck up.
While waiting interminably long for the super to come by and screw up your problem further, you may wish to adopt the following band-aid solutions:
1. Broken windows are easily covered with a duvet hammered into the frame with nails. It adds to the overall aesthetic of the complex.
2. Broken refrigerators can be used as utility closets for all your fishing tackle, expired copies of the Washington Post, and dirty laundry too foul to leave in the open air.
3. Use your broken oven as a junk and tools drawer.
4. Your toilet tank can be used as an alternate beer cooler.
5. Bathtubs can be used as a giant mixing cauldron for enormous quantities of martinis.
At one point or another, and for a variety of reasons, we feel the necessity of abandoning our place of lodging. Be sure to leave all the flea-infested furniture behind and pick up brand new flea-infested furniture at your local Salvation Army or curbside on garbage day. Pack everything into the beer cases and liquor store bags you have collected since your tenancy. If you feel so inclined, take the electric and lighting fixtures along with you – you never know what kind of Dresden you will be moving into next.
1. Pocket fishing: with a good hook, throw your line off the balcony and see what you pull up. Ancient crack whores, like old boots, should be on a catch-and-release policy.
2. Apartment mailbag: we are all nomadic in apartments, and so much mail still goes to old addresses. Make a roundup of misdirected mail that accumulates in the mailbox area and have plenty of laughs at former tenants being hounded by clueless collection agencies and unpaid bills.
3. Crazy man’s gambit: put incomprehensible tracts on your front door with mystical spells and threats to the government.
Entertain everyone on your floor that you are a nutjob about to pilot a Ryder Truck full of explosives into the nearest tax office.
4. My music trumpeth: when your neighbours start playing their dreck at highest volume, reciprocate in turn with Englebert Humperdinck albums or Neil Diamond at 5am.
5. Prisonhouse rhythms: arbitrarily knock loudly on the wall with a percussive pattern and see if your neighbour returns with a knock of his or her own.
6. Mystery pizza: with the aid of a public telephone, order twenty pizzas for a hated neighbour of your choice. Be sure to load up on toppings!
7. Elevator madness: just before departing for your floor, press all the buttons.
8. Hallway pet adoption clinic: bring as many stray animals unto your floor as possible.
9. Party at his house: put up flyers on behalf of a hated neighbour at the local college advertising free booze.
10. Darwin’s curse: breed rats, cockroaches, and other undesirable elements in your apartment. Unleash these when you are evicted.
Dr. Kane X. Faucher is an FIMS/MIT Instructor at The University of Western Ontario. He is also a freelance writer for Scene Magazine, Co-editor of The Raging Face, The Drill Press, and Sorrowland Press, and the interview editor of Ditch Poetry. He is additionally the author of Urdoxa (2004), Codex Obscura (2005), Fort & Da (2006), Calqueform, Astrozoica, De Incunabliad (2007), Jonkil Dies, Tales Pinned on a Complete Ass: Travel to Romania (2009), and The Vicious Circulation of Dr Catastrope (2009). His website is Kane X Faucher.