Six months and 8,293,875 job applications ago, I graduated from college. I went home to Chicago to be unemployed for a while. I didn’t know it then, but it was pretty awesome.
When I finally (finally!) got an offer and came back to New York, I was determined to be an Adult about everything. I spent very little of my salary and slept on NG‘s floor during the time I used Craigslist and a variety of other less creepy resources to help me find somewhere to live. I finally found a place on Roosevelt Island, visited it and decided to move in. Rent was within my budget and I was finally going to be able to pay for myself, which was a huge deal to someone who had never been financially independent before. I moved in, with all of my things, on a Sunday.
The cockroaches didn’t bother me the first night. I had an open space and was able to clean the entire area thoroughly before I let my things into the area and set up blankets to sleep. Cleaning thoroughly meant dusting everything, mopping (with an actual mop), Swiffer-ing, using a ridiculous amount of Clorox wipes, bug spraying any place the floor touched the wall and spraying the entire area with air freshener. I felt very comfortable, besides the overwhelming smell of Japanese food coming from the kitchen which I had happily decided to ignore when I had visited, on account of the fact that the rent was within my budget. The next morning, I followed the smell of Japanese food to the kitchen.
Now, readers, I want to tell you a story within a story here, just a literary device that we writers use once in a while to make comparisons. When I was a young girl, we took a lot of road trips to visit family. Annoying as I was as a child, I would have to use the bathroom at very inconvenient times. We weren’t always near a Barnes and Noble or a Denny’s, where the bathrooms were passable. We would, sometimes, have to stop at gas stations for yours truly. That is what we had done this particular time and my mother escorted me to the gas station bathroom. When I stepped inside, it was so filthy that, as a defensive reflex, I think, I threw up. It was like the bathroom was attacking me with its filth and my body was responding with a sort of “Oh yeah? Top this!” response.
When I saw the kitchen in the Roosevelt Island apartment, I felt my insides start to grumble a warning to me. They seemed to be saying, “If you don’t walk away right this instant, we are going to have to put up a fight here.” I turned around and calmly went to speak to one of my two roommates about getting a cleaning lady.
She pointed to the plates with sauce on them on our overflowing dining table and said, “See those? They were here when I moved in a month ago.” Apparently, the problem was the other roommate, whom we shall call Daisy. They had gotten exterminators before because there were cockroaches in the cabinets, due to Daisy’s dirtiness. “Don’t worry. Tim’s probably going to move out at the end of the month and when the new girl comes, we’ll all pitch in and get a cleaning lady.”
Um, Tim? What?
Yes, apparently, not only was I not informed about the cockroach problem and the exterminators they had had to call before, but they had also completely forgotten to mention the ENTIRE OTHER HUMAN BEING living in our apartment. I had a lot to think about. I went into my room, stretched out on my blanket on the floor and got on the phone with AF, who promptly said, “Dude, you have to get out of there.” As I was trying to calm myself and think reasonably about why I couldn’t just leave after I had moved all of my stuff to Roosevelt Island, I saw movement behind my pillow.
A cockroach. It was just casually climbing from behind my pillow up the wall, less than 6 inches away from my face, completely ignoring the volumes of bug spray I had sprayed in that exact corner less than 24 hours ago. Even as I was squealing (I rarely squeal) to AF who began to squeal herself, I knew I had to leave, for my own sanity and for the health of my insides. After hanging up, I went straight to my roommate, said I was leaving, packed my things and found myself hailing a cab (which cost more than all of my meals for the week, but whatever) to go straight back to NG’s floor, which was positively heavenly compared to what I had been through.
And that, friends, is how I ended up paying a little more to live in a spotless studio in Brooklyn. Lesson of the day: financial independence doesn’t come in one swoop, unless of course, you have studied finance.