The Old Apartment

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Today's post is a writer's prompt from Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop. 

You stepped into your first apartment and thought...

"...why the hell is the toilet in a closet?"

My first apartment was kind of an emergency scenario. I was finishing up my journalism program in one province and got offered a six-month maternity leave position at a large daily paper in another province. It was a great opportunity and I jumped at the chance. The only problem was I had to move to a sketch-hole of a city where I knew zero people, and I had less than two weeks to finish school, find an apartment, and move myself down there. Alone.

I spent my 20th birthday with my parents driving to the city to look at a couple apartments I'd found in for rent ads in the paper. I didn't have any prior knowledge of this particular city - I just wanted a place where I could walk to my job at the paper. This meant I'd be living in the south end. The problem was the south end was dirrrrty. Christina Aguilera dirrrrrty. When we got there and drove through my parents went from looking unimpressed to panicked at the thought of leaving their kid in what essentially looked like a giant crack den. We saw people stumbling around at 11:00 a.m., broken glass everywhere, boarded-over windows, and just general riff-raff and grossness.

We drove to the first building I'd written down and I shit you not it looked like a legit haunted house. I took the liberty of Google Street View-ing the actual house. Here it is. Just swing that puppy round till you see the big brick house with ghosts popping out of every window and turret. "Keep driving," I said. I was freaked out at this point, looking at the list of addresses I'd written down for apartment viewings. I was going to spend the next six months living in a murder house surrounded by junkies with needles hanging out of their eyelids.

We went to the next address and it was a 100% improvement over the first. Still shitty, mind you, but it didn't look like a place where Dracula lived. It was a basement apartment, but bright and relatively modern. It was furnished, which made things easier for me since my furniture at that point consisted of one red inflatable chair. It was in a house with only three other apartments so there wouldn't be many epic battles for the washer and dryer. But the bathroom...the bathroom was an issue. As in, there was no bathroom.

Basically, as you were going down the hall from the living room to the kitchen, the shower was right there - just a glass door separating you in all your showering nudeness from the rest of the apartment. So having overnight guests was obviously not going to happen, because people don't typically like to shower in front of their friends and family, and there was no bathtub in this masterpiece. Next door was the toilet. You pushed open a folding closet door, went up two steps (??) and sat on this toilet on a pedestal. No sink. Just a toilet. So after you did your business you came back down the steps and continued to the kitchen to wash your hands in the sink.

The rest of the apartment was fine. New furniture in the living room; bright, open, cheery kitchen; decent-sized bedroom. But the bathroom situation. And then I thought about the haunted house. "I'll take it," I said. And I spent the next six months hiding out in a basement apartment with no bathroom and counting down the days until my job ended and I could move back home. I've never been so happy to be unemployed in my life.

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  1. Wow, I can only imagine, how horrible it must have been especially the bathroom situation. Thank goodness it only for a short period.

  2. Um, is it bad to say that I'm kind of interested in having to step up to a toilet on a pedestal? The no sink thing would be an issue, but hello shit room!

  3. Aww Amy.. SJ is my hometown and there are DEFINITELY some weird damn apartments and sketchbag areas of town. I was from the East Side.. (actually outside of SJ slightly on Golden Grove) which is, in my unbiased opinion, the best area in town... which isn't saying too much. Don't get me wrong, Saint John is always going to be home to me.. but yeah. haha. I'm sorry for our weird apartments.

    Oh and the TJ is in a horrible spot, as well. Right by the causeway!?

  4. OMG that house is just freaky! I can see why you didnt live there, you would never dare to fall asleep at night

  5. I love those old brownstones! High ceilings, fireplaces, deep claw foot baths. Some even have roof top decks! I definitely would have chose that one!

    I love the city of St. John too. I've spent a lot of time there with a friend who lived in an apartment in a house just like that one!

  6. Sandz - the bathroom made things interesting :) If I'd been there any longer I'd have been looking for a new apartment, definitely.

    Supahmama - ha! the toilet on a pedestal thing was really not all got old quick!

    Kathy - I used to go to the east side on weekends as my big exciting field trip/highlight of the week :) The south end was definitely not my favourite place to live but there were good things about it - the city market and the burial ground were great. There were a lot of "characters" around that made things interesting...And yes, I worked right by the causeway.

    Natasha - it was creepy for sure. If I'd had a roommate, maaaaybe. Living by myself for the first time ever? no way!

  7. Anonymous - the brownstones are fine, the creepy enormous house that looks like a haunted sea captain's mansion wasn't my speed! I did visit some people in one of those brownstone-type houses once I finally met people there and you're right, some of them are beautiful inside. The haunted house may well have been too...I was too scared to find out!

  8. I can picture that apartment Amy! I came to visit once I think? And we went for a walk in that sketchy neighbourhood? Even though Ryan and I met there, man that city sucks! You are lucky you were only there for a few months and not 3 years! We should have gotten together more often! I didn't know how miserable you were! :(

  9. Melissa, you helped a ton! I think you were the only person I knew for the first five months I was there. Then I met like two other people and then it was time to go. I remember my contract got extended by a month and I was devastated! haha

  10. Living without helps one appreciate what one has later in life. That place sounds like my first apartment, but it was a step up from my former home in the interior of Brazil in the late 1960's.

    I had an outhouse & no running water. A neighbor hauled water from a dam for about 18 months until I moved to a house with a system for collecting rainwater. I used a basin in the kitchen for hand washing. For bathing, I heated water on a propane stove and poured it over my head in the middle of the kitchen. The floor was slightly slanted toward the back door, so the water would run into the yard under the door. There was a shower room, which was about 2.5-ft square, but you had to go outside to get there ---and what would you do with your dry clothes while pouring water over your head? I used it to store tools/supplies. Once I moved to my new house, I had a large shower room (about 6-ft sq) so I could hang my clothes & towels on the door without their getting wet.

    I had to boil water for drinking or cooking for 20 minutes & put it through a water filter. I had no electricity in the first house ---used kerosene lanterns. As you might guess, water and energy are things I don't take for granted anymore.

    I returned to that town in August 2011 and stayed with former students who had a lovely home with modern conveniences, running water, electricity, gas ---but there are still many places, especially on isolated farms ---where people are living as I did 40+ years ago. And I know there are other places in the world where people live with far less.

  11. Um, maybe I am blind. I just saw some really cool brick houses.

  12. Mommy Lisa - those are the houses across the street :) keep rotating, it's a big house set back from the street.