Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Newest Apartment Saga, or The Last Two-Family House on the Left

When the Brooklyn Baby Family escaped the Baltic Hell that was our last apartment, we really wanted to believe that we were starting fresh. We found a no-fee apartment through a friend, who in turn found it through a crunchy community bulletin board in Park Slope's famous Food Coop. The landladies were real people, not a corrupt mega-corporation run by the Russian mafia, and they seemed (and still do) like they really cared about us and wanted to create a nice space for us. They even put in new air conditioners and installed a dishwasher for us. The space was open and friendly, our downstairs neighbor was NORMAL and very kind, the neighborhood was awesome and convenient. And, possibly best of all, since we lived on the top floor, NO MANIAC, SERIAL-KILLER, UPSTAIRS NEIGHBORS TO SEND ME TO THE MENTAL HOSPITAL AGAIN. Oops, did I say again?

Ah, yes, we thought, we can put up our feet and stay a while.

And then, like the beginning of a formulaic horror movie, we began to notice...things. Little things. Things we thought we could shrug off.

Extremely loud rush-hour traffic that seemed to be right in our living room.

Mysterious swarms of bugs entering in through the skylights we raved about.

A random hole in the wall in the living room that we stuffed with foam insulation and duct taped over.

A bathroom door with a tricky lock that seemed to lock itself.

A crumbling ceiling around the in-wall air-conditioner in the bedroom.

A radiator in the living room that just didn't turn on. Ever.

And thing the things became bigger, more ominous, annoying as all hell.

A neighbor who started doing construction late at night.

The beloved dishwasher getting stuck in the middle of a cycle and leaving us with wet, crusty dishes.

Mysterious sounds, like two squirrels either screwing each other's brains out or murdering each other, INSIDE our ceiling (not on it).

Lack of insulation in Stella's room that caused it to be freezing cold the minute the heat goes off.

And, worst of all, a heating system that suddenly stopped working smack in the middle of -- you guessed it -- the biggest cold snap we've had yet.

I won't tell you the full story, because it's long and rambling and, dare I say it?, boring (that is, if you're not living it). But here's the bottom line.

Our landladies bought a brand new heating system last year that came with a warranty. The warranty guys came time and time again, replacing this, tweaking that, putting more oil in, adjusting it, bla bla bla. It would work for a day or two, then stop. Immediately our historic home from the 1800's with its gorgeous swiss cheese walls would become an igloo, and the most pyrophobic person on earth (me) would try to sleep at night while the ominous space heater kept her daughter warm.

Have I mentioned we have no fire escapes, and our upstairs windows (where we sleep) are too small for us to crawl out of? Not that I obsess about such things.

Things came to a head the night we turned on the space heater in Stella's room, opened her door (so as not to trap her with the fire should the worst happen), and locked the cats in the bedroom (so they wouldn't play their Brokeback Mountain cat games in her crib). We woke up to a freezing cold apartment (except for Stella's room, thank God), but when Dave tried to free the cats from the bathroom, the mysterious lock had locked itself. Dave heard nothing on the other side, and fearing that the room had become too cold for the poor felines, he ended up breaking the door. The cats were OK, but we, as a family, were dispirited.

The heat kept going off over and over, but I must say the landladies took it seriously and responded to us each time. Even recently, when we pleaded with them to get a new guy to look at it, as we feared the warranty guys (who sometimes missed appointments and seemed generally surly and clueless) weren't helping, they did it.

A pretty competent guy came, looked at every thing, messed with our radiators, etc. And, when he left, ALL our radiators worked and it seemed that finally, FINALLY, we were going to have some reliable heat this winter.

Until...our neighbor called us later to tell us the heater wasn't working again. It kept shutting itself off.

So, I didn't sleep at all last night, worried about the cats in the cold bathroom, worried about my daughter in our fire trap, worried about this life we were creating for ourselves, worried about all it would entail to truly change this life.

I've tried to stop whining on this blog, and honestly, we're handling this OK. But I'm 34 years old, and by golly, I'm ready for life to be a tad bit easier on us.

I'm ready to live in normal-ville, wherever that may be.

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