Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Small (apartment) Worlds

When we first moved to Colorado, we moved into a one bedroom apartment in Castle Rock. We were trying to find something more permanent (and larger), and we had signed a six month least in the interim. Since we only wanted a six month lease, and we (thought) we wanted to live in Castle Rock (obviously, we changed our mind), our options for apartments were limited. In fact, they were limited to only one apartment complex, and only one apartment in that complex.

When I went to check the apartment complex out, I met Rocky, the apartment manager. I wasn't able to see the actual apartment, because people were still in it, moving out that day, I was told, but I saw the "sample" apartment instead. Rocky assured me that the apartment I saw was exactly like the one I would be renting, that our apartment would have new locks, new carpets, new paint, and would be just wonderful. Rocky asked me if I was interested in renting a garage, but when I mused outloud (opps) that I could use the garage in lieu of the storage unit that I was planning to rent, he very seriously informed me that garages were for the exclusive use of cars, not stuff, and that no one in the complex was allowed to store anything but their vehicles in the garages, and that the management took this very seriously. Since obviously this was a rule, I didn't rent a garage, and paid a higher price down the street at a storage locker. I also learned all about all the other rules in the apartment complex, like the management's very serious stance on noise, and that all apartments were non-smoking, and that no one was allowed to smoke in the apartments or on the decks.

The day I got the keys to the tiny, dark, not-at-all-like-the-model one-bedroom apartment, Rocky informed me that I would be receiving blinds in the next couple of days, because maintenance hadn't  been able to get them in in time for my move-in. OK, I said, no problem.

I went into the apartment and was overwhelmed by the smell of smoke. The blinds were filthy, and smoke tar stained so badly the normally beige vertical blinds were dark orange in places. The apartment had, in fact, been painted, and the carpet was new(ish?), but the workers obviously hadn't washed the walls before they painted over them. I opened the windows but the smell didn't go away. After we moved our stuff in, I washed down everything - inside and out of every cabinet (not that there were many), every countertop, every wall, every door, every square inch of the ceiling. I even washed down the deck and the deckwalls.

After a week of hearing nothing from the apartment complex, after a couple of unreturned calls to Rocky, I washed the dirty, disgusting blinds. It only helped somewhat.

Thinking that perhaps the phone service wasn't working properly, I emailed Rocky a couple of times, asking about the blinds. When we were working on paperwork to move in, email was an effective way of getting in touch with Rocky.

Silence. But only from the management office, not from the rest of the complex.

See, as it turned out, below us lived Austin, a very sweet, 9 month old dog, and his jailer, I mean owner, Laura. Laura claimed that she had trained Austin to be a search and rescue/guard dog with the fire department, even though he was too young to go to work yet, and her job was as a waitress. So, when Austin barked incessantly for two plus hours straight, (I've never heard anything quite like it), Laura claimed he was "trained to protect his territory." At 6am one Saturday, Eric threatened to protect his territory, by going to Walmart and buying a ream of paper and a gun. The ream of paper was so he could type her up a letter. The gun, well... but he's all talk. He'd never hurt an animal, accidental deer murder notwithstanding.

We tried to handle it, we really did. We went and talked to Laura, we told her, kindly, that we were bringing Austin's barking to her attention because we understood she wasn't home, and couldn't know. She apologized. She gave us flowers. We sent back cookies.

The dog kept barking.

And barking.

We left her notes.

Other people left her notes, much nastier than ours, written in bold pens and taped on her door so the rest of the world could see them.

I finally started calling management. I left messages. I left emails. Rocky never responded. I would walk down to the office during business hours and wait. Rocky had found a way to disappear for huge chunks of the day (to borrow a phrase from SeaBiscuit). I finally got up before office hours one Saturday, after Austin had been on another two-hour bender, and waited outside the office door. Rocky eventually came down the path (he lived on the property). I told him I had emailed and left messages repeatedly, and that I hadn't heard from him about the dog or the blinds. Rocky mumbled that the systems hadn't been working, and that he would do something about it.

Months went by. By this time, we realized that even though Rocky had clearly told me that garages were strictly for the use of cars, almost all of them were filled with people's stuff. The guy who rented the one across the parking lot from our apartment even had a deep freeze out there, and regularly grabbed large hunks of frozen meat out from it.

Add to the mix, Troy, the 50-something, half-deaf Gulf War vet living above us. He found out we were originally from Michigan, got excited about that and invited us for "Michigan spaghetti" because he was from Michigan as well. We went. He made dinner, and opened wine. He didn't eat or drink. Or sit down. He stood in the kitchen and watched us eat and drink, and told us he didn't drink wine and only had a 2 ounce stomach due to a wound sustained in the first Gulf War. He told us about his wife, whom he was separated from, and was desperately seeking a reunion with. He constantly had the TV at full volume (both during our dinner at his place, and in general). There was consistent noise coming from above.

Laura lost her job, or stopped working, or something. She got hard up for money.

She started sleeping with Troy and he paid her bills. He told us as much (so much for the wife.) He would call for her out the slider door, at the top of his voice, "Laura! LAURA!" She'd tromp up the stairs at his bellow.

Thoughout all this, no word from the apartment company. No new blinds either.

Eventually, on one of my weekly trips to the apartment complex, there was a new guy. He told me that the whole staff was gone, and that a new management company had taken over. I explained my situation, and he told me that no one had kept notes or put in orders for several months. He had no records of anything I said. He was obviously frustrated, and told me more than he probably should have. He told me that Rocky had been making "special arrangements" with tenants in exchange for paying rent late, or skipping months. He said the billing was all messed up. He took down my information, said he would make sure I got blinds on Monday and would address the noise.

I never heard from him. Still no blinds.

Eventually, different people took over. The new management company brought in Lindy, a spitfire enforcer from California. About 4 weeks before we moved out, we got the new blinds. We never did get relief from Austin, however.

Last weekend, we went to see MaryJane and Chris. They've just sold their house, and are in a three month lease in an apartment before moving into a new place. The temperatures were in the 90's, so we decided that we would play in the pool with the kids. On our way through their apartment complex, we went through the office/clubhouse to get to the pool.

Guess who was sitting behind the manager's desk, talking about lease options with a potential tenant?

Not even kidding.


Here's hoping Laura, Austin, and Troy aren't also lurking around.

Cows behind our apartment complex, also known as the best and quietest neighbors we had.
Note the garages. There's a treasure trove of antiques, furniture, and boxes behind those doors.

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