Norman Bates Is the Least of My Worries:
The Day Hell Invited Me Over, and I Moved in to Stay
Written by:  Alex Sandell

If there really is a Hell, I'm guessing it's a gigantic apartment complex.  One with lots of kids, and a fat landlord who never gets anything done, but says that she's always in the middle of something she's doing.  And now I'm living there. 

Five years ago, I vowed that I would never live in an apartment again.  For five years, I held tight to this sacred vow.   I shared big, 100-year-old houses with 5 or 6 friends, all in the worst parts of town.  The toxic fumes of lead paint and the incessant sounds of police sirens became a constant companion.  I lived in two crummy basement duplexes, each one reminding me why I like it better on top.  I even, *gasp* moved back in with mom and dad a few times.  It wasn't a matter of pride.  It was a matter of never again having to put an apartment # on my return address.  I did whatever it took not to go back to that apartment life I had came to dread so severely back in 1992.  Then, on July 4th, 1999, Hell invited me over, and I moved in to stay.  The sacred vow was broken.

Why?  It became harder and harder to maintain this page, do my movie reviews, and keep up with the movie newsletter, while living in a small town.  I watched my long distance bill get higher and higher every month as I found myself calling more and more people to get the inside poop on a movie, chat about some graphics I needed for the page, or set up an advance screening of a film.  Not to mention, the screenings are all in Minneapolis.  I was driving three hours 2 or 3 times a week, just to see a damn film and write up the review.  With gas money, maintenance on my piece of shit car, and telephone calls, I was racking up hundreds of dollars in bills every month (told ya running a webpage ain't cheap).  The more in debt I became, the more I realized that selling another article to some magazine for $500.00 bucks just wasn't gonna cut it.  I had to make those fucking calls local and start riding a bike.  This couldn't be done unless I was actually in the Twin Cities.   I had to move.

*Editor's Note:  This would be a good time to find that dusty old Guns N' Roses CD you hid in the back closet ten years ago, and claimed that you sold, put it into your high-tech CD-ROM player and play Welcome to the Jungle repeatedly until you've finished reading*

So, about 7 months ago, I kinda/sorta started feeling around the Minneapolis area, partially looking for a home.  Being that I didn't really want to move, my search for residence basically consisted of things like asking the dude selling me popcorn, "know anywhere a person can live, around here?"  When he answered with a confused, "no," I shrugged it off, and figured I did enough "looking" for the week.  This sort of thing went on for about 5 months.  Then, sixty days ago, like the single chick who's 9 months pregnant with triplets, I got serious, and decided I better really start looking.

I got a realtor.  I hated her.   I got another one.  She was tolerable.  I looked at about seven-million houses.  All of them were about 10 times more than my budget would allow.  I found a potential roommate.  I hated her.  I got another one.  She was tolerable.  We looked at about seven-million houses.  All of them were about 5 times more than our budget would allow. 

Finally, on May 17th, 1999, I looked at my first apartment.  I applied.  I sat in my bedroom with stomach cramps for three days until I was called and told that I couldn't quite afford it.  My stomach cramps immediately disappeared and were replaced with butterflies of pure and simple joy.   "YES!" I happily screamed, "I didn't get it!"

After this, looking for apartments became less of a chore.  "I won't qualify, anyway" I kept telling myself with a Cheshire Cat grin plastered across my face.  Then, on June 17th, 1999, exactly a month from my first apartment application, I received another call.  It was a landlord.  "You got the apartment!" she said.  "Oh . . . damn, and I wanted it so bad," was my prepared response.  It wasn't until she repeated herself, telling me once again, "no . . . you got the apartment!  You can move in July 1st!!!" that I realized what had actually happened, and that my life was about to take a turn for the worse.  Faster than you can say, "well, that's the crappiest news I've ever heard," all of the butterflies living in my stomach were smashed by those bastard cramps who have taken over ever since.

Fast-forward a month.  Here I am.   It's my new "house," but it doesn't feel like my home.  Tears have escaped from my eyes and ran down my cheeks as I stare at "my" ceiling in the "house" that doesn't feel like my own.  It's a desolate, empty feeling.   Like breaking up with your favorite girlfriend (or boyfriend, if you like that sort of thing), or standing alone at a wake, looking at everyone sitting around, chatting, and wondering how they can manage to smile when your best friend's in the casket. 

Everything that I hate is back in this new world, just like it was in the old world of 1992.  Every little apartment-related problem you can think of has already, in only a few days, reared its ugly head.  Like every apartment which has come before, or since, there's the infamous gas stove, with only one working burner.  Didn't these things go out of style along with The Beatles?   Then there's the dirt and grime smudged into every corner.  All the places the cleaning person didn't think you'd notice, at least not until you put down your deposit and moved in.  The pubic hair, fingernail clippings and other gunk that's crammed into 10-year-old urine which somehow made its way behind the toilet.  We have the traditional sticky oven top.  Try to flick on the light above the stove, and your hand is stuck there.  My oven is the friggin' tar baby.  And, speaking of babies, of course there's the apartment directly above you.  You know?  The one that two supposedly intelligent adults decided wasn't crowded enough.  Somehow, they just needed less room.  So they bred.  In this case, like rabbits.   A 3-year-old, a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old.  Not to mention mommy and daddy humping their brains out every night, trying desperately to make up for that 4 year lag they had between child number 1 and child number 2.  Of course I get to hear all this, because, as we all know, apartment walls are fucking transparent.  Obviously, the "insulation concept" has gone straight over all apartment complex owners' heads.  So, I'm up at 7 AM when the kiddies start running around the room and jumping on the bed.  I'm up again at 8, when mommy decides to vacuum.  Then, after a day of being up because two people forgot to wear rubbers, I try to relax to the sound of a bedstand thumping against the wall and an occasional groan and a couple of "oh yeah" sort of things.

I could go on for hours.  I could tell you about the infamous venetian blinds that never close correctly and are never replaced.  Or the fact that the bathroom sink was clogged and full of yellow water the day I moved in, and has yet to be fixed.  But, why bore you with the details, rather than just end it now with the worst thing about apartments that there is:  the price.  Believe it or not, they don't pay me to endure this Hell, I pay them.  $625.00 a month, and that's about the cheapest it gets, if you live in the city.  Maybe now you'll come to realize why there's been a banner-ad on every update, as of late.  Freelance writing may be a good job, if you can get it, but $625.00 a month is usually more than you'll be able to get. 

As for Norman Bates?  He had a thing for Apartment Number One.  That's where I'm living.  But, as I said, he's the least of my worries.  What could he do to make things worse?  Drill a peephole in my shower?  I'd just complain to the landlord.  Of course she'd never fix it.   She's always too busy doing all of those things that she never does.  And the owner is too busy counting his hundreds and punishing fallen angels by doubling their rent.  A vengeful God, indeed . . .

1999 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].   Copy this without my permission, and I'll give you a permanent with the gunk lurking behind my toilet!

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