Moving is always an adventure. Especially when you’re moving 600 miles into a place you’ve never seen with roommates you’ve never met. That’s crazy you say? I agree. But that’s just kinda how I roll.
At the beginning of July, I was all set to move back to San Francisco, a city I loved for five years and into a tiny apartment in the Presidio with three roommates I’d never met. I wasn’t totally enthralled with living in the Presidio (I really wanted to live south of Geary), but I was having trouble finding affordable apartments in this area and my mother had just asked, “When are you moving?” for the 1,000th time. So I took the apartment.
I asked for pictures, I spoke with two of the roommates at length and tried my best to conjure positive visions of a white, shining castle on a hill. I thought I was comfortable. But then the roommate with whom I had connected the most emailed to say she was moving out a month after I arrived, and oh, by the way, she was taking all of the living room furniture with her. Shortly thereafter, the two remaining male roommates emailed to see if I could contribute furniture to the living room. [Really? One of you has lived there five years and the other a year…if this gal was taking the entire living room, what exactly have you contributed to the apartment?]
My enthusiasm level was dropping but I wanted to get up to San Francisco so badly, it was hard to make an objective decision. So I sent my friend to see the apartment. Apparently it was so small, she was surprised four people lived there. All of a sudden, the apartment I had envisioned as my glittering savior from the death trap of suburbia (aka, Carmel Valley, California), was now looking like a crack house. Then my second biggest copywriting client said they were pulling back because they needed to re-think their brand strategy. Great.
I still wanted to move to San Francisco, so I was prepared to swallow my disappointment, but then another friend emailed 30 minutes later to say that she had a friend moving to NYC for two months and that I could sublease her room in the Castro for cheap. I would be living with one other person in a three-bedroom apartment for $500/month. Sweet! Affordable, check. South of Geary, check. Only living with one roommate, CHECK. Done.
But nothing is ever as good (or bad) as we think it’s going to be. Hurdle #1 was my roommate-to-be, Raquel. She was less than enthused about the idea of having a sublettor at all, let alone a sublettor she didn’t know. I figured she had been fantasizing about walking around the apartment naked for the two months her roommates were out of town, so I tried to take the list of questions from Sarah (my landlord) in stride.
She asked if I would be working from home all the time [A: No, I’ll spend most of the day at a coffee shop]; do I have a boyfriend that will be around all the time [A: No, I don’t even remember what that feels like]; do I have friends in San Francisco [A: No, I’m generally a recluse, but try to get about an hour of sunlight a day].
Read: “How much are you actually going to be here?”
To be fair, these are all questions you SHOULD ask if someone is going to be subletting your apartment, especially if you won’t meet them first. But since I was feeling a little sensitive about moving into a new situation, I wanted her to be bubbly and welcoming and warm. I wanted her to tell me that anything and everything I wanted was ok. Regardless of how she was feeling about sharing the bathroom with a complete stranger, I wanted her to make me more comfortable. Because it is all about me.
I told myself everything would be fine. Then two days before I was to leave San Diego, I received a text message asking how much stuff I was planning on bringing. I bristled a little at this question, thinking it was really none of her business, but I responded with “clothes, toiletries and some kitchen items”.
“Oh, I wouldn’t bring kitchen stuff, we have no room. My stuff is still in boxes.”
Now, when most of you read this line, you probably take it to mean, “I just want to warn you, so that you don’t pack and move stuff that you’ll just have to store in your closet.”
But since I am a) sensitive, b) a girl, and c) reading this over text message, I envision her saying this in one of those high school mean girls voices meant to relay the message, “You’re not wanted.” So my immediate response (which was thankfully not sent over text message) was, “Ugh! I am amazing! You should want to be my friend! And store my kitchen stuff. And hang out with whatever crazy dude I decide to date.”
I know. I’m ridiculous. My actual response? “Can I bring my juicer?”
By the time Sunday morning (aka moving day) came, I was feeling a little insecure. And as my dad’s eyes got wider and wider with each suitcase and box that I brought downstairs, that insecurity grew.
“One more box and I’m getting a U-Haul.”
The closer our overloaded SUV got to the Bay Bridge; the tighter the knots in my stomach turned and sharpened—what if she hates me? What if she makes my parents take back some of my stuff? What if I have to date some WASP-y guy with a braided belt and sweater vest because I needed somewhere else to sleep?
“Do you think you could distract her while Dad and I bring in my stuff?”
“Um, sure. What do you want me to say?”
“I dunno, she’s a teacher, you’re a principal…talk to her about teacher stuff.”
“Do you know what grade she teaches?”
“How about public or private school?”
“Do you know anything about her?”
Thankfully, my mom can talk to a wall about school stuff for hours on end, so she chatted up Raquel in the kitchen while my dad and I ducked and scurried from the car like a pair of drug smugglers. We moved swiftly, communicated with head nods and hand motions, we made little audible noise if any.
My stuff secured in my room, it was time for my parents to check into their hotel.
“So just call us in a little bit and we’ll figure out where to eat dinner.”
What?! You can’t just leave me here alone with her! I felt like I was 18 in the dorms.
But they did leave me alone with her. And she in turn, left me alone, retiring to her room and closing the door where she remained till the next morning.
“She’s just giving you space.” My mother; the poster-child of logic.
“I think she hates me.”
But when I got home that night the hallway light was on, as was the stove light in the kitchen.
“Aw, that was nice,” I thought as I turned everything off and got ready for bed. Then just as I was about to fall asleep I heard her open her door, turn the kitchen light back on and go back to her room.
“Crap. She hates me.”
The next morning I crept from my room to the bathroom, walking on my tiptoes (as if this actually makes you quieter) and jumped at every creak in the floorboards. I paused at the bathroom door to listen for movement in her room. Silence. Ok, maybe I didn’t wake her.
I went to the bathroom, flushed the toilet and then noticed that the most embarrassing remnants of my dinner had not been washed to sea.
“Crap. I can’t leave tracks in the toilet the first morning I live here!”
I looked for the toilet scrubber but couldn’t find it; I considered using toilet paper, but the thought made me gag; I stared at the toilet bowl, but the sheer power of my will wouldn’t make it clean. Desperate, I took bathroom cleaner and a handheld scrub brush from under the sink and erased proof of my presence.
As I was washing off the scrubber, my eyes wandered to the space behind the toilet and the toilet brush I had missed. I looked at the brush in my hand. “So this is for the shower.” Gross.
I debated—should I throw out the scrubber and not say anything? Would they buy it if I pretended it just disappeared? Should I tell Raquel what happened?
I imagined how that conversation would go. “Hey, so a funny thing happened in the bathroom today,” and then imagined her face going from puzzled to disgust. Oh well, my friend Julie has an extra room.
Or I could just bleach the brush, pray that she won’t use it to clean the bathroom in the next 12 hours and buy a new one at the store. I placed the brush under the sink and prayed.
Then I pulled the knob on the bathroom door and listened in horror as the knob on the other side crashed to the floor.
“At least I didn’t completely unpack.”
I am slightly crazy. This post was meant to reflect my awkwardness at entering a new living situation, and should not affect on the readers’ views of Raquel. Upon further time spent together, I have come to the conclusion that she is one of the nicest people to ever have lived.