Upon graduation in May, I’ll be moving from the house I grew up in to an apartment downtown. I’ll be happy to say goodbye to my neighbor, Weezie, her 10 kids, the stray cat with one eye, and the street ridden with chicken bones and blunt wrappers that I’ve called home for two decades.
The new scenery of downtown Philadelphia will be a welcome change, but I’ve found out that searching for an apartment is not the fun and exciting time I thought it was. In fact, it can be life-threatening.
My soon-to-be roommate and I began our search with the popular weekly publications City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly. While searching, it seemed that a three bedroom apartment would be cheaper in the long run – if we found another roommate. So, we placed an ad on Craigslist. Craigslist is great – you can find a roommate, buy a bike and find a sleazy hookup all in the same night.
No sooner did Ashley and I put an ad on craigslist did we get e-mails about becoming the third awesome roommate/buddy for life. Not so fast.
The first roommate seemed intriguing – she was a model living in Africa until her next project is finished. Before meeting Ashley and me, she wanted to send us a check for rent – on a place we didn’t even have – cha-ching!
But Ashley and I decided that receiving checks site unseen makes for a strange character, and we didn’t want to have to compete for bathroom time with someone who was constantly making her “fierce” pose and taking up the space in the hallway. On to another roommate.
The next awesome roommate candidate was a man who wanted to have slumber parties and cuddle. He was 35 years old and was obsessed with dolls. ‘Nuff said.
After a telephone interview with a Bulgarian nudist, a cat lady with a lisp and a Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast who didn’t shut up about his athlete’s foot, Ashley and I decided a two-bedroom apartment would suit us fine.
An ad in the City Paper described a cozy (meaning tiny) place at 18th and South streets, which was kinda-sorta in our boundaries of where we wanted to live, so we took a shot and went to see the place.
Well, we almost took a shot. The apartment was not at 18th and South streets, but at South 18th Street – deep south.
At 11 a.m., we feared for our lives in this neighborhood, so as soon as we got within a three block radius of where this place was supposed to be, we ran away; far, far away.
After numerous encounters with roach motels, frigid shoeboxes and apartments with permanent cat pee odor, Ashley and I can’t help but feel a little jaded about apartment hunting in downtown Philadelphia.
To those upcoming graduates who aren’t moving back to their parents’ house after graduation, I wish you all luck with finding your new homes.
But remember, apartment hunting is like survival of the fittest: You’re in competition with many other recent graduates, baby mamas and daddies, and other people looking for limited space, on a limited budget, in a limited amount of time.
You must arrive at appointments to view apartments on time, as there will be some jerk who took your spot and your new party space – or as you may call it “my grown up house.”
You must act appropriately (speak clearly), dress appropriately (no belly tops and flip-flops), have good credit (don’t max out your credit card on porn and video games) and be patient when looking at apartments or else you will not survive, because you won’t have a place to live.
You’ve got to be strong-willed and strong-minded to find a great place to live, and you’ve got competition: Ashley and me.
Michael Shaffer can be reached at email@example.com.