Thursday, January 15, 2009

Apartment Woes

First there was the issue of spotty internet. For whatever reason, my landlord (plus his mother—the unofficial handywoman, and his fiancée—the unofficial tech consultant) believes that the first floor should use wireless internet and the second floor should use cables. Therefore, while a perfectly functional router sits in our basement, there are still cords sticking out of our walls. His reasoning was that “cables are more secure than wireless.” However, after my first few months of residency, the internet began to hiccup. Sometimes it would quit in the middle of a YouTube stream; sometimes it would sign off while I was chatting online; and sometimes it simply wouldn’t connect at all, wireless and wired connections alike. Of course, this was one of those infuriating technical issues where, as soon as anyone came to check on it, it would work, so the landlord never wanted to have a real professional come to investigate. Eventually, the issue was resolved (although I do not know if my landlord had a hand in that, or if my roommate just restarted the router in the basement so many times it surrendered), and the wireless connection has worked ever since. (Knock on wood….)

Then there was the issue of my room leaking. “Gushing” would perhaps be a more apt term, as the water was flowing down from the roof, dripping inside my windowpane, bouncing off various ledges on the way down, and splattering everywhere. The drips came from various spots in the frame’s sealant, and the window ledge was too narrow to balance cups—never mind a bucket—so I was forced to set up a very unique water-containment system: a narrow-necked soya sauce bottle tilted sideways to collect the drips running down the right-hand corner of the window frame, three pill bottles placed at strategic dripping points on the sill, a plastic Rite Aid bag hanging from the blinds, and five tea towels that I own as well as one that presumably belonged to the landlord all stuffed in and around the window to collect the excess splattering. I then had to readjust my few items of furniture so that now, when I walk into my room, I am either forced to lie directly down onto my bed or to take two steps to the left and sit (or stand, if I feel so inclined) on my filing crate.

To my landlord’s credit, he and his mother arrived within a few hours of my calling them. They then left to find some sort of “temporary fix” that would stop the leak until all of the snow had melted and the rain had stopped. What remedy did they return with? A plastic shopping bag, which they pulled from under our kitchen counter and wrapped around the top of the window frame. It is supposed to “direct the water outside” according to the mother, although how this functions, I fail to understand. The window is shut. Therefore, if water is leaking inside, it is going to stay inside.

Either way, the leak happened a little less than a month ago, and the bag is still there. If you’ve ever tried sleeping near plastic bag on a windy night, I’m sure you’ll understand why this vexes me: the sound it creates is not conducive to a good night’s sleep.

My most recent issue is a burnt-out lightbulb—or at least that’s what I imagine it is. About three weeks ago, the light over our entrance (which is actually on the side of the building, since I live on the 2nd floor) went out. I would have been happy to replace it myself, except that it is encased in some sort of metal grating. Therefore, I asked the landlord to fix it (i.e. to replace the lightbulb). Unfortunately, to no avail. His response was, “I'm not sure when it can be fixed as it goes out quickly these days.” Meanwhile, the light has not gone out once in the 4+ months I have lived there, and the neighbors’ single sensor-activated light, which he claimed would be good enough for us to use, is not only weak, but it only stays lit for approximately fifteen seconds before going out again.

To get inside my apartment, I have to open three different doors with three different keys, two of which must be inserted upside down, as the locks were installed improperly. The people who own a car and park it behind our apartment (none of “us,” however, because everyone who lives in my building is either a student or a very young professional) do not shovel the driveway; they just drive over the snow so that it turns to ice each time there is a snowfall. Thus, all in all, the conditions when I arrive home at 9 or 10 p.m. are not the safest. All I was asking for was a working light.

I tried pointing the safety issue, but perhaps I am speaking another language, because my landlord rarely responds to my requests directly. Or perhaps he is the one speaking another language. Everyone else I live with, including the landlords, speaks Mandarin. Which could explain why I don’t understand the leak fix, because when I tried to express my reservations to his mother after she had shut that plastic bag in my window, she just smiled and nodded. “Water to go outside,” she told me, motioning with her hands. “Plastic bag to catch water, make it go outside.”

I should have paid better attention in Singapore.

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