Renting an apartment can be a hell experience
I want to be upfront, the story I am about to tell happened a long time ago. Unfortunately, however it did happen. My attempts at re-telling certain events are as accurate as possible.
When I first moved to NYC, I had recently completed my M.A. and spent part of the year in Chicago, planning the immediate future. The advice I got was “Go East Young Man.” Go to New York City. I was full of vim and vigor and had the hope and optimism of a bright young man to experience exciting things. Little did I know that one of those “things” included having my apartment robbed.
I grew up in a leafy suburb of Chicago and although I had lived in the Windy City, NYC was a different animal. A much bigger, wilder animal. Luck was with me however. I found my dream apartment. A one-bedroom in a renovated brownstone a half block off of Central Park West. It was affordable back then. Now, you have to work on Wall Street to rent of these places.
My new landlord was a Jewish man of small stature who always wore a fedora and spoke with a thick accent and booming voice. He told me he was from Russia. I told him my Grandfather was from Russia. Wow! Small world. My landlord had the habit of addressing me in a business-like manner, “Hello, Mr. Kaaaagan” He always stretched out my name as if he was calling inmates in a cell block. His Russian accent elongated my name into 3 vowels.
I combated this by casually saying, “Hi, how ya doin’?” He looked at me startled as if I was upsetting the applecart. Or as if I took a piece of cheese from the frozen tundra of Kiev.
I had a spiffy new job as a senior analyst of program research at ABC-TV and saw the likes of Program whiz-kid Fred Silverman, and even, one day, Henry Winkler, who was promoting “The Fonz”and dropped by the executive offices to make an appearance. ABC had “Charlie’s Angels,” and some of the days’ prettiest women on TV. It was cool times, indeed.
One day, I came back to my apartment and opened the door, glanced in and my senses went to recoil. You know when something is out of sorts, but you don’t know how you know. Something felt askew. A few moments later I saw way too much space where things used to be and it dawned on my overloaded mind, that my beloved stereo system was missing. The stereo with a great receiver, smooth turnable and solid speakers.
So was my Sony Trinitron television. A guy like me played air guitar to Eric Clapton and Peter Frampton while listening to their riffs on my stereo. The earphones were dynamite. I could turn up the volume and no one could hear me. I could hardly hear my phone ring. In fact, sometimes I got confused. I thought the ring came from the music when it was actually the phone ringing.
When I saw the empty table and no TV on top of it, I felt this despair and anger. “My God!! “A Robbery” “WTF” and some other expletives. I went to my bedroom and looked in my closet and saw No camera, no suits, missing a few ties. The ‘My God” and question asked in anguish, ‘WHO did this?” was asked in anger and frustration. Talk about invasion of privacy. That was it! It was a few moments later when I realized a ring that my late Grandfather had given me, was also gone. Then I felt like calling home.
It took me some time before I calmed down enough to realize that some wise guys took my suits. They had to be hard up. Instinctively, I went to turn on my stereo as if music could wash away this pain, but there was no stereo. No TV.. I was already becoming addicted to watching TV. I’d watch re-runs of NY Rangers hockey games I’d already seen just to see the neat plays again. I tracked down my landlord and told him the bad news. His reply was funny: “Mr. Kaaagan, I’m sorry”. He said the word ‘sorry’ as if it had a biblical importance. Are we heading back to the book of Genesis with this?
I made a police report. They took it as if they had heard this three thousand times a day. If they can’t be roused by this, what can they get excited about? Well, there are other things, I didn’t want to contemplate.
KAJA WHITEHOUSE, a New York Post tabloid writer said she had similar experience with shady landlords. “When I broke up with my ex, my heart was broken,” KAJA WHITEHOUSE said. “Then I was screwed over by a landlord who over charged me $10 a month. I can’t afford that on my shitty salary.”
I had the feeling this was my “welcome to NYC, Rich.” “You are a part of us now” “You’ve been had, like so many of us”. It had happened to me but I didn’t like it.. The good thing I realized was I had renter’s insurance. “You mean, I can get money back from this disaster?” I asked. I was told, get a good lock and don’t give your landlord the key. I wasn’t moving. I was moving in again. I’ll get another TV, a new stereo with new earphones, and more albums. This “bummer” was looking up.
I went to work the next day with what felt to be the only clothes on my back. Well, they won’t let you wear jeans to work.
I always get a new lock when I move in to an apartment, and say a prayer.