In November of 2010, my Nintendo DS was stolen by a burglar who broke into my apartment. Thankfully that was my only valuable possession (unless you count the many Pokemon stored on the game cartridge inside the system). My apartment wasn’t in the best location, so after this incident I started to look for somewhere new to live. When I moved in, the apartment was fine, but as I continued my post-college life, my concept of “fine” changed. During and immediately after college, a room with windows and doors that closed properly was all I needed. I lived in a room with a slanted floor my sophomore year. I had to hold onto my desk while working or I’d slide off into the hallway. When I typed, I pressed my elbows onto the desk to anchor myself. After I graduated, crooked old houses weren’t going to cut it anymore.
I was lucky to graduate into a job that provided me with a real income. Nothing fancy, but I knew I could afford a better place. During the down economy, I started seeing more and more “for rent” signs in areas much better than mine. I also saw a lot of business near me close down, and I wanted to move to a livelier neighborhood.
So after my apartment was robbed, I tried to find a place that wasn’t on the first floor of an open building next to a seedy Haitian dance club. I started browsing Craigslist for apartments around Capitol Hill in Seattle, which turned into a bit of an obsession.
The rental ads updated just frequently enough that I’d be gratified with new discoveries every day, but most weren’t worth pursuing. Still, I had the luxury (and torment) of endless browsing.
For me, apartment hunting online was all about imagining myself in a new place, so I ignored listings without pictures. If the picture showed an apartment with dull-looking aluminum shades, I immediately closed the page. I bookmarked the more expensive (and thus fantastical) ones and ruminated over them, hoping I could afford them somehow. And how could I resist their headlines? Live in Luxury! A Brand New Life! Close to Everything! I even started to get excited about the catchphrases: yes, it really is all about location! I can have it all, can’t I?
I browsed the Craigslist ads like they were gossip magazines. I did it on a daily basis, before I went to sleep, or hiding my browser in the corner of my desktop at work. Every time a new listing appeared, I pounced. Each spoke of new possibilities, and so every new apartment let me reinvent my life. When I looked over an ad for a quaint house by the water, I imagined buying old furniture with washed-out paint jobs. New urbanist lofts meant brushed steel. I’d come a long way from sharing a tilted dorm room four years ago.
Of course, none of those fantasy apartments were within my budget, so I simply kept browsing. This search went on until I eventually found an apartment that was the closest I knew I’d ever find in the (big) gap between financial reality and upscale apartment-dwelling delusion.
Because I was an online-apartment-listing sensei by that point, I was probably one of the first people to see the post go up. By that point, I could predict how quickly an apartment would be taken off the market based on location and price, and judging by those metrics and the accompanying images, lots of people would be rushing on this one. It was the apartment-hunting equivalent of discovering Atlantis.
The property manager was a lady named Gina. Gina had a lot of properties and was always rushing around to show them to potential buyers. On the phone she sounded like she was doing multiple things while talking to me, like moving furniture or replacing the soil in a potted plant. She’s one of those people that would take a conference call while driving through Taco Bell. And I got to her first. I set up a time, I walked around the place (location location location!), and soon enough I was set to move into it.
Between my parents’ divorce, college, and post-college life, I’ve moved at least ten times in the past ten years—that’s once every year for you humanities majors. Moving is one of the worst experiences in life. Did you know that every couch is constructed to just barely not fit through a doorway? And though it is fun to dig up “old memories” in the closet, when moving you’re more likely to manically throw your cherished keepsakes into trash bags. By the time you finish, you won’t care if you’re living a lean-to or a rat-infested hellhole, it just feels good to lie down. But if you’re diligent in your apartment search, you might get to lie down in the latest and greatest in modern condo living.