My first car was a Mercury Cougar. Not one of the cool late-90s Cougars, either. One of those Gulf War models with crushed velvet seats and emblems that looked like the Thundercats logo. It was a great piece of crap. My first laptop was a 20 pound clunker with only a floppy drive. My first bike was a one-speed Batman Huffy that I covered in duct tape. My first beer was a Keystone.
It’s a tried and true practice: learn with the worst, the broken, and the old. It’s the antiques and junkers that really teach you about what can go wrong, whether it’s on the road or in the kitchen. That way, when you move on to a nicer, newer model you’re desensitized enough not to freak out the moment everything breaks. I’ve just signed the lease for my next apartment, and I know plenty about stuff breaking.
It’s been well over a year since I moved to Pittsburgh, got my first place, and started this occasionally-updated blog. I was in love with my quirky, new, basement apartment. Over the course of the next few months, I would fill it with a hodgepodge of cool furniture and obtuse hand-me-downs. I’d make countless trips to Ikea with Abby. I’d build a book shelf out of some cinder blocks. I’d add more antique cameras to the shelf above my living-room-stove. My apartment may have had similarities to Saddam Hussein’s subterranean fox hole when I first moved in, but now it resembled a home.
In the brief span of a year I was able to experience what lots of people go through when they get their first crappy apartment.
There were floods. Like that pink ooze that bubbles up from the sewers in Ghostbusters 2, water began seeping in through the floor tiles every time it rained. Pittsburgh, also known as the “East Coast Seattle” (I think), has a constant 55% chance of rain on its radar. After half a dozen times, I finally learned where the trouble spots were and stopped putting stuff there. Eventually, the landlord (who couldn’t fix the problem) let me by a shopvac.
There were bugs. Basements always have bugs in them, which is why people don’t usually live down there. I know this now. Despite buying almost every kind of spray, trap or barrier at Home Depot, I couldn’t stop the four or five new pill bugs that would find their way into my living room every day or so. And they were never alive when I found them. It’s as if they made their journey down the moldy staircase, through the crack in my door frame, into my apartment’s warm, carpeted arms and called it quits. Their pilgrimage was complete. I didn’t tell my guests that they were hanging out in a massive pillbug burial ground… but they were.
The fridge didn’t always work. Amazingly, my refrigerator never blew a fuse while I was nearby. Not wanting to interrupt an evening of watching “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” with Abby, the fridge politely waited until I was gone for the weekend or out of town. Then the fuse would pop and all the food would get nice and soft. After repeated attempts by the electrician to fix the fuse, I opted to just plug the thing in somewhere else. It was a problem I would happily ignore.
I learned a lot from my first apartment. More than I expected to (bonus learning). When I sentenced my Cougar to the scrap yard, I moved up to a car with a little more swag: ahem, a Buick LeSabre. I’m not necessarily moving into the LeSabre of apartments–which I assume is a retirement home–but I am moving to a place that I love. An apartment with bright windows. One that doesn’t resemble a dictator’s safe room in the slightest. An apartment above ground, where the only flooding should come from my own stupidity. Just how I like it.