Monday, March 12, 2012

Apartment Living

Every once in a while, I start thinking about owning a condo or a house.  The appeal of ownership, of course, concerns a freedom to do with my living space what I want.  With that freedom comes responsibility, however, and often big expenses like property taxes, not to mention dealing with a mortgage and/or the kind of housing market we've had since 2008.  For some, ownership means the American Dream fulfilled.  For others, it means an investment that can be turned for a profit later.  These people accept the responsibilities gladly.  Not me.  Ownership is not for me.

Does that mean I'm not fulfilling the American Dream for myself?  Ha.  Really?  Is that still being used as a measure by which to judge success in this country?  I suppose.  I guess you could say I'm successful at rebelling against how others judge success in this country, then.  I have owned a house, or half of one with my older sibling.  I hated it, didn't want it to begin with but it was part of an inheritance and it took me several years to learn that I could decline it if I wanted.  So I did.  What a relief.

So, what is my "American Dream"?  Living in a 2-bedroom with den apartment, at least 1400 sq. feet, central AC and washer/dryer in unit, in a safe and secure building with a concierge, elevator, generous storage units, easy access to public transportation and various other amenities.  The building's management would be professional, efficient, courteous and honest, with a fast response time to maintenance calls.  The apartment's walls, floors and ceilings -- actually, for all the apartments in this building -- are truly soundproof.  The other residents treat the building as their "home," and other residents with respect and consideration.  And since this is my dream, it's clearly not where I'm living now.

I've been lucky to have a good landlord who chose a professional, courteous and concerned building management company.  Before he hired the company, however, we had a caretaker couple living on site and they took excellent care of the building.  Now, we have an on-site caretaker who's responsible only for cleaning which she does sporadically and not very thoroughly.  The building has a laundry room, a storage room with moderate to small-sized storage units, and off-street parking, and that's it for amenities.  It is a safe and secure building.

All the apartments except the caretaker's are one-bedroom units, which is to say, two large rooms with bath and a kitchen as a part of the living room.  I have lived happily in this apartment on the top floor and I love the urban neighborhood it's in near a city lake and park.  I love that when my bathroom sink gets clogged, all I need do is call building management for maintenance and they send someone to snake it out.  They deal with the heat and water and garbage pick-up, and maintaining the building's exterior and interior public spaces, its security system, safety equipment and mail boxes.  I am responsible for taking care of my apartment, of course, and being a good tenant, i.e. paying my rent on time and living quietly and with respect for my neighbors.

But (heavy sigh), I do wish other tenants in the building would not throw their garbage into the recycling bins next to the garbage dumpster.  The recycling bin has signs all over it that say not to throw garbage in it.  Can't these people read?

I wish tenants who spill things in the hallways or on the stairs would clean up their messes rather than just leaving them for others to step in or slip on. 

I wish the caretaker took more pride and interest in her job.  The exterior of the washing machines in the laundry have such a build-up of dirt on them, they look like they might come alive like some creature on "The X-Files."  The floors everywhere in the public spaces could be cleaned more often -- vacuumed or mopped, as the case may be -- and windows and mirrors cleaned.  It can be a month or longer before she replaces a burned out light bulb in a hallway or the front foyer.

And there's always someone who's oblivious to how much noise he or she is making and how much it disturbs the neighbors.  Plus, the lack of privacy when walls, ceilings and floors are not soundproof. You learn to tune out a lot when living in an apartment.

Even with its imperfections, however, I still choose apartment living.  We live in an imperfect society populated with people who don't pay attention as well as those who do, those who are not conscientious and those who are, those who aren't considerate or respectful of others and those who are.  Apartment living can bring out the the worst in people who believe renting carries with it no responsibilities beyond paying the rent.  Are these people the homeowners of the world -- those who prefer ownership?  Perhaps.....

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