July 19, 2004

I hear words I never heard in the Bible

Filed under: General Me — tomemos @ 1:15 pm

I’ve alluded, in the last couple entries, to problems I had with the transfer of power to the two young women subletting my apartment. I think I’ll finally go ahead and tell you about that. To be sure, the problem has been settled for a long time, but it was so stressful and ludicrous that I didn’t want to jinx it by posting about it while it was still going on. That, combined with the normal quantity of procrastination, led to the long delay you’ve just experienced.

And so I present The Subletting of Tom’s Apartment, a tragi-farce in five acts:

Act One. Failing once again to learn from the lessons of the past, I gave myself one day to pack up my things, get my apartment ready for my subletters, and get to the airport. This was a bad idea. I failed, I left the apartment in a less-than-pristine state when I fled for NoCal, and on the ride to the airport (thanks Pat and Joe) we discussed how an extensive apology and an offer of a partial rent refund would probably be a good idea. So I sent my subletters an e-mail not long after arriving on Saturday night, telling them what they could expect and offering them part of the rent back. They e-mailed me back and said, “That’s fine, thanks for being up-front, we can work it out.” So I figured everything would be cool.

Act Two. On Sunday morning, I got a call from the two of them, asking where the heck my roommate was, they wanted to move in. I explained that I had assumed [and in fact had SAID] that they would contact him to figure out the best time to move in. I gave them his number and told them to work it out with him. Two minutes later they called back and said, indignantly, that he had hung up on them. I stammered that I was sure that this had been a phone error (I’m still 60% sure of this) and that they should call back in a few minutes. Here I began to notice a disturbing trend about my subletters (hereafter known as Good Cop and Bad Cop): Good Cop would be having a decent conversation with me, then hand the phone over to Bad Cop, who clearly was a fan of the “get tough, talk fast” approach (which, thinking back, fit the way she had dealt with me in person, too). She had clearly learned her tough businesslike voice from TV, so the overall approach ended up sounding fairly silly, but it worked on me because I felt so guilty about leaving with so many loose ends. Anyway, I got off the phone with them, still nervous about what they would think when they saw the apartment.

Act Three. And god, what didn’t they think! I still have the e-mail from them somewhere; I didn’t want to delete it while everything was still going on, and now that it’s over I’m afraid to look near it. They were outraged; they called the apartment squalid and unlivable; they said they expected me and my roommate (which is to say me–can you imagine me trying to get help from my roommate on this?) to pay for a maid service to straighten it up, and they expected a full refund of the June rent. Also, if I tried to argue with them on these points, they would “take [me] to court.” Again, in retrospect his all seems pretty silly–I know I’m not the cleanest, but I know squalid and my room wasn’t that–but as you can imagine, at the time I was scared stiff, particularly since I was already cowering with chagrin at the way I had left the apartment.

I composed myself enough to write back and reason with them, saying that it seemed unfair for me to forfeit the rent entirely; the initial response, from Good Cop, was not encouraging (Bad Cop was already looking for new places, apparently), but eventually Good Cop (not Bad Cop, tellingly) came around and agreed that, if I paid for a cleaning service, they would pay rent from the time after the cleaning service left. (She also explained that by “court” she meant “small claims court to get the deposit back”–pretty funny since they had only paid me half my deposit at that point.) So all that remained was to work out this cleaning service thing and I could forget about it. Do you notice that all of these acts end with a sentence like that?

Act Four. Enter my roommate. It turns out that, when the subletters saw the messy apartment, they stormed out in a huff, leaving–you’ll love this–the door unlocked and the key on the table. My roommate was reasonably annoyed by this. What was unreasonable was his suggestion that I find someone else to rent the room, this late in the game, from four hundred miles away. And what was really unreasonable was that he essentially stonewalled my attempts to work out a time for them to get the key back from him, not answering my calls or e-mails. It got to the point that I was considering going back to Irvine for one day, just to oversee a key transfer (or, hell, clean the apartment myself).

Act Five. Finally, two days before the end of the month, I wrote my roommate and threatened to contact the property office and blow the lid off of his own lease violations. The threat didn’t make him very happy with me–his response included sarcastic allusions to how “wonderful” it was living with me–but it worked, so even though he wasn’t very happy with me he did give GC and BC back the key and everything worked out, after a week and a half. Apparently the maids did a good job, as well–on June 30, meaning that thanks to roomie’s stalling I did indeed give up the entirety of the June rent. By then, it was just nice to have the thing over with, and even for a few days afterwards I didn’t check my e-mail without a feeling of dread.

So what did we learn from this? The experience was a progression from feelings of guilt and chagrin at my flakiness to the feeling of innocence that comes from being dicked over. Good Cop and Bad Cop (mostly the latter, it seems) milked my mistake as much as they could, and my roommate got one last passive-aggressive twist of the knife in. The whole thing was particularly frustrating since I had to conduct all this business long-distance, without a cell phone (left the charger down in Irvine in my rush), and so roommate could make himself impossible to reach whenever he wanted. Of course, I also learned to give myself more than a day to get out of town next time. So yeah, that’s the whole mess. I guess it’s one of those adulthood things–as Julie said, I went through all of my housing problems at once. (If only that were true.)

Since then, things have been good, and I’ve genuinely felt like I’m on vacation (funny since I have a 9 to 5 job). The apartment is working out great, driving’s going well (I’m testing in ten days), I even made it back to Karate (only once, but more to come). I’ll have to deal with the cast of characters again at the end of August, but in the meantime I’m enjoying the blissful silence wafting up from Irvine.



  1. Fuck! (can I say ‘fuck’?)
    I had no idea that things were going to go down like THAT. Gotta hand it to your roommate, though . . . He managed to get in his parting shot, despite 400 miles distance.

    Comment by Pat K. — July 20, 2004 @ 9:53 am

  2. I think we’ve all learned by now that subletting is awful no matter which side you’re on. Clearly humans were not meant to sublet.

    Comment by kindle — July 20, 2004 @ 10:16 am

  3. I’m inclined to agree with kindle. Yikes.

    I subletted from a few boys a few years ago. They left the flat a *wreck*, including holes in the walls. We took photos of everything on our first day, to make sure that when we moved out we wouldn’t be blamed for any of it. They also left a credit card dropped behind one of the shelves. We were so very tempted to take that credit card and drop it in the mall, by way of revenge…

    Comment by Fae — July 20, 2004 @ 11:07 am

  4. Karen: You’re right. We should leave subletting to the animals, like the Tufted Subletting Booby.

    Comment by Tom — July 20, 2004 @ 11:50 am

  5. I still prefer MacBeth.

    Comment by Bret — August 7, 2004 @ 12:22 pm

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