In the past, I’ve discussed my very broad criteria for an apartment in NYC: four walls, manageable vermin, working stove, hot water. This has screwed me in a few ways, namely that in the winter my shower rains dirt from the ceiling and my lives-in-the-building super refuses to work outside of 9-5, M-F and definitely no holidays. I love my apartment in Washington Heights, sized perfectly for one person and 6.5 pounds of evil in feline form, a kitchen with more cabinets and counter space than I know how to fill, and a gaggle of neighbors who will never stop asking me out but will also never stop looking out for me, the only white girl on the block. But it seems I can’t escape the always-comical-eventually series of events that befall me when I get too comfortable with the apartment maintenance status quo.
The most basic amenity I should have added to my list was a functional door/doorknob. You may think “but LB, that’s easy! The building is responsible for your doorknob and lock! It’s impossible to get locked inside your apartment!” And were we discussing this six months ago, I would have wholeheartedly agreed. But, as is the way of the Heights, nothing is ever easy. Knock knock – who’s there? The door from fucking hell.
Here is why you shouldn’t neglect to add “working door” to your must-have list:
- After a particularly long day followed by a very painful still-hungover-from-Sunday Funday run in January, my doorknob jammed and refused to move, effectively locking me out of my unlocked apartment. I called my super, whose phone was off (because of course), but eventually tracked him down so he could come up and inspect. He took one look, shook his head and said “Esta rota” (It’s broken) before turning to leave. PAUSE, PLEASE. After arguing that he did, in fact, need to do his job and find a way to let me into my apartment, he decides to mention he “only had a screwdriver” and didn’t have an extra doorknob/lock for me to use at that time. Awesome. He fiddled with a few screws, took out a piece that may or may not have been necessary, and then helpfully suggested that I only lock the bolt for the time being and he would fix the door eventually. Ugh. Fine.
- Around 9:30am on a Tuesday in mid-February, I received a totally calm and collected call from my super asking if I was aware that my door was open. UH. NOPE. No I did not casually leave my door open before exiting for work that morning. I really didn’t care about my stuff (frankly I could use a new couch, if anyone wants to steal mine) (I mean what? Who said that?), but little miss is endlessly curious about the outside world, and for the entire panicked cab ride uptown, I was convinced she had escaped. To be perfectly honest I’m still not really sure how the door opened in the first place, but apparently it had something to do with the hack-job the super had done a month prior. Naturally, after confirming little miss was still in the apartment (she slept through her escape opportunity), my super turned and left, and promptly stopped answering my calls to fix the door. UGH. FINE. I managed to get the bolt closed, tested the lock a few times and all seemed fine, so I pushed the problem out of my mind, not needing the extra stress of a broken lock.
- The final straw came about a month ago, on a rainy Friday night around 8:30. At this point, I was five months into only locking the bolt on the door, and had largely forgotten that I’d needed to call my super for exactly as long to fix the lock. While heading out to pick up food for a Chipotle/Netflix night with AZ, I noticed the door struggled to close a little bit. I had a premonition that it was going to jam again, but I was running late to meet him and I hadn’t been having problems with it in a few weeks, so I figured it would be okay. Lol. Nope. We got back to my place after trekking through the pouring rain to a door that was completely jammed. After repeated attempts to contact the super (whose phone was off, because of course), I was hangry, wet, tired and annoyed, so I caved and called a locksmith. 90 minutes and $300 later, the most he could do to help was remove the doorknob/lock completely and tell me to have a nice day.
There’s always going to be something frustrating, whether it’s the dirt that rains into the shower or living with a hole in your door for 10 days before the super finally decides to mozy on up and do his job. I’ve been locked both in and out of that apartment another three times since that last incident, at this point giving in to the absurdity by laughing loudly and taking photos to commemorate the latest fight against the door from hell.
They say everyone has a “terrible NYC apartment” story to tell, horror stories of vermin or mold or roommates whose least offensive crime is bringing home someone they met through World of Warcraft (Aside: that’s happened to me twice. End aside). I think I’m racking up enough information for a full novel in this place, the dirt-raining, door-breaking, neglectful-super world of Washington Heights. But then again, it’s a novel of the most amazing time in my life, the first time living alone and the crazy hijinks I’m in.
And hey, who knows. Maybe this will encourage me to finally perfect my movie heroine kicking-down-doors form.