The Apartment Cost Your Landlord Won’t Mention

It isn’t the pointlessness of spending gobs of money on rent. No, it isn’t the fact that you may as well drive down PCH with a stack of $1’s and let them fly.

It isn’t the vertical blinds, with their endless clickety-clack — the way they come crashing to the floor if you touch them ever so gently, the way one decides to get stuck on another and the whole system refuses to twist.

It isn’t the silverfish, with their alien exoskeletons and their astounding speed, the way they vanish into dust when you squash them, the way sometimes you think you squashed them but you pull the paper towel away to find there is no trace whatsoever, and they are now running amok muahahaha in your closet.

It isn’t that your designated parking space is a whole five minutes’ walk from your door or that the air conditioner only cools a three-foot radius.

No, the most devastating hidden cost no landlord will tell you about is how often you will interact with stranger’s underpants.

That’s right — the actual, already-worn, underpants…of strangers.

I first discovered this last year when one fateful night Scott retrieved a load from our apartment’s shared laundry room. He dumped it on the bed, we began folding, and it was all very average everyday monotony until he pulled out a massive pair of white panties with purple polka dots. We eyed them in silent terror for a moment before I yelled, “those aren’t mine!” and he flung them into a corner, where I guess we both hoped they would vanish?

Maybe he had aimed for the trash and missed? I don’t know, I just really thought they were gone. But then a few months later we happened upon them again. There was squealing, and perhaps a minute or two of throwing them at each other, before one of us scooped them up on the end of a pen and transported them gingerly to the trash. For a week afterwards, every time I saw anyone walking around the complex I had no choice but to picture them in purple polka dotted panties.

For your visual reference.

Fast forward to last weekend, now in a nicer apartment still plagued by vertical blinds and silverfish and shared laundry. I was moving a load from washer to dryer, trying to gather each bundle carefully so nothing would fall on the ground. I was on my last bundle, when I heard an, “Excuse me — miss?” I froze and turned to face a middle aged Indian man pointing nervously towards a tiny pile at my feet. It was specifically the item’s tininess that made it so offensive; I almost wished it was big and white and polka dotted. We locked eyes for a horrible moment before I scooped it up, threw it in the dryer and scurried away.

The man lives in the apartment below us; we now share unpleasant hello’s while bringing up the groceries and I pray for his having a terrible memory.

There was a time during our apartment living when Scott and I would go on awe-filled walks with Zillow in hand. I can’t bear to do that anymore. Someday we’ll move away to some Utah/Texas/Colorado-ish place — we will leave the vertical blinds and silverfish and underpants behind, but for now…the beach?

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