Monday, September 1, 2014

Old stories: our first apartment (Spring 2007)

About a year ago, Julie and I decided that it could be really fun for us if we began writing down the stories of fun and/or significant memories in our lives. This is the only one we've done so far, and it was recently.

In the month or two leading up to our wedding, we shopped around town for an apartment that would be our first home together. Google Street View of apt 406I think we visited about six or seven places. Our standards were the following:

  • Should cost around $450-$500 per month

  • Should preferably be on the east side of town to be closer to all of our friends. (At the time it seemed that anything more than three miles away was rarely worth driving to since it took around 20 minutes to go through the 10 poorly-timed stoplights and painfully slow speed limits you would surely encounter along the way.)

  • Should be free of any kind of notorious infestation. This ruled out even looking at Essex Square (bedbugs) and Sooner Crossing (roaches).

Though it wasn’t momentous at the time, this was probably the first of many times that we encountered significant disagreement by being on different ends of the “too ghetto” and “more than we need” spectrum.

One place we looked at was a bit outside of our price range, but was clean, in good condition, and had lots of storage. On our tour, the manager drove us around in a golf cart and told us about the apartment cafĂ© where residents got as many free lattes as they wanted. Using the word “free” always carries a lot of weight with with 21- and 22-year-olds, but especially so for us, since we were earning a combined annual income of about $20,000. This bit about the lattes almost tipped the scales for us, but some distance helped us realize that we didn’t even drink lattes, especially not 50-100 dollars’ worth per month. We fortunately agreed that this was “more than we needed,” although Julie still looked at it wistfully every time we drove by.

I was all for settling in Beaumont Crossing. The price was right, and it was only about two miles from my college roommates, but Julie helped me see that the bad smell, lumpy and stained carpets, poor lighting, and smokers’ porch put it in the “too ghetto” category. I’ve never looked back. (If you never heard the term “smoker’s porch,” it’s any outdoor paved and fenced area or platform connected to a door of your home that is too small, too ugly, and too uncomfortable to ever make you want to spend any amount of time there. It exists solely to encourage tenants to not do their smoking indoors. The one at Beaumont Crossing was just big enough for two people to stand side by side, and was placed right next to the air conditioning unit and a spiky plant that desperately needed watering. It was also on the west side of the building, giving it about nine hours of afternoon sun and heat reflection off the cheap apartment siding.)

View of the kitchen from the dining roomWe eventually decided on Savannah Harbor which, though it wasn’t near our friends, it was close to the highway.

Many older married couples talk about their first home, and it’s frequently a place with quirky problems and that is so small that you resort to unusual means to conduct your usual home life there. This was what we had. 550 square feet was small enough that we could never get a good picture of it because there was nowhere you could put a camera that it was far enough away from things to capture very much. We kept our dining room table pressed into a corner—unless we had company—so that it was possible to walk from the living room to the kitchen.

View of the living room from the dining roomThe oven was wisely placed right next to the refrigerator so that they could work together in conserving energy. The refrigerator also couldn’t be opened if the dishwasher was, but I guess they'd never have to be. Cabinet and counter space was so limited that we hung shelves all over the kitchen and dining room to store appliances and dishes. We bought a shelving/cabinet unit from Wal-Mart to have room for food, but this unfortunately cut into our dining room space. Under one cabinet, we hung mugs from hooks—a system so wonderful that we’ve never given it up.

It’s a wonder that we ever had house guests stay the night, but on more than one occasion we pushed the coffee table up against the balcony doors to unfold the sofa bed and squeezed a blow-up mattress between the back of the sofa bed and the dining room table. This left virtually no walk space anywhere, and it put guests in the awkward position of having to enter our bedroom in the middle of the night to be able to use the bathroom, but we were glad they were there.

I mentioned balcony doors; our balcony was a great one that we filled with plants that could never stay watered and a patio table and chairs that we bought from Ikea. On about ten nights a year, the weather would be just right so that eating on the balcony was pleasant. We had a second-story apartment, so from our vantage point we could (without being noticed) watch people take their dogs out to do their business. We felt like kings.

Our home was small but warm. We have great memories there, but I wouldn’t say that we miss it. But every now and then, I still go to Google Maps’ street view to see if you can still see our outdoor bamboo shades and patio tables from their January 2008 drive-by (you can).

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