Jan. 11, 2001
900 24th St. Unit E
College is full of life’s little lessons – your first time living on your own, renting an apartment or perhaps even subletting a friend’s place. Another lesson is the difference between the two.
I returned to D.C. from sub-freezing Pennsylvania in the unseasonable 60-degree sunshine Thursday. The last time I saw my new abode – a townhouse in the Foggy Bottom Mews next to the 7-Eleven – was before winter break. With a heartfelt goodbye and promises to clean up the cups, bottles and various other remainders from one last holiday blowout before they went abroad for the spring, five friends bid me adieu while I vowed to keep an eye on their pad for the next semester.
However, upon arrival almost a month later, I found the place unlocked (thankfully, since I didn’t have a key) and all but untouched. Walking up the stairs past an empty keg, I entered the living room and was met with a mound of trash and one of my new housemates. Commiserating about the cleaning we had ahead of us, we continued to survey the house.
The kitchen offered nothing worse than a sink full of dirty glasses and some sticky patches on the floor. Up one more flight of stairs to my bedroom.
Previously shared by two people, the room had seen better days. I began with the floor, filling trash bag after trash bag with computer boxes, old midterms, magazines, socks, condom wrappers and stale candy. I ventured to open a garbage can, which had an empty pack of Camel Lights stuck to its lid. I think this was about when I started to understand the true meaning of “sublet.”
At one point I began a “basement box,” into which I tossed stuffed animals, rollerblades, bedding and other personal items to keep for the people that really lived there. As I separated and tried to judge if someone would really need three pages of human sexuality notes, I got my first inklings that this was someone else’s home and that “house sitting” should be listed under synonyms for “sublet.” I am now practically sharing a closet with people who are halfway across the world. My clothes are next to discarded desk lamps, clothing and various other items that typically collect in the depths of large closets.
As the floor begins to appear in my room, I realize some vacuuming is in order. Luckily, the house came equipped with a vacuum cleaner. Unluckily, the vacuum cleaner doesn’t work, but my housemate and newfound friend has brought one that works. After finding out it’s really the outlets in the room that don’t work – not the first vacuum – I find a hall outlet that the cord reaches only to figure out the vacuum has no carpet attachment, forcing me to scour the oversized throw rug with the two-inch hose.
Now when the carpet becomes full of hair and dust, at least I know it’s my hair and dust, and I begin to feel more at home.
I now begin to tour the house in search of lights that work. After unsuccessfully trying switch after switch in the approaching dusk, I realize there are about four working light bulbs in the house. How do you let the lights in your house just burn out one by one? I was almost as baffled by this as by the three broken desk lamps in the closet, ripped butterfly chair in the basement and other non-working amenities that seemed to come with the house.
In the nick of time, my housemate returns armed with her books for the semester and 100-watt bulbs. But still no luck with the electricity in my room. Did I mention that the house is an electrician’s nightmare? The cable wire hangs loosely from the banister and winds itself up four levels, the fuse box doesn’t seem to have a “third floor” breaker and for some reason my closet light works but there is no other power in my room.
A few hours of cleaning and minutes into The Simpsons later, it all becomes worth it as I can just sit on my couch, relax and wait for a pizza to be delivered to my new address. Had to check the phone number once before giving it to Papa John’s, but I never felt more at home than when I heard the delivery man ring my door buzzer for the first time.