Apartment Hunting in SF (2)

I went to a boarding school during my high school years in Beijing. V was my classmate, and we became very good friends even though we weren¡¯t living in the same dorm room. She could leap into thoughtfulness in a split of second even though we could be joking wildly the minute before. Then she would smile a brilliant smile and all seriousness evaporated. One day she made a comment about me, in one of her thoughtful moments.

¡°You are easily breakable. Like iron, unlike steel, which could bend. You don¡¯t bend.¡±
¡°What do you mean?¡± I threw her a puzzled look. I don¡¯t remember what we were talking then, but her comment seemed so out of blue.
¡°I¡¯ve never seen you asking for anything twice no matter how badly you wanted it.¡± She explained, as if decipher a complex math problem. ¡°Sometimes the other party¡¯s refusal could be delivered in a joking manner, yet you wouldn¡¯t be pursuing it any more.¡± She smiled, ¡°I¡¯m very different. If I want something, I would ask again and again and again until the other party relent¡­¡±

Years later in my junior year in college, a friend told me, ¡°You could have anything you want, but you have to want it really badly first.¡±

Based on these two somewhat contradictory evaluations, what would you conclude? That I¡¯m easily defeated? That I¡¯m aggressive?

I was thoroughly exhausted after the first day of apartment hunting. Came home with a thundering but persistent headache, I was dreading the prospect of a second day with this demanding task. Little did I know, a rose bouquet was waiting quietly at home for my arrival. It was from Mi! Suddenly my strength was back and all was sunny in my life.

The next day I set out again, full of hope, and armed with four more potential candidates and a few looks-good-on-paper backups.

I fell in love with the first one I saw.

It was hard to contain the happiness I felt as I walked out the apartment building, dreamily. I stood on top of the hilly street right outside the building, admiring the beautiful view of Twin peaks in front of me I took a deep breath. It was a gorgeous day. The rain clouds hadn¡¯t arrived. I decided to skip the next open house on the agenda because it was merely a one-bedroom place with no view, while the one I fell in love with had two-bedrooms; also it was on the other side of town while the other two open houses were all close to where I stood. I walked downhill to the long stretch of green that was called ¡°Panhandle¡±. Walked on the grass, watched people walking their dogs, children playing on the swing set, muscular runners passing me wearing their headphones, even homeless dragging their bag of recycled cans. All seemed peaceful. There were many large stately looking eucalyptus and Douglas Furs standing around me. I sat on a bench, called a few close friends to inform them of my good luck.

I also called a few property managers to ask whether I could see their rental places today since I happened to be in-town. Only one of them returned my call. I knew I should at least see a few more places even though I was already happy with one.

The second place I saw that day was also on top of a hill (a native San Franciscan friend told me that the city actually had 49 hills). It was located in a motel-like two-story apartment building. The manager on site was a nice middle-aged lady who reminded me of my aunt. Chatting friendly with me, she led me to the second floor and showed me one of the two vacancies. It was a spacious one-bedroom apartment. Hardwood floor in the living room, carpet in the bedroom. Both rooms were large enough to be comfortable, but not large enough to segregate out a piece of space for office. But what a view it had. Through both room¡¯s north facing windows, there was a view of the bay and golden gate bridge at the end of the city sprawl at our feet. There was an open balcony connecting both rooms as well. The bathroom had a skylight. The nice lady told me this unit was the better one among the two because it was at the end of the building, so it only shared one wall with a quiet neighbor. I took a copy of rental application, thanked the nice lady and walked out to the drizzle.

My heart was still set on the first place, because it had character and charm.

The next two open houses both located on very congested neighborhood, whose narrow streets were parked full to the rim. After circling around for over half an hour at each location, I had to throw my hands in the air and gave up. Both places indicated ¡°Street Parking Only¡±. Under the circumstances, I couldn¡¯t possibly spend over half an hour each evening at the end of a long commute. It would be enough to drive anyone insane.

My last candidate looked comparable on paper to the first place I saw. It was also a top floor, two-bedroom apartment, and it also included parking. It located in the southern side of ¡°Panhandle¡±, closer to Height-Ashbury, slightly more expensive. Its owner was also the only one called me back. We had an interesting conversation.

¡°We have an open house this afternoon between 3 and 4pm.¡± A man with an eastern European accented English informed me on the other side of the phone.
¡°Okay, I would come by around 3:30 then.¡±
¡°What exactly are you looking for?¡±
¡°ugh, what do you mean? I¡¯m looking for a two-bedroom apartment.¡± I was a bit surprised by his question.
¡°Do you have any particular requirements?¡± He sounded slightly annoyed, ¡°Because if you want something specific we should discuss now. For example, if you want hardwood floor, then don¡¯t bother. I don¡¯t want to waste your time.¡±
I glanced at the rental description on the printed out, it said ¡°wall-to-wall carpet.¡±
¡°Okay. It doesn¡¯t have to be hardwood floor. So it says wall-to-wall carpet?¡± I carefully asked.
¡°Yes, it is all brand new carpet.¡±
¡°Oh, yeah, I remembered something specific that I care for. Which directions do the windows face?¡±
¡°What?! That I really don¡¯t know. You have to see for yourself.¡±
¡°Okay, can I take a look this afternoon then?¡±
A landlord with an attitude. Interesting.

The neighborhood was just as bad parking-wise. At the end, I called the landlord again, maybe he could give me some pointers as to which small street I should head for possible street parking? Very nicely this time, he told me to park on the drive-way right next to his van. After multiple attempts I finally managed to squeeze my integra onto the driveway without smashing into the tightly packed cars from the neighbor. Note to self, need to practice parallel parking. The drizzle had turned into insistent shower by then.

His name was Leon. A middle-aged slender man, hairs started graying on the sides. Putting away the vacuum cleaner, he led me to the door and asked me to take off my muddy shoes before walking onto his beloved egg white colored new wall-to-wall carpet. The living room was spacious. The decoration was all newly upgraded. Beautifully done bathroom with large dark titles and elegant washbasin, the windows were all double-pane. The kitchen was the spacious one I¡¯ve seen so far, with loads of counter space. But it had no view. The living room window opened to the street, we could look straight into another living room of the building across the narrow street. It was new but it didn¡¯t make my heart leap. As I was checking out the cabinets, Leon started shooting questions at me.

¡°What do you do?¡±
¡°I¡¯m a programmer.¡±
¡°Which kind of language?¡±
¡±Which kind of application¡±
What the @#$%%, I was secretly cursing in my mind, is it a job interview for god¡¯s sake! Instead, I laughed and asked back, ¡°So are you a programmer, too?¡±
¡°Yes, used to be.¡± Probably sensed my annoyance, he changed topic.

¡°Will you be the only tenant?¡±
¡°No, my fianc¨¦ will be moving in with me.¡±
¡±What does he do for a living?¡±
Oh, great, here goes again. ¡°He is an Art Director at an advertising company.¡±
I waited, but no more questions came this time.

It is amazing how little we know of other professions¡­ 🙂

He showed me the laundry room and the designated covered parking spot. I took a copy of rental application, left him with my email address. He wanted to email me some pictures of the place plus an electronic version of the rental application, so I could fill them on my computer. Ah, how thoughtful! It took one programmer to know another.

I walked back into the rain, drove south toward home. The thought of the first apartment of the day filled my heart with sweat happiness.

It had to be you,
wonderful you
It had to be you

When two people met, there was always the question of chemistry. But how would you explain falling in love with a place? Could it also be chemistry? But I did fall in love that morning. Was it because of its hardwood floor throughout everyroom? Was it because of the French doors? Was it because of the arched windows in everyroom? Or was it because of balcony enclosed by sheer glass windows. Despite all its faults, I fell in love. The bathroom was small, the kitchen was not upgraded to modern standard, the windows don¡¯t face south as my Chinese mind had thought I definitely required, and it was not that close to either southbound highways I would need to use every morning, but it won me over as I laid my eyes on it for the first time. It had character! What a treat! All the other places I’ve seen so far lacked. They were nice, they were modern, but they were dull.

It had to be you,
wonderful you
It had to be you

(to be continued)