The Small Joys of Renting
I felt the first drop while brushing my hair in the bathroom one morning, because the first thing I do when I get up is brush my teeth, and then my hair, because, what am I, a layabout? I am not! I am someone who brushes my hair, and likes paying taxes, and pays for things with money that I actually have.
“Oh, that’s strange,” I said, because sometimes when you live alone, you start talking aloud to yourself.
The next week, I saw a tiny puddle about the size of a baby’s fist on the floor, but when I examined the ceiling, I couldn’t locate the source of the leak. It was as if someone had taken two tablespoons of water and spilled it on my bathroom floor — the beginnings of a recipe to drive me crazy.
“I think there’s a leak in my ceiling,” I said to my landlord’s secretary, after she picked up.
“Oh no, where is it?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Okay, well, can you call back when you are sure?”
That night, my ceiling collapsed. The hole was the size of not a baby’s fist, but three newborns. Three newborns that couldn’t stop peeing.
If this was a place that I owned, I would have freaked out. After I stopped freaking out, I would have Googled, “How To Fix A Leak in Your Ceiling,” and found a bunch of eHow videos on replacing pipes, and explaining what sheetrock is. I would have gone to The Home Depot and wandered the aisles aimlessly for an hour, and wondered if I was doing the right thing by trying to fix my ceiling myself. I would have left the store without buying anything and gone back to my place and stared at the hole in the ceiling, emptied buckets of water into my tub, and stared at the ceiling some more. I would have called up five contractors to get estimates of how much it would cost to fix a leaky ceiling and a hole the size of three newborn babies, and I would have chosen the middle estimate of the five, because I would be afraid that the person charging the least would also do the least amount of work to fix my ceiling. I would have taken a day off from the office to let the contractor into my home, watched carefully as he or she fixed my ceiling, and then handed over a check. I would have been completely stressed out this entire time.
But this was not a place I owned, this was an apartment I was renting. I called the rental office.
“My ceiling collapsed,” I said to my landlord’s secretary.
“Oh, we’ll send someone right over!”
“Do I need to be home?”
“No, we have keys, so we can just fix it while you’re at work.”
The hole was there when I left to go to work, and it was gone by the time I arrived home that night. Whoever had fixed the hole had also repainted my entire bathroom. Everything looked shiny and new again. I sat on the floor of my bathroom, and stared up at the white space where the hole the size of three newborns used to be, lulled into a state of relaxation by the lingering paint fumes.