Photo: Julie Beck / The Billfold
Entropy, man. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, etc. For the universe, this might mean we’re heading toward heat death, but for regular people who live in places, it mostly means things get dirty and/or break.If you’re a renter—as I have always been, as I could not otherwise be, given my youth and incredibly recent status as an “employed adult”—that’s what your landlord is for. But sometimes you don’t call your landlord.
Maybe it’s because you’re lazy, or because you want to prove you can fix it yourself, or maybe because you suspect your heat is not broken, but has been shut off by the gas company and you don’t want to call attention to that. Hypothetically.
In my not-quite three years as a renter, a good number of things have gone wrong. Here are samplings of some of the ways my apartments have betrayed me, along with my strategies for fixing the problem.
Broken pilot light on gas stove. We can definitely just relight it ourselves. Never mind that we don’t know its exact location. Roommate and I tape a match to the end of a long pole we’ve constructed of chopsticks and paper towels. She sprawls on the ground, lights it and waves it around under the stove. I stand by with a saucepan full of water, in case the worst happens.
Ceiling outside my bedroom caves in while I sleep. I open my door to discover a 3-foot wide pile of dirt and a gaping hole in the ceiling. I call the landlord. But not before I tweet about it.
Heat stops working. In January. In Chicago. The landlord needs to be called, but I’m not going to be the one to do it. I’m angry at my roommates because I just found out that while I was away all fall on an internship, they didn’t pay any of the utility bills, which are in my name, thus ruining my credit forever.
(Actually I have no idea if that’s how that works. Mike?) [Ed. note from Mike: If you don’t pay a utility bill, the company sends the bill to a collection agency, and the collection agency will report the unpaid bill to the credit agencies. The unpaid bills will then show up on your credit report, which, yes, will negatively affect your credit. Julie should pull her credit report, and check if this is what happened in her situation.]
We assume the gas company shut off our heat in retaliation for the unpaid bills. I retreat into my room with a space heater and rarely emerge, refusing to share my warmth with those so undeserving.