(Mis)adventures In Accommodation
I arranged this set up – like another one I found much later chronologically – by perusing local language ads for roommates and rooms for rent in homes. In this case I had some input from a local I knew fairly well. I visited two possible rooms, but really only one seemed a good possibility, and I took it. I rented a room from T; there was another person renting a room as well, who turned out to be her brother, B.
Looking back, I was feeling rushed; five nights in a hostel cost the same as renting a room for a month – but I should have looked more. Lesson #1: Don’t rush. It will not save you money in the long term.
The first surprise came on the very first day, when I heard a shriek from nearby. I couldn’t understand it, but the person sounded truly agitated. And there was no reply (or subsequent thump). Later it transpired that B was playing a video game, and he just .. did that when he lost. He shrieked. He was a gym teacher and had just gotten divorced. I learned this from T, who also told me she was afraid to approach him about it. Great. To be fair, he seemed normal enough in person , and somehow even reasonably friendly without being creepy. It was only much later that I realized he bore a slight resemblance to Billy of Six Feet Under.
Lesson #2: Meet all of the people living there before you move in. Get another opinion if you can. Be aware that one meeting may not give you the full picture.
One morning I saw a man leaving. Not the Billy look-alike Oh, I thought with raised eyebrows. No. That was the other brother. The woman asked me to talk with her in the kitchen. She had previously responded to my “How are you?” with something along the lines of “Terrible” and I’d come up with “I’m sorry – can I do anything?” And this was my opportunity – she wanted to talk with me.
She told me that she wanted to kill herself and launched into a discussion of her problems. She had definitely had a hard life and while I empathized with her, I was absolutely terrified. I had no idea what to do. She had two brothers there, or nearby – what was I to do? She ended up sending me to buy her a beer and then called her father over. She wanted me there while she talked with him. We had a conversation – with her aging father, who spoke perfect English and had worked in a consulate abroad or something – about a variety of absurd topics, including the fact that Chicago means “smells like onion” in a native American language. Great.
She and her father went out and had a beer. He asked me to “keep an eye on her”. This was not a new scenario for her. My totally-based-on-nothing take was that, while I don’t think she was necessarily insincere, she was not going to act on this. Really, though, I don’t know how people ever can make that call. In any case, regardless of whether she was going to act on it or not, I did not want to be trapped in that position again. I was not in a place to help her.
Lesson #3: Have a better back up plan than I did. Or be willing to shell out money if need be.
I found a new place to live pronto (it ended up being a good place, but you can see how a pattern might develop), but had unfortunately already paid the second months’ rent to T, and had some time to pass before I could move in. I let them know I wouldn’t be returning, and had a reasonable explanation for why – as if they’d have no idea it was because of the shrieking and suicide discussion.
But it’s not over yet. Continue here.