While mulling around my new house, noticing notches, gouges and asbestos that I hadn’t noticed before, I wondered if I would still be living in this shack if the landlord had told the truth on the initial tour of the house. The answer is: definitely, because I never get my act together until mid-February.

Paul Wong

Usually in the middle of winter, my choices are reduced to family-owned fixer-uppers in the South Campus/Elbel Field area. It never fails. Some have been better than others, but I should have learned my lesson sometime during one of the first three times I’ve lived in the area.

Regardless, my latest house is pushing my personal limits of bare minimum requirements to be livable, which isn’t to say that I haven’t lived in some houses that have a strong refugee feel, but my latest is the worst, and there is nothing I can do about it.

So in lieu of breaking my lease and living in a youth hostel, I will do the next best thing: Rant in an attempt to warn the more educated that will come after me.

I never thought I would yearn for the dorms again, and after this experience, it turns out I was right. But my 8-by-10 room (a converted porch, complete with porch lights at each end of the room, requiring two separate light switches) with my bed/desk/chair/dresser combo does make me think about getting a loft again. Then I could have a bed/desk/chair/dresser that is five feet higher.

My landlord tells me that the space has been slightly reduced with the addition of a closet, which gives the tenant (me) just enough room to make one complete rotation in the middle of the room before getting stuck.

It has moved me into the communal living area to do everything that I would normally reserve for the privacy of my room. Yes, everything.

The bathroom was apparently built in an era when mirrors in bathrooms weren’t en vogue. So when a mirror was added sometime during the past decade, it was placed above the toilet. As one might expect, in my ineptitude, I blinked while putting in my contacts, flinging the left one into the toilet water. My left eye has itched ever since.

One foot to the right is the shower, where the showerhead just reaches the small of my back. The water flow makes low-flow showerheads look like industrial power washers. The water that hit the top of my head this morning reaches my feet sometime during my first class.

When I pointed out that the toilet runs, without being told, my landlord said, “somebody will come over and do something about that.”

I know this is no use because that “somebody” always turns out to be him or his flunky brother/sister/cousin and that “something” means that whatever they fix will be broken again by the time they start their truck in the driveway. Since my toilet-fixing knowledge is exhausted after jiggling the handle, I’m at their will.

The remaining two bedrooms in the first floor resemble mine and have either more windows, a more dungeon-like ambiance or fewer porch lights. I really don’t have much to complain about since my I share my misery with two others (what is better than shared misery?) and I agreed to live on the first floor when I assumed there wasn’t a more luxurious second floor.

But the problem is that there is a more luxurious second floor. It has newly installed hardwood floors, bigger rooms and a toilet that flushes without getting pissed off at me.

When my landlord told me that he was installing new floors in the house this summer, I foolishly took that to mean everywhere, not just upstairs. It was because of this construction that I could not move in until Sept. 1 at noon.

(On a side note, I think our relationship with our landlord got off to a rocky start when we broke into the house after he didn’t show up at noon. So when he showed up two hours later, with my roommates and I moving boxes in and complaining about a lack of doorknobs in the house, he wasn’t pleased.)

The living area is acceptable, but the couches were taken from the neighbors during their move out years ago. I’m not sure if they were indoor/outdoor couches, but both of them are giving my roommates symptoms of the plague.

There is enough remaining room for any one of the following: A T.V., a dining table and chair, a desk, speakers or plus one roommate. I went with a T.V.

But it’s not all negative. We don’t have bats in our walls.

All that for just under $3,500 a month and a mere 15 minutes to campus! Who could ask for anything more?

So take this as a word of warning. Those who ignore history (or that fail to act in the fall when all the good houses or apartments are available) are doomed to repeat it.

-Jeff Phillips’ column will run every other week. He can be reached at jpphilli@umich.edu.

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