Friday, May 9, 2008

A Little Respect

Marti Johnson
Washington DC--Dupont Circle
June-July 2000
1-bdrm apt that I sublet to two young newlyweds

Months later I would wonder, "What was I thinking?"

I was living in an adorable apartment in Washington DC's artsy Dupont Circle when I got a call to do some freelance work in Manhattan. My employers would pay all my expenses and provide a salary that was higher than I made currently in the Nation's Capitol. It sounded like fun, so I went along. Then they said, "Can we interest you in working for us for a month in California?" I said sure, but wondered what to do about my apartment.

I saw a listing for an emergency short-term housing need on a church listserv, and contacted the party. The guy and his young wife were newly married and from a small town in the West. I met them and they seemed okay, so we agreed on the terms for a one-month stay. They were paying less than the rent I paid and not covering phone or other utilities, but they seemed to be honest young newlyweds with very little money. I left my worries behind and headed West.

At the end of the month, I went to New York. Turned out, my subletters had not found a permanent place to stay. So I allowed that they could remain, though I would be going home to the (Washington) apartment on weekends.

Walking back into my apartment the first time, I immediately sensed things were different. The chubby young wife, wearing overalls with rivets, was sitting on top of the high footboard of my expensive sleighbed as she talked on the phone. There was a damp towel drying alongside her fanny. I then walked into the kitchen to discover that my formerly bursting pantry was now more than half empty. They had also put my custom-made "dry clean only" raw silk and metal duvet cover through the washer, and a change dish once full of quarters for laundry was now full of pennies.

I informed the young wife that "the footboard is not meant to support your weight that way, please don't sit on it like that," and that fine wood furniture is not the place to hang wet towels.

They left a month later and I discovered the rest: they had broken irreplaceable antiques, emptied my kitchen of anything edible, opened and used packaged items that were intended as gifts for others, and generally gone through everything in my apartment. It was as though they had never been taught to respect others' property. I vowed no more subletters ever again.

No comments: