Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Notable moments in traveling

[The Man I Love]
enjoys traveling, and in the last ten years or so he's been exploring apartment sublets instead of hotels. You pay someone to stay in their apartment in the city of your destination, at a cost cheaper than most hotels, and you get more space and the convenience of a kitchen. It's a pretty good deal.

Florida sublet bedroom

We've had pretty good luck, in general - there were some quirky places, like the apartment in Boston, finished in what appeared to be odds and ends and leftovers from a tile distributor. Or the beach house in Florida with fake jungle decor. Some places remind you that the scale of life life is different in big cities - like the five-story Greenwich Village walk-up with a kitchen the size of a closet. Others reflect their owners' personality, like the SoHo artist's studio filled original paintings and books. Or the London flat with the lace curtains and chintz upholstery and the odd bathroom that smelled like sewer gas.

But our Brooklyn place this trip has been an adventure from Day One.

A beautiful apartment, in a lovely building, nicely furnished and comfortable. WiFi, washer/dryer, security building, newer construction. Best of all, it has an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline, and a great rooftop patio for entertaining. It belongs to a young man in the arts and academic field, and he rented it to us while he traveled in New England.

On Day One we discovered that we couldn't access the internet with our laptops, despite the promises and his detailed instructions. There was one gateway password he neglected to tell us - and couldn't remember.

Reached by phone, he kindly allowed us to use his own computer (I'm writing this post on it at this moment), and we have been online all week. Though it's somewhat inconvenient, since we aren't used to his Mac, being PC types.

The next morning, we couldn't turn on the shower. Despite research on plumbing fixtures when remodeling my own bathroom, I could not figure out how to divert the water from the faucet to the showerhead. Finally, we received a message with instructions. Problem solved.

The bedsheets seemed less than fresh, but since we had a washer and dryer, we could fix that.

The refrigerator had an odor that grew stronger day by day. On the third day, we washed out the crisper drawers, throwing away the rotting onions inside. That helped, but something lingered. I'm leaving a box of baking soda as a hostess gift.

Brooklyn rooftop

This evening, though, was the last straw. We had a party. We assembled on the rooftop with pizza and wine. Up and down the stairs our guests went, carrying food, making bathroom trips, running down to buzz people up, and other errands. Then - someone came back up the stairs from the apartment.

"I can't open the door."

One of us went down with the key. The key turned in the lock, it went round and round, the latch was pressed and nothing happened. Try it again.

Send down someone else. Press, push, twist, jiggle. Nothing.

I tried it myself. The lock twiddled and twitched and turned. As I watched, the larger cylinder of the lock rotated in its fitting so the key-fitting now stood at 7 o'clock instead of its normal 6 o'clock position.

That can't be good.

At least four people tried to open the door, including me - touting my mechanical experience; my husband - since he'd been the possessor of the keys most of this week; my son - since he'd been the last person to open the door; my son's girlfriend's father - since, oh, why shouldn't the only other adult male try? Not to mention a young woman journalism student from Serbo-Croatia who claimed experience in lock-picking. (I spent ten minutes watching her try to pick the lock with a Metrocard and hearing about the nuances of the technique. She knows her stuff.)

Nothing worked.

So we called our young landlord, who told us that "it's happened before" and "all you need to do is turn it and tighten it and keep jiggling it." He didn't seem to get that we'd already been doing that for an hour, and we needed some real expertise. What was the phone number of the building superintendent, we asked. And did he know a locksmith?

Meanwhile, several of the party guests were getting nervous. Everyone's purses and coats and wallets were safely locked in the apartment - along with their housekeys and all their money. People had to go to the bathroom.

We called the locksmith our landlord recommended, but he didn't answer. So we called Information for an emergency locksmith in the neighborhood. While we waited, we worked on the rest of the wine, and tried to dissuade some of the more adventurous guests from trying to scale down the facade of the building onto the balcony to break in.

When the locksmith arrived, it took him about 15 minutes to pop the door. While he was working, another party guest arrived with hugs and kisses and squeals of greeting, stepping over his toolbag on the hallway floor. I went up to the roof and announced to the group, "we're IN!" - and all the female guests sprinted downstairs to use the bathroom.

The party came down to the apartment for the cold pizzas that had been locked away in the kitchen. The locksmith sprayed the mechanism with WD-40, flicked the latches back and forth and tested them with the key to make sure it worked, and then produced the bill for his services.


He did not accept the offer of a free pizza. Well. This will be discussed at length with our landlord.

We sure know how to throw a great party, don't we? The merriment continued for another hour.

What kind of housing travel disasters have you experienced?


Gilly said...

I laughed and laughed at your adventures!! Good thing the wine was flowing freely! (Or maybe not if you couldn't get ot the bathroom!!)

One cottage we rented for a holiday on the Norfolk (UK) coast was a bit of a trial. First night all the electricity went off - leaving warmish food in the fridge, which I had stocked up at the beginning of the holiday. Phone to owners: "Oh, yes it does that sometimes. You have to make sure the master lever is up" Master lever is over the stairs, just about reachable in a perilous position. We had to watch it all week every hour or so! Also had to get the electrician in to mend something connected with Master switch who declared the standard lamp (a) dangerous (b) lethal and (c) illegal! disconnected it for us. Said he didn't know how nobody had died in that cottage, and said he'd send the bill to the owners who he knew well!

But we had a lovely holiday, nobody died and the weather was gorgeous!

I am a Tornado ~ proven fact! said...

That is scary!

OH ... I hope you got the $350 back!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Oh, that's awful! Hopefully, as Morissey put it, you'll soon be saying "I can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible."

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Oh, that's awful! Hopefully, as Morissey put it, you'll soon be saying "I can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible."

cactus petunia said...

Sounds like an'd never have that much fun if you stayed at a Holiday Inn.

BrightenedBoy said...

That sounds like such a fun idea!

I'd be apprehensive about letting strangers stay in my house, though.

What a story. At least it was interesting, and it sounds like you still had a good time.