Craigslist Housing Horror Stories

Craigslist usually finds a way to completely disappoint me in new and surprising ways whenever I come crawling back to it. Whether it’s getting rid of old furniture, selling broken electronics, or searching for jobs; there is no shortage of good ol’ fashion loonies/disappointments to be found on one of the strangest gems the internet has to offer. It’s actually somewhat mystifying, that out of a seemingly beneficial and straightforward website would come such a concentrated mix drink of misinformed and irrational people. Yet somehow these people have managed to scratch out a living on the same planet as me.


Now without a doubt, my strangest experiences have come from the rooms/shared section under the Housing category. This might be due to fact that in order to find the right room/apartment/house you need to look at number of places in order to feel like you’ve selected the best possible scenario from what is available. You wouldn’t buy the first car you ever test drove right? I also have had the “luxury” or “misfortune”of having to have moved at least once per year since college. This hasn’t really been a matter of luck as much of necessity,  but it is what it is. So I’ve gotten to meet higher percentage of left field bat-shit crazy people via craigslist on a regularly basis. No matter how you want to spin it in the end, moving sucks. And the experiences gained from looking at potential houses/house-mates has given me an astounding amount of meet-n-greets with strangers I’d never run into otherwise and whose poor grasp of reality has more than once brought me to the verge of loosing all bearings on reality.

This brings me to my next string of moving stories, not too long ago I was lucky enough to endure the pleasure of trying to find a new room during the winter months of December, January, and February. If you’re not from the Washington, DC metropolitan area then maybe you can’t fully appreciate that nobody moves during that time of year- it’s in the middle of the holidays, it’s often too cold out to move, and quite frankly nobody signs year long lease/or buys houses during the winter. Let’s just say it’s far from the “busy season,” that’s what the Spring, Summer, and the early Fall are for. So if you’ve found yourself searching for a new place to live during that time of year; with few exceptions- you’ve gone-done fucked up now and candidates you get to choose from resemble the remaining talent in an awful dive bar after last call. Think of the produce isle of a small mom-n-pop grocery store after everything has been picked over at the end of the week. There’s nothing left but deformed and rotting throw-aways covered in fruit flies buzzing and deformities.

Make no mistake, I wasn’t being lazy on my housing search nor was I just focusing on craigslist listings to find potential room mates. It was just slim pickings. Without exaggerating, I conservatively went to see 2-3 places a week for nearly 8 straight weeks. Below are three of the most standard disappointments to the housing search game. These are deal breakers upon arrival and you should be able to recognize their characteristics fairly quickly if you ever end up in a similar situation and are seeking new housing. Then I opted to share my two favorite looney experiences of this years mix.

1. Cat Houses:
Yes there was more than one house that I encountered on my string of new visits that had this problem. If you are in your mid to late 20s and own more than two cats then you are likely going to be alone forever… forever… forever….

 But seriously, that statistic doubles if you’re a male- that’s just the truth. This is not to say that having a dog kennel in your home is any better but at least in most cases dogs shit outside. These places often have cheap fucked up furniture (because cat’s need scratching posts right?), there seems to be hair hidden everywhere, and all surfaces are covered with a very thin layer of oily grime. The house/apartment itself never strikes you as “clean,” more like a little less dirty after you clean it. Let’s be honest, if I’m describing your place of living, then you’ve got that parasite in your brain and the cats have already taken over your fucking head and your house. It is important to note the sheer fact that these people have managed to normalize the odors of fecal matter and that bitter-salty pungent urine smell. That’s astounding, concerning… yet also somewhat impressive. What other seemingly awful things can you become accustomed to? Lastly, living with cats means I have to learn the little fuckers name and then play along with others as they project personality traits onto these space-wasting shit factories. Not worth it. Want to really get freaked the fuck out about living with cats? Google the surprisingly common parasite I was talking about called Toxoplasma or watch the below video.

http://youtu.be/JoQf3PYZuNw

2. Shoebox Rooms:
I have lived in small spaces. I am aware of what the going rate of rent is for a room that is walk-able distance to bars/restaurants/grocery stores/public transport/metro. And I know that I can’t be too picky, given that nothing is likely going to hit a perfect score among all qualities I’m searching for in a place to live. But this isn’t New York or Midgetville- and watching your face as I mumble “are-you-fucking-kidding-me” when you push the door open the door to reveal a converted closet doesn’t make either of us feel any better about me coming over. My viewing favorites this year were the converted walk in closet without a window, the living room sectioned off with blankets going for $800 (however let it be know that when I was younger I did want to live in a fort made of blankets and couch cushions), and the single family home jerry-rigged/converted into a duplex with a bed room that was 7′ X 9′ (told upon entering it would not be able to accommodate a human sized bed) going for $815. Leaving places like that had me shouting original Louis Black content the entire ride home. After a while I refused to visit places until I knew the actual dimensions of the room because “good size” as it turns out, isn’t very specific.

http://youtu.be/EYx7uGEZ7I0

3. The Cattle Call:
So you and your room mate(s) are lazy and have decided that instead of scheduling out visits one by one like you would do if you were filling an open position for a job; you’re going to pretend to be real-estate agents for an afternoon. So you respond to all the people that wrote to you about your ad with the same “open house” date and time. The day comes around and you sit on your fat ass and tell the applicants that showed up to “get to know each other.” Imagine being forced to have awkward conversation with everyone before you in line for the DMV.

“I don’t even know what I’m fucking doing here, I just need to get my license renewed.” I’d say and nobody would laugh.

Let’s just be clear, this is not the rose ceremony of the Bachelorette nor is it a networking event.

On one of a handful of these experiences, I caught myself standing around in a small living room of a townhouse with 10-15 other potential renters trying to inject a conversation with people I was in direct competition with for a room. You don’t realize how many other people are looking for a new place because finding a room on craigslist is an independent endeavor and a solo driven process. As I walked around trying to figure out who actually lived there, I begin to find myself increasingly bitter with the entire situation. These house viewings are already a lot like blind dates, but now I’m there to sing & dance for not only the shit heads on the lease but all the other idiots that fell into the same trap that I did. And if I don’t stand out from the other goobers in the house…. then it’s a complete waste of time.

I would never jump into a relationship with someone simply because they happen to have female genitalia and all the other guys in the room would probably fuck you- so why would this be any different?!
Bottom line is don’t get the impression that you’re Southwest Airlines and inviting section A, B, C, and D to board the plane. Despite you having the nerve to preform the incredibly rude open house gesture, you’re not even accomplishing your goal of getting to know anyone well enough to make an informed decision because it’s a cluster fuck. And most of all, the likely normal ones that did show up are put off by the notion that you’ve managed to waste the maximum amount time of the maximum amount people with your brilliant little stunt… because the world revolves around you doesn’t it…

http://youtu.be/_l1-mXNNsk4

Of all the entertainment each of those group-sets have to offer nothing beats a high caliber looney. Or for the layperson, a batshit crazy person. It’s hard to put a finger on just one attribute that sets someone in the category of looney. You can sometimes chalk it up to nerves because quite frankly a lot of people get nervous meeting strangers under completely sober circumstances in their own homes. I understand not everyone is outgoing, but we’ve all come in contact with people at one point or another. These people exist in a higher prevalence on craigslist. Maybe it’s far easier for them to hide among their own. As someone that has a good grip on reality and meets new strangers each and every weekend, I’d like to think I’ve a nearly impeccable sense of what is not normal. The next two stories are of a colorful nature and bring you through my two favorite looneys from this past rooms/house/apartment search.

What’s In a Name:

One chilly January weeknight evening, I was on my way to check out an apartment that was just recently posted on craigslist. I corresponded with the guy who posted the ad for a two bedroom a few times at work throughout the day and things were looking good. This guy’s place was in a reasonable location, his age range fit, and from the verbiage of his self descriptions it seemed like we had a similar understanding of what we both wanted out of a room mate (clean, easy going, low key during the week, fun on the weekends). After 2-3 more e-mails back and forth we had agreed that I would come by that night at 8:00 PM to check the place out and meet him. I got stuck at work later than usual and ended up driving directly to his place from work and managed to get there a couple of minutes early. I shot him a text as I frowned at my phone, I was down to the last 8% of my battery. I would be really angry with myself if I got out there and missed him because my phone was dead.

Without a response and a few minutes passing beyond the time we agreed to meet, I got out of my car and walked over to his apartment block. It wasn’t a particularly nice complex, but I did like the location. I knocked on the door without an answer and stood around for a moment trying to figure out what to do. I didn’t want to stand around outside his place but I also didn’t want to miss this guy because my phone died. I went back to my truck and decided to call and leave a message. I promised myself that I would wait another 15 minutes longer, then I would call before heading home.

I couldn’t afford to blow this one off just because he might be running late, I needed a place to stay and this appeared to be one of the better housing options if it were to work out. After a half an hour beyond our meeting time had come and gone I left another voicemail for this schmuck saying that I was sorry I missed him and maybe we could reschedule for another night. I started my truck and headed to the CVS across the street to pick up a few things before heading home. And of course as I was getting back into the truck and with 2% battery left on my phone, I got his call.

“Hey bro! My bad, I’m walking back from the metro now and should be home in like 5 minutes if you’re still there.” he said sounding like a mix of surfer and bro.

“No big deal. We’ve all had late work nights before. Hey so listen, my phone is about to be dead. I’ll meet you at your door in five minutes. Okay?” I said trying not to come off like I was pissed that he had already wasted over 45 minutes of my life but I was still relieved this had worked out.

“Word. Peace!” He responded before hanging up.

Within about 10 minutes I had managed to find parking and walked back up to his door and noticed that there was now a light on inside. Looks like everything had worked out in due time, I remember thinking. I knocked on the metal door and after a few approaching foot steps, the door opened. The guy turned out to be a shaggy ginger-blond haired dude with some pock-mark acne scars. He was my height but a little scrawnier and was sporting a standard flannel shirt and jeans. He was a run of the mill bro probably around the age of 25 or 26.

“Hey,” I said trying to sound friendly, “The names’ Taylor, nice to meet you.” I said extending my right hand.

“Ohh.” He said glumly then making a strange face as he limply shook my hand.

I gave him a quick what’s going on face as I pulled my hand back, “What? Something wrong?”

Did this guy know me from somewhere? Had I unknowingly made out with his girlfriend or insulted him in a bar? Or was he just messing with me?

“Well, it’s just Taylor is my name. And it would be weird living with another dude named Taylor. You know, like calling some other guy by my own name.” He began to say apathetically while scratching the back of his head.

I paused, “So what?”

“I mean, it would just be weird, ya know? So, I don’t think this is going to work out.” He said looking down at his feet sounding genuinely disappointed while I stood there in utter disbelief on his stoop.

“Pfft. You’re kidding right?” I quipped back as my friendly demeanor quickly faded.

“Well- but what if someone calls the apartment looking for Taylor? It would just get confusing…” He said uncomfortably as his eyes seemed to glaze over into an imaginary scenario being played out between his ears in the far reaches of his ginger mind.

I think I gave this kid too much credit, but below is the actual live streaming footage recovered from the visual cortex inside his brain just as he struggled to grasp what it would be like to live with another Taylor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FavUpD_IjVY

It’s not like we both touched a magic mirror and somehow our bodies switched. Bro-logic? Would it make him partially gay if he called another dude his own name? I wasn’t sure how to even comprehend his asinine theory. Much less, I didn’t know how to respond to a concern so profoundly stupid. I was astounded but refused to walk away without a more detailed explanation.

“Do you even have a lan-line phone in the apartment for someone to call into, to then ask for a Taylor?” I asked.

He turned to look behind him in the doorway, then back at me. “Well no, but you know what I mean. It just wouldn’t work out. I’m sorry you came all the way out here dude.”

I was stunned. “I can’t tell if you’re being serious, you do realize that sounds completely crazy right? I mean you know that you and I aren’t the only people with the name Taylor? Other people also have Taylor as a first name.”

The door began to slowly close as he slipped behind it, “Yeah okay, I’m sorry dude.”

I half frowned watching him close and lock the door. “Oh for fucks sake!” I blurted out throwing my arms into the air.

There’s no way people this stupid live above ground, I remember thinking to myself as I trudged back to my truck.

If you’re going to make an irrational stupid argument, then you would think you might have some more firepower behind it or why not more grand leaps into absurdity. For instance, why start at concerns over imaginary phone calls to imaginary phones, he didn’t even think to bring up the bedlam that would ensue if I started getting my mail sent to the apartment. We would have to take precious seconds out of our lives to sort through the mail reading the first and last names to figure out what was what. Or what if we left our wallets or phones out on the same table, how on earth would we be able to tell them apart? Worse yet, can you imagine if our girlfriends came over and didn’t know which Taylor to sleep with…?! God damnit….What a fuckface.

Too Much Going On

The following week I met Dennis. I sent him a quick response about his housing ad and only a few short moments later he called my cell phone. He talked real fast and sounded nervous as he tried to explain the house to me over the phone. I hadn’t looked at a place in two days so I agreed to come by and check it out that evening. He texted me later in the day to apologize for talking too fast; claiming that he was talking on the phone in front of his girlfriend and it had thrown him off. I thought it was kind of quirky but I let it slide.

Upon arrival that night, it appeared the house had been split into two separate levels. The top looked to be one residence and the downstairs and garage was another. You could tell someone had added a second front door relatively recently. It was in a decent neighborhood, albeit practically on top of a fucking 6 lane major highway, but the rent was reasonable. I wavered for a moment and considered just getting back into my truck, but since I was there, I walked up and knocked on the door for the hell of it. The door quickly swung open, the suction slammed the outer screen door closed. I was greeted by a medium build older man sporting a goatee looking to be in his early 40s. He was wearing an overly large t-shirt, jeans, and a beanie.

“What’s up man, Dennis” he said enthusiastically shaking my hand and stepping to the side of the doorway so I could come in.

I was just inside the door when I spotted the five or so massive 400+ gallon fish tanks that lined the walls of furniture-less living room. Aside from a single fold up wooden chair in the middle of the hardwood floor, there was nothing but large fish tanks, and a dirty looking fireplace in the living room.

I looked around and opted to let him grab the first word before I made any broad statements.

“Yeah, so this is the living room.” He said rocking back and forth on his feet nervously.

“What’s in the fish tanks?” I asked looking around the room as if it wasn’t noticeable right away.

“Oh! Right, those are my stingrays.” He said walking up to one of the massive tanks across the room and tapping the glass, “after I lost my dog a few years back these guys have been keeping me company.”

I got up close and peered into one of the tanks while nodding like I understood, “That’s cool.”

These tanks were completely empty beside water and the occasional brown circle with a tail. I fail to see where or how sting rays would come remotely close to replacing a dog… but far be it for me to call into question the personality of a bottom dwelling fish.

“Yeah, these guys have got me through some pretty tough times.” Dennis said looking around the room whimsically.

At that point I noticed the large scar across Dennis’s neck. Not even kidding, dude looked like he had been sliced practically shoulder to shoulder. Self inflicted? Surgery? Alien abduction? Doesn’t matter- because I wasn’t going to ask. Dennis went into a long dialogue about sprucing up the living room when he seemed to have lost track of what he was talking about, then he pointed off to the left side of the fire place.

“Here,” said Dennis walking around to the side of the living room “take a look at this great kitchen. It’s practically new.”

This guy was a talker and it was rather obvious that he didn’t get a lot of visitors, so this was probably a high point in his week.

I followed him into the kitchen. Nothing in it looked new,but it did have three large fucking refrigerators and a dual washer-dryer all lined up against one wall. There were more appliances than cabinets in the kitchen. And no dining room table or chairs, just counter tops and older white appliances. Since the house was divided into the top and bottom levels, the kitchen also doubled as the laundry room.

“What’s in all the refrigerators?” I asked inquisitively wanting to know why someone would need three full sized refrigeration in one house.

“One fridge is for the stingrays, one is for me and my girlfriend, and the other is for you and the other room mate- Bill, to share.” Said Dennis matter-of-factly, as though I was already moving in.

“Where is Bill?” I asked turning back toward the living room just in case someone was silently standing over me. And why do stingrays need an entire fridge?!

“Oh, Bill only stays here a week or so each month. He’s in his mid 50’s and travels a lot for work, so when he’s in town he’ll crash for a week or so before he goes back out. He’s got a daughter that lives in the area, so I guess he often comes back to visit her.” said Dennis, “But he’s cool.”

There was no doubt in my mind that Bill is cool. I said to myself.

Living with a 40+ and 50+ year old (no matter how often he was there) wasn’t really up for consideration but I didn’t want to come all the way out there and leave having not seen the room. Besides I was getting desperate for a place to live and  knew that with each passing week I was getting closer to the date I promised I would move out.

Dennis went on a rant about the old room mate that occupied the room before it became empty again. According to Dennis, this guy had a habit of leaving the door slightly open so he could try and catch a glimpse of Dennis’ girlfriend getting up in the middle of the night (sometimes partially clothed) to walk to the bathroom. I wasn’t sure how to respond, other than to agree with all of his judgments.

We went a short ways into the hall on the other side of the living room to finally check out the bedroom I had come to see. Dennis opened a door and flipped on the light.  I gave it a quick glance. It wasn’t a tiny space but it was by no means worth living with strange older guys and sting rays for a year. After I walked out Dennis called me back over to show me the angle in which I could sit in a chair and see through a crack in the door just across the hall to his room.

“Just so you know, you can’t fuck my girlfriend.” He asserted.

I started laughing and shaking my head, “Not a problem.”

Then I caught Dennis’ face staring hard into mine, “I’m serious, only rule in this house. Don’t ever fuck my girlfriend.”

“Okay. I’ll keep that in mind!” I said cheerfully trying to keep the mood light.

I began flashing back to the movie Harold and Kumar go to white castle and almost started to crack myself up. None of this seemed real.

The standard game of 20 questions ensued back in the living room via Dennis as he wanted to chat about anything and everything. He asked me about what I did for work, fun, on the weekends. Which is all relatively normal, but I couldn’t find a way to cut the conversation short and make an exit because he was talking so quickly.

He told me about his current job cutting and engraving marble headstones for graveyards. I kept checking my phone and began wishing that I had told someone where I was going to be for the next hour before I had left.

He asked me if I was a cop or hung out with any cops. Or knew cops… or would ever be bringing over a cop over in the future. I said no. When someone asks that many questions about police you know there is SOMETHING illegal going on. Illegal stingray operation?

Somehow we got on the topic of alcohol and Dennis wanted to make clear his negative views on liquor. Then to drive the point home he felt compelled to explain that I needed to keep all hard liquor out of his sights so as not to tempt him into drinking it. You know… because of his tendency to become aggressive when he used to drink. I chuckled nervously and kept looking at the door. I think I had come to my limit of weirdness.

“SO!” We both practically shouted at once as I was trying to make my exit, “You smoke weed right?” Dennis blurted out.

I wasn’t the least bit surprised that Dennis perceived that to be the natural progression our conversation had lead us to. I couldn’t imagine the shit that might happened if I stuck around to burn a doobie with this guy and listen to some of his grateful dead records.

“I mean, I wasn’t…” I began to say.

“Well my buddy gets amazing stuff from my California, you want to smoke up a little bit to celebrate your moving in?” Dennis asked me starting to move towards his room grab his weed.

Apparently I was already joining team stingray and nobody in Dennis’ head had told me.

“That’s awfully kind of you Dennis, I appreciate the offer but I’m a terrible driver after I’ve smoked up.” I said trying not to sound like a nark, “tell you what, I’ll burn a cigarette with you outside before I go.”

“Well now we’re talking.” Said Dennis, “I’m gonna take a hit real quick in my room before I have a cigarette with you. Give me a second.”

Disappearing into his room, I contemplated making a run for it and leaving Dennis to do his thing but I felt like he had gotten the wrong impression. I was sure he thought I was already moving in. It was probably best to set him straight before leaving. There was no sense in having this guy bitter with me for ignoring his calls and texts a few weeks in a row if I could knock it out on the spot.

So I stood out on the porch and waited to put the situation into realistic terms, I didn’t want him come away thinking I was obligated to move in tomorrow. But realistically, it may have been a plausible worst case scenario… I might have considered agreeing to do a month to month thing (in order to find a better place in a month or two)  if I didn’t find anything within the next three weeks it was a better option than moving back home. And yes my house search was getting that bleak after the middle of January.

Moments later, Dennis joined me for a cigarette reeking of weed. He was baked, bloodshot eyes, chapped lips, and a bright red face. Noting that Dennis was now clearly stoned and probably not understanding anything I was going to tell him, I used simple short sentences to convey that I would need a few days to make a decision before I signed a lease.

Dennis appeared clouded, confused, befuddled;  then mostly spaced out as I talked in circles for a moment about needing to sleep on things before making a big decision like moving in.

Realizing that this guy was too blazed to make sense of what I was trying to say I let out a big sigh, “Alright -I’m-”

All of the sudden, a helicopter with a bright white search light screamed over the house and focused its spot light onto the two of us standing on the porch. We both looked up then at each other, Dennis’ face projected sheer terror. The two of us squinted at the spotlight hovering just a few hundred feet above. We watched on as the helicopter hovered for what seemed like ten seconds or so then quickly moved on over the major highway. We live just outside the Nation’s Capitol, helicopters aren’t all that uncommon. And to my knowledge, I hadn’t broken any laws. However, Dennis’ mind was blown. He kept looking up then back at me like I had called in an air strike or something.

“This has never happened here before! You’re a cop!?” he squawked wild-eyed and stoned, glaring at me.

“So- Okay thanks for letting me check the place out!” I said swiftly carrying myself down the steps.

There was too much going on in this guys head all at once to leave anything up to chance. I jumped into my truck to see Dennis still standing silently rubbing his face, freaked out, and mind fucked at the top of his porch. He watched me peel out of his driveway onto the highway and out of sight. Sadly, Dennis and I never ended up moving in together, but sometimes I wake up in the middle of night wondering what kinds of crazy adventures he and I would never have the chance to explore.

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