House Hunters: Oakland Edition

By Allison Dantinne, Staff Columnist

There comes a time in every Pitt student’s life when even grilled-cheese day at Market doesn’t make your on-campus living experience any less dismal. You’re ready to move on to bigger and better things. You’re an adult. You want to make grilled cheese yourself, whenever you want it.

Cue the theme music — this is House Hunters: Oakland Edition.

So, you gather up as many people as you can bear to live with, figure out how much you can spend, add a few hundred to that total just for fun, scroll through Craigslist and pull up a few contenders to go see.

After finally catching the elusive 40B, you all reach the first house. You notice the porch is held up by splintering two-by-fours, and based on the two weeks of physics you took back in your first year, you know they can’t support this slab of concrete.

“But hey,” your future roommate comments, “that’s a sick porch.”

And they’re right. It is a pretty sick porch, even though it looks like it would crumble if someone threw an empty can of Natty Light at a weak point. If you really wanted to take a risk, you could put a couple lawn chairs out there and watch drunk people stumble over the piling trash. You grin at the thought, and continue through the house.

The first thing you notice is that all the walls are yellow — the shade of yellow that comes to mind when you think of the word “tuberculosis.” The living room, the bedrooms and the kitchen are all covered in the deplorable shade. Even the coveted subway-tile backsplash is tainted with this putrid color, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You consider that looking at these walls for a whole year might take five years off the back end of your life, or maybe it’s just a theme — a theme to your sad, sad life.

But then, as the landlord shows you the washer and dryer, you take in the room around you — the basement. It is a beautiful, concrete-floored basement. She’s beauty. She’s grace. She’s the perfect basement for a rager. God shines a light upon your mortal soul, and you shine the 14 strands of twitching, half-lit Christmas lights back.

The beautiful basement is unfortunately above your budget, and your roommates won’t agree that it’s worth it to raise the budget. Wiping a single tear from your eye, you realize this is not the house for you.

You look at the next place. It’s SkyVue Apartments, and your mom said no, because a bunch of 20-year-olds don’t deserve to live in luxury. So that’s cancelled.

A few days later, you trek across the Boulevard of the Allies to an apartment so cheap you assume you’re walking to the physical, house-shaped version of a pyramid scheme. The outside seems nice and unassuming, like a real adult person could have lived there. You enter the living room to find pleasant cream carpeting and comfortable sofas. One of your roommates touches a sofa, almost as if to see if it’s real. You stroke the couch as well.

They are real. And the landlord says they come with the house.

The kitchen is normal. The basement is normal. As you stand in the normal basement, taking in the walls with no markings, the landlord explains there’s no washer and dryer, but there is a laundromat a few minutes away. You nod understandingly, and your roommates do the same, before peacefully leaving the house, questioning the inner workings of reality and what could have led you to this dream house. Could it be this easy?

You walk back to campus, passing the so-called laundromat — spelled “landromt” on the sign. It doesn’t seem terrible. This could be your house.

But then you remember winter. You think of ice and 8-degree wind gusts and slipping around on dirty slush as you haul your laundry basket those few minutes. You picture yourself running madly across the Boulevard, slipping, splayed out like a starfish suctioned to the wall of its tank, destined to live out its life stuck in that position.

You and your roommates picture it all at once, then shake out of the nightmare at the same time. You decide that this is not your house.

The third and final house is modest on the outside. There is no sick porch, but there also isn’t much garbage on the sidewalk. The smirking landlord leads you into the house, pointing at things, explaining prices. But all you can focus on is the sheer amount of holes scattered around the house. You find holes in the baseboards, the corners of rooms, by the radiators.

“What do they mean?” you whisper to your roommate. They only squint at you, and can only say “What?” Yes. Your roommate understands the issue here, and that you may possibly have to pull them into a Nicholas Cage fantasy because you’re starting to think the Declaration of Independence may be hidden in one of these holes.

The landlord then leads you all to the bedrooms, only for you to find more holes at the bottom of the closet. All the rooms you’ve seen are like this, and you can’t understand why.

You enter the bathroom, inspecting the shower stall and adequate counter space. The landlord chimes in with how nice his relationship with his tenants are. You nod and smile. The landlord follows this with a story about how a tenant accidentally sent him “racy pictures, you know, bra … underwear,” but “he didn’t mind.” You now stare aimlessly at the countertop, the swirls and speckles of the granite.

You wish he really did mind.

Your roommates follow him back downstairs to the kitchen while you stand in the bathroom, looking into the mirror, your bloodshot eyes staring back at you, questioning how you got here. Your roomates are downstairs and it’s a bit too quiet for comfort, so you head downstairs to join them. Then you see it.

A mouse pops its little brown head out of the corner hole by the kitchen trash can. The mouse shoots across the floor, wiggling under the radiator in the opposite corner.

This is the mouse’s house. This is not the house for you.

You leave feeling dejected, bested by the Oakland housing market. Nothing you look at seems to work out.

Upon entering your on-campus housing, a rush of warmth welcomes you with open arms, pulling you into its University-owned embrace. The security guard swipes you in and you finally feel safe from the world of rentals.

Maybe this isn’t your year. Maybe every South Oakland house is a grab bag of unwanted features, weird management and general shadiness, upcharged and packaged in excess responsibility. Every house might be an objectively terrible house until it’s your terrible house.

Until then, may you be blessed with a good lottery number.