Photo courtesy of Anne Marie Yurik
If you think you are going to find an apartment in South Oakland that has an amazing landlord, an updated space and a decent price, you are sorely mistaken. Although I don’t take pride in being a buzzkill, someone had to say it — so there, I did it. I crushed your dreams, and you’re not even a paragraph into this piece — talk about harsh.
I know that me stomping out the fire of hope that you have about your future South Oakland living situation is similar to my first grade teacher telling me I can’t bounce on clouds because they’re made of water vapor. But I believe that the new information may help you make more informed choices. If my teacher hadn’t told me that clouds couldn’t be trampolines in the sky, I think things would have turned out a lot differently for me.
I mean, sure, your apartment will be more like the ramen you ate last night than the warm meal you get at home, but it’s still your school home, and that’s what makes it so special. Your apartment will be like a sibling — only you can make fun of it, and you do it out of love and appreciation. But if you’re an only child and that metaphor means nothing to you, or if you just simply enjoy listening to me talk into the void, come along on this journey with me. I will show you more of what I mean by giving you the TikTok version of an MTV-style crib tour.
Please, come in and see the things in my South Oakland apartment that just ~make sense~.
The hole in the wall above the front door
If you are worried about the hole, don’t be. My landlord put a white sheet of paper over it — but only on one side of the wall. The quality of repair is unmatched. Surely I would have never thought of tearing a page out of my sociology notebook to patch a wall, but that’s the genius of South Oakland landlords, and it’s certainly what I pay them to do. You might ask, “Why does the hole exist?” In all honesty, I am not sure, but I do know that my apartment just wouldn’t be the same without it. It allows the sound of loud music to seep into my apartment, even if it’s a Wednesday night and I am trying to study.
2. The lightswitch that doesn’t turn anything on
I don’t know about you, but I think having a light switch that doesn’t work adds a little suspense. It reminds me that I am really not the person in control. As much as I would like to think that I am the controller of things in my house, my one little rebellious light switch is a permanent reminder that when things refuse to do my bidding, I can’t do anything about it.
I like to turn my lightswitch to nothing into a metaphor. It’s protesting the work environment. Who am I to demand that the lightswitch always be ready to turn on and work at the flip of a switch? While I am aware that I could call an electrician, I respect the metaphor that I created too much. I am not sure if my respect for a complete personification of a lightswitch says something about my stability or if it just means I’m narcissistic. I’ll let you decide.
3. The dying bonsai tree, Stew
Once you are in your South Oakland dwelling, you will undoubtedly try to spruce the place up and give it some life. If you’re like me, you take “give it some life” literally, and try to buy as many plants as your meager budget allows. Luckily, my roommate was on the same page, and we were able to put some plants in the living room. Plants are my version of a therapy dog. I talk to my plants, I look at them in moments of tension like Jim from “The Office” and I like to take pictures of them even though they look the same in every one.
I believe that plants are a staple of any South Oakland residence, and if you disagree, you are simply incorrect. The only plant in my apartment that seems to understand what it feels like to be a student right now, is our bonsai Stew. Stew is probably dead, but we like to say that he’s just under the weather. Each day as I take my classes in the living room, I catch a glimpse of Stew’s dried up leaves, and I think “same.”
4. The door that doesn’t open all the way because our floor is slanted
The floors in my house live at their own rhythm. I like to think they’re “Dancing with the Stars” the way they sway and dip in various directions. But then I remember that they are floors and are supposed to be level. What makes this slant a little extra fun is that way that it exists right outside my pantry door.
If I want to break into some midnight snacks, I have to either squeeze my body into the crack between the door and the frame or tug the door against the slanted carpeting. In any case, the effort that goes into grabbing knockoff Cheerios is enough to consistently make me rethink my decision. It’s as if the door was looking at me, asking why I visit it so often, questioning my motives and judging me silently each time I force the bottom of the door to fight the carpeted floors. It’s the over-critical relative of my apartment, and it sure makes itself known.
5. The bread clip that was painted onto the shelf
Not only is my shelf just painted plywood that sits atop two pieces of scrap wood that were haphazardly nailed into an old shower, it’s also adorned with a bread clip. The new landlord decided that they would cement evidence of their laziness into the makeup of my apartment. It’s not like the hole above my front door — you don’t notice the bread clip at first. It’s something you lovingly notice later. Only after I got to know this place did I find the bread clip hardened to the shelf under a thick coat of paint. This bread clip leaves me with so many questions. Who ate bread in the bathroom before I lived here? What type of bread was it? Did they eat it at the sink? It is a daily mystery that even Buzzfeed can’t solve. More importantly, it’s the element that adds the most South Oakland flair to my humble abode.
6. The Guy Fieri goatee on the wall
Although most South Oakland apartments bring their own charm, my roommate and I couldn’t let the building do all the work. What’s a slanted floor apartment with a bread clip painted on the shelf in the bathroom without a Guy Fieri goatee on the wall? If you answered, a level above an apartment with a Guy Fieri goatee on the wall, you are incorrect again. You should be so glad to have me as your humble teacher. The correct response acknowledges that my apartment just wouldn’t be the same without it. It’s the most masculine energy our apartment will ever have, and its placement on what used to be an old fireplace pays homage and respect to our blonde-haired friend, Guy.
Although your apartment will be far from perfect, and your landlord might be sketchy, and the price will most definitely not be worth it, the place is yours. Each quirk and painted-on bread clip is just another thing to call your own. At the end of the day, if you get a landlord who will fix things when they’re broken and a place where the ceiling doesn’t collapse on you, you did good, kid.
Write to Anne Marie at [email protected].