Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's been a long time since I've lived alone...

And the more I settle into the new apartment, the more it becomes apparent.  I don't remember being quite this paranoid the last time I lived alone, for one thing, and I don't remember spending so many hours wishing time would just PASS, already, so I can get one day closer to maybe seeing my husband and daughter in person again.

Maybe this is what J meant when he said I needed to find myself again...though, I do wish I'd done it via the new sports car versus new job, new apartment, new neighborhood, and all of it ... totally alone in a strange new city PLUS the new sports car that I now worry about because the neighborhood is, as the local security officers put it, "about a mile from a really bad area."

Part of it probably has to do with the fact my apartment is, for all intents and purposes, empty.  I've got air mattress to sleep on, bedclothes, a suitcase of clothes, shoes, a couple lamps.  I have a little laptop stand my MIL bought me at IKEA, a folding lawn chair and one of my favorite TV shows on DVD.  I have basic groceries, basic pots and pans and dishes and cups and silverware.

I use my Droid as a tether to have Internet access since Comcast is arguing with me about the prior tenant not having canceled their service...and judging from the sheer number of unpaid bills in the mailbox, I gather she didn't pay any bills for a month or more.

Since I don't know when I'll have actual Internet access, the Droid works to provide me enough access to prevent going insane. 

The water pressure from my washer hose (the apartment style that attaches to a sink) is causing the faucet on my sink to leak like a sieve.  It's an old faucet, and it looks like it goes on my list of things for someone go spend $60 at Home Depot and replace.  Luckily, the leak seems to be confined to the faucet assembly only, which is thankfully draining into the sink above and not dripping down below, so it should be an easy fix. 

I seem to have gotten relatively lucky anyway, since my apartment looks like it got all new appliances and such installed, and all without me having to pay the premium price for an "upgraded" apartment (cause the appliances are all I care about, I could care less about granite countertops at this point!)

All for $828 a month (due to a yearly special) is about the cheapest I can get in the D.C. metro area...for all that its in a clearly neglected neighborhood...there's a grocery store and K-Mart within walking distance, and work is about 15 minutes drive (we'll see how it is for traffic on Tuesday.)

Due to the neighborhood not being the best, I don't go out at night...try not to come home late if I can avoid it, and make sure to park my car visible from a window of my apartment if I can.  My car is currently parked in the perfect spot, under a street lamp clearly visible from my bedroom window. 

Some additional culture shock notes...people are shocked, totally shocked, by politeness.  I gave up my grocery cart to an elderly woman who was having trouble wrestling one free, and she was just floored I offered mine to her.  My being polite also got me some weird looks.

People are frequently surprised when I say, "Thank your sir," or "Do you need help, ma'am?"  Damn that cultural imperative to be formal when talking to strangers or folks older than myself.  For those who don't know, I was raised in an Asian household.  My mom is very strict about that sort of thing, and most customs are relatively unconscious.  

I realize respect and politeness aren't the norm around here, nor is friendliness and saying, "Good morning!" but people are, after they get over their moment of shock, very polite to me in of the people most frank and polite about his opinion was a young man dressed like a gangster...whether he was or not, I didn't really speculate. 

The education level out here is poor, and it shows.  Not that people are willfully ignorant...they're just ignorant and don't even know it!  I'm not one to correct folks to their faces, because I am at my core non-confrontational unless I am forced to be, so I smile and nod.  But it amazes and depresses me there are so many people here who have tons of potential and no ambition. 

I don't dress nice when I am home or out and about.  I dress in old jeans, boots or sandals and a t-shirt.  You may wonder to yourself why I don't dress nicer, seeing as I drive a nice car and make good money...and it's because it draws attention to me.

People take a lot off a first impression based on how you are dressed...and if you're dressed like you ought to be stuck up, people will treat you from the first moment as if you are, regardless of what you're really like.  Out here, not being from the area and not wanting to advertise that, I don't tell people what I do for a living...I don't tell them what car I drive, and when asked about my family I talk mostly about my Daddy, who used repair office equipment.

Most folks out here just nod, having heard the same old story...hard working parents, not much money, etc.

I did grow up poor.  Until today, I thought I'd had it hard...but talking to the man who maintains the apartments, I had it easy...our house had indoor plumbing when I was growing up.  The maintenance man didn't...and he considers himself lucky to live in an apartment only a little bigger than this, with a heating system he designed himself.  He's happy, he tells me, and he can be happy and proud of his situation with far, far less than I have or my daughter will have.

I think it's a valuable lesson to have learned...and I'm grateful to that man for teaching it to me, even though he didn't know he did. 

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