Saturday, October 10, 2009

Home Life

I think it is no secret that the Spencer Alley flat is something of a dump. To me the place has many more upsides than downsides. Some of the good things are that 1) it is big & 2) on the top floor & 3) gets lots of sunlight – both of the morning variety and of the afternoon variety – & 4) has high ceilings & 5) good neighbors & 6) a great San Francisco neighborhood surrounding it, yet is 7) hidden away from street noise and as quiet as a woodland retreat, an illusion that is abetted by the presence of 8) mature trees (redwood, birch, eucalyptus) growing outside the loose-fitting, wood-framed windows. Best of all, 9) the rent is not even half the prevailing market rate, thanks to an ancient lease and citywide rent control.

On the other hand, a worn and shabby air envelopes the entire building. The paint and carpets and fixtures and cabinets and countertops were cheap and dull to start out with and are increasingly decrepit. The landlord (via the management company) does no more than the bare legal minimum amount of maintenance. Tenants make do and seldom complain.

Last night the water in the toilet tank wouldn't stop running after the tank had refilled. Then when I started poking around among the wet and rusty bits of gadgetry, a little rubber hose leaped away from its moorings and a jet of cold water zapped me in the face. After I wrestled the hose back down, I tried to adjust the float so the tank-water would stop running. All I did was make the problem worse. In fact I made it so bad that the only solution I could think of (on a Friday night, at midnight, when creative energy was certainly not at its potential peak) was to grab a big aluminum mixing spoon from the kitchen and use it to jam the float up out of the water, as pictured above.

Experience has shown that this is the type of problem the management company responds to. Six months ago when the faucet on the bathroom sink decided to transform itself into a geyser, a plumber did indeed show up in response to the immediate frantic phone call, and the plumber installed the shiny new faucet pictured below.

But the faucet geyser timed itself more kindly than the toilet tank. In this present case nobody will answer the phone at the management company until Monday. So for the duration of the weekend the spoon contraption needs to be dismantled and reinstalled every time the toilet needs to be flushed. "Cheap rent," I mutter to myself. "Incredibly cheap rent."