for rent

The last time Tony and I went shopping for an apartment we were 25 years younger and about the same age as the 30 or so twenty-somethings we gathered with on Saturday at the entrances of each of the six apartments in San Francisco listed on craigslist with a “dogs are OK – wooof” bullet. Whenever we approached an apartment queue, each member of the unusually attractive group of potential renters would give us the same anxious glance, “Are these old people the owners?” As soon as we settled into the line, their posture would change and one could see their training-wheels spinning, “Didn’t think we’d have to compete against old people.” The third time this happened, I so wanted to say, “Sorry the apartment has been rented,” and then shoo everyone away until the real landlord arrived for our own private showing.

Eventually, someone would come and unlock the door. The key holders came from all walks of life: a producer of documentary films on the tribes of Thailand (Hey, we just went to Thailand . . . So what! One of the other guys vying for the apartment was once a reporter in Southeast Asia and he has a very, very attractive young wife and probably a cat), an elderly woman who would only let us in one at a time (she was very creepy looking in a Psycho kind of way, but turned out to be okay . . . she said she knew we had a dog because when she asks people if they have a pet, dog people always say “Yes” and cat people always say, “We have a cat.”), and a guy/girl who seemed as baffled by our desire to rent a starter apartment in San Francisco, as I was by his/her gender.

The apartments are “shown from 12:25 p.m to 12:45 p.m” or some other combination of 15 to 20 minutes. Once the door is opened, the stream (a better description might be clump because there is not a lot of room for movement) of would be tenants examine the 500 square feet of scratched hardwood, aging plaster, mismatched electric appliances, and the walk-in bedroom with as much excitement as one can muster over living in a basement or a closet or a car for three times the price people in the red states pay for huge homes on several acres that overlook lakes and have a rec room and an outdoor kitchen . . . . But what is a dog lover to do (I know everyone in that tiny apartment thought the thought for at least a split second and then decided against  . . . getting a cat – what did you think I was thinking?). After five minutes of looking for the positive (no parking, no view, no yard, but there IS a coin operated washer downstairs – sorry no dryer), we all ask for applications and make our way to the next queue at the place overlooking Doyle Drive highway construction (slated to be completed in 2014).

On Sunday we came up with a different strategy. We gave up on Craigslist and started driving around looking for “For Rent” signs. We agreed it would be best for us not to mention our old, mellow, “medium” sized dog who just lies around and never barks until after we were in the door and the owner could see we were OLD people! This strategy always ended the same, the landlord comforting us as he shakes his head no, “You would be perfect if you didn’t have a dog,” and Tony lamenting, “You sound like a really good landlord.” I think this bonding strategy was hard on Tony.

By Sunday afternoon we gave up on San Francisco and drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. We drove up and down the steep, narrow streets looking for rental signs; we stopped people on the street walking their dogs and asked them where they lived . . . finally we found our little duplex. From the street it looks like a really scary bungee jump platform (the duplex is actually under the driveway), but inside it’s a cozy one bedroom with scratched wood floors, aging yellow walls, mismatched electric appliances, and a coin-operated washer downstairs. Nonetheless, Cassidy can live there, and it has cute bay windows, a nice garden, a wood burning fireplace, and a big deck looking out at a breathtaking view of the bay!