Memorable Moments in an Alien World

{May 18, 2013}   Searching for a Roommate: a Timeline and Commentary on Madness.

I have been trying to sublet a room in my apartment for a number of months. It is conceivable to believe that finding a flatmate in Los Angeles can be a bit of a bizarre search. There are few things in life that are as intimate as asking someone to live with you. Yet in the past 4 months, I’ve found out just how far I’m willing to go. It walks along this timeline:

January: Yikes! I need to find someone rent a room from me. I write up an ad with specific qualifications of what I am looking for in a flatmate, take some pictures and await responses. I get one. It’s a dead-end. Eh, well. About mid-January I re-submit my ad on various sites. I get 2 responses. The first one wants to pay $300 and do housework for rent. The second one answers my ad and goes on a long sob story about her father dying. She then wraps that up by saying her uncle is going to pay for her rent. I’m not sure of the connection between the points, but it is of no matter. I ask when she’d like to see the place and she says she can’t see it in person before she moves in and asks how I would like her uncle to wire me the money…

Of course.

February: I have some savings and am feeling okay, but would definitely feel better if I had someone in that room! So I resubmit my ad. I get 5 responses. Yay! The first 3 all inquire as to whether they can have pets. At this point, it’s not negotiable. The 4th response was more spam and the 5th was a young woman from the Faroe Islands. She’s a model/interior designer and will be in LA for two months and would like to sublet the room for that time. We agree on terms and one week later she emails me to inform me that she has a friend who will be coming with her and has separate business of her own in LA. Pragmatically, I don’t have enough. Keys. Beds. Parking spots. You name it! She is understanding, but another successful brokerage has now fallen though.

March: Okay, enough is enough! My bank account is being bled dry and though I’m impressed with how much money I was able to save my first year teaching whilst still taking grad classes on the side (and paying for them out of pocket), it time to stop messing around and get someone in this freakin’ room! I re-write the ad, lower the rent as well as my expectations of getting a decent human being in the room. This time I receive 7 responses straight away: 3 of them spam, 1 scam (I don’t know who “wires” money to an account anymore, but this experience has made me forever leery of it) and 3 people who wanted to crash at my place free in exchange for their “services.” I would rather my inbox be filled with spam than people who want to pay with that ambiguous and often uncomfortable sounding “services.” Before embarking upon this great adventure, I did not know that such trades were common.

April: Ah, this was the month when I received emails from a couple CEOs of (self-reportedly) successful internet businesses that needed a place to crash during the week, as they did not live in LA, but much of their business was conducted here. Em, I am already not a very trusting person, so throw that flimsy story at me over the world wide web and I will bolt.

Or will I? Truth is, I am getting desperate. I do not personally have enough resources to carry the rent on this AMAZING apartment myself. So, I did what any desperate person would do: I responded. Like, immediately.

Best/worst part? I never heard back from them.

And sadly, that was not the weirdest ad response. No, if I had to pick the strangest one for the month of April, it was the guy from WeHo who sent a picture of his abs (no face, JUST the abs) with a short description of himself below. Now, I am pretty desperate, but I learned an important lesson about myself: when trying to schmooze your way into my apartment, a false CEO title earns you more points than a picture of your six pack.

May: I wrote the rent check this month, thinking, “This is it. I have 31 days to get someone into that room.” I took the bar that had started oh so high, falling slightly each month and put it on the lowest rung. And then I shrugged and tossed it on the ground.

I began telling people that I only had two questions to ask any potential roommate:

Sass: “Have you ever murdered someone?”

Potential Roomie: “Yes.”

Sass: “Oh. …………… ………………. Are you going to murder me?”

Potential Roomie: “No.”

Sass: “Great, sounds like a fit to me! Just sign on the bottom line there and move your life into my home.”

It will probably go down something like this.

Before I go on to say how this saga has (temporarily) ended, I just have to toss out some commentary about flatmates.

All my life I’ve lived with my family. The whole concept of a flatmate never even entered into my mind until I got the job in LA. Then I HAD to find a flatmate. As I am in that situation, it causes me to see it for what it is with such clarity: Utter madness.

Think about it for a second. Are there ANY relationships that move as fast as when one gets a flatmate? And I’m not talking about the, “We went to college together and now we share this apartment” kind of flatmate. No, no. Sorry, but that utterly does not count. No, the kind of flatmate relationship I’m referring to is the one that goes something like this:

  • A stranger contacts you about a room you’re subletting.
  • You’ve googled their name and not found anything damning.
  • You meet at the apartment (or a coffee shop) and essentially speed-date them. Questions of their childhood, family, education, job, goals and social life all summed up in the time it takes to drink a doppio espresso.
  • You realize that they appear able to make rent.
  • You don’t abhor them.
  • In the 15 minutes that you’ve talked with them, they don’t show any signs of crazy.
  • Bearing these things in mind, you take a deep breath and decide to make the plunge. You do something that in ANY other situation in life would be considered madness, but as it pertains to flatmates, it is somehow perfectly acceptable.
  • You ask a perfect stranger to live with you.


Never having have had (<— awesome, right?) to make my home in a city in which I knew no one, this was just always a non-issue for me, but suddenly, having to face it head on, I saw its preposterousness! NO matter how GREAT the relationship, who moves in with someone after having known them for less than 24 hours? As far as I know, the only relationship where that EVER happens in the case of flatmates. Well, flatmates and convicts, but they don’t have as much of a choice now, do they?

It makes that annoying song, Call Me Maybe seem reasonable and not so creepy by comparison.

I never would have known how to partake in such madness, were the madness not thrust upon me. But as of last week, I received a deposit check from….you guessed it, a complete stranger….who will be subletting the room for the summer. She didn’t wire me money, there was no sob story, her grammar never indicated spam, she didn’t email me pictures of her stomach, she didn’t offer to pay $100/month for rent plus “services” and her story for needing the apartment was more believable than, “I own a billion dollar internet company, but I just need a place to crash when I’m doing business in LA.”

As of May 25th, I will have a flatmate (at least through early August – then I start this process all over again)!

In retrospect, I may have made a grievous error. So stoked was I to have (by all appearances) a sane flatmate, I never did ask if she murdered anyone…

I already deposited the check. It’s too late for that now.

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