Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hoping to Find a Room, I Ponder Plan B

I'm in a desperate race against time to find another room. You see, I've been lucky to have had a room for the past few weeks here in Madison. After sleeping in a shelter and on the streets, I was able to get a space in a fraternity house just off of the U.W. campus. Frat houses take boarders in the summer. Summer leases begin just after school lets out in the spring, of course, but I did not arrive until mid-July.

The fraternity agreed, however, to pro-rate my rent. That was good because it got me of the street for not much money. But - and there's always a but - school starts soon and anybody who is not a member of the fraternity must leave by noon on Saturday, August 20. I'm looking for a month-to-month rental.  Efficiencies, rooms to share, sublets: I've searched for all of those.

So far, no luck. On this campus of over 30,000 students, moving week is crazy. I have no idea why thousands of people decided to all move at the same time this past Monday, but it was amusing to watch them hurry to move in. Most of them will leave Madison to return home for two weeks because classes don't start until September 3.

Nevertheless, people were moving out, moving in, moving over, just moving. Along with that came the piles of unwanted stuff, from furniture to carpet rolls, lamps and computers to TVs, all lining the streets in mounds along the curbs. The local around here get into a kind of dumpster diving, garbage pile feeding frenzy, going around campus to find one man's junk because it's their new treaure. A lot of the stuff that was thrown out is actually in good shape, but wouldn't fit in their car or would have cost more to ship than to replace. The smart scavengers carefully avoided mattresses, box springs, sofas and anything else that's upholstered or might have bed bugs. Even the homeless guys avoided those items.

I went off on a tangent there, but it relates to my hunt for shelter. With all those students coming into the city in a mad rush, it's a landlord's market for the season. Rents near campus are comparable to rents in some of Chicago's nicer neighborhoods. Many renters discriminate against non-students, making it all the more difficult for an old fart like me to find a place.

With dwindling time and low cash reserves, this has been a mad scramble for me. It's not made any easier by the fact that I have no car and, although the Madison Metro buses are fine, they're slow and don't cover large swaths of the city. Additionally, I need to take into account the fact that most of the places I've seen advertised that are in my price range (I could go as high as $300 for a month) are not close enough to any potential employers. The rest specify conditions such as "prefer someone in their 20s" or "female only." One jerk actually specified in his Craigslist ad that he would only tolerate a politically liberal roommate. Well, fine, he won't get any  of my (quickly disappearing) conservative cash.

I'll keep looking, but time is very short now. It's just past noon on Wednesday, August17. If I don't have a place by noon this coming Saturday, I'll have to go to Plan B. I should probably figure out what Plan B is before Saturday.

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