Suffering is inevitable these days. Everyone you know is struggling, trying to find or maintain something decent, livable, a step up from anguish. No one is quite happy with their job, but those who have one clutch onto it as if it were a beloved child who will very soon grow up and disappear forever. Very soon.
Then there’s finding shelter. In the Bay Area this very basic need, which is in fact one of Maslow’s core physiological needs that happens to support the foundation of all others, is one of the grandest undertakings for the working-class populace. How low will you go to secure living quarters you can only just barely afford? Think of the worst neighborhood you would be willing to live in, the sketchiest building, the loudest neighbors, the longest commute to work. Visualize that place and imagine 200 San Francisco yuppies pleased as punch to come and snatch it away from you.
In today’s urban landscape it’s difficult to find a dwelling that doesn’t force you to recall false memories of the Battle of Stalingrad or a camping excursion in Auschwitz. People in their late 30s with two jobs must cohabitate with several others in order to afford a room in the city. These other roommates will probably still have not developed the rudimentary habits of personal hygiene, respecting others’ property, and paying rent and bills on time… if at all. The couch is covered in animal hair and the acute body odor of the band that slept on it for the last few nights. The roommates leave the house with the door unlocked, or wide open. They invite friends over who inevitably drink all your beer and use all the toilet paper only to depart leaving you with the fallout. Your ceiling will leak when it rains. Ants will invade your home permanently.
If you are unfortunate enough to share an apartment building with several other tenants, you will endure their sounds, smells, and invasions of privacy. At any given minute in the day, you will hear their car alarms, fake orgasms, bad music, loud TVs, screaming dogs, clamoring children, and petty arguments. You will smell their rancid cooking and off-brand incense and be forced to evacuate the building every time someone “cooks spicy food” that triggers the central fire alarm to ring in every unit. The fire trucks will rush to the scene and the alarm will ring out until every last layabout shuffles down the long stairwell. Only then will the firemen usher the tenants back inside, shaking their heads in disdain.
The owners of the neighboring tenement buildings have the delusion of grandeur that their former halfway houses are now some sort of high-class suburban chateaus that require constant landscaping maintenance. Laborers are hired to arrive at 7AM on weekends to mow the lawns and prune the trees. The “lawns,” however, are strips of dirt dotted with garbage and dog excrement. That doesn’t stop this guy from breaking out the Line Trimmer to spruce up the glorified litter box:
This coveted living space, by the way, comes with a parking spot for an extra $200 per month. If you can’t swing that, you must move your car several times a week from one spot to another, usually underneath a bird-infested tree, otherwise you will owe the city $83 per day in tickets. In fact, even if you do move it to a non-street-sweeping spot, there is a good chance you will still get that ticket out of spite. Within two days on the city street your car will be covered in dozens of fecal spatters and a sticky dark film that can never be scrubbed off; not that you would ever pay for a car wash. But the one time you drove to your parents’ house and used their high-power car-washing supplies you discovered that the filth could not be removed.