I got thrown out of a Chinese restaurant Saturday night. I totally deserved it.
It wasn’t just any restaurant; it was the one I live above. Thank God I’ve never eaten there before, because it’s safe to say they hate my GUTS.
Here’s the backstory: I went to the Chinese restaurant because I lost power. No lights, no AC, all while—for those of you unaware—it’s in the eighties in DC with hell-on-Earth-level humidity.
Now, before I divulge the storyline ending with me getting in a screaming match inside a restaurant kitchen, you need to know a thing or two about my apartment.
I live in a rent-controlled apartment on, arguably, the most coveted block in DC. Note: Not neighborhood; block. I pay less than half the market rate for my place.
And as I have come to discover, you get what you pay for.
My landlord is worthless in these situations, and, since it was the weekend, I knew I was on my own. No worries—I’m a self-sufficient woman. Instead of just rolling over and saying, “Welp, I’ll just pee in the dark for two days,” I took the necessary steps. I called Pepco. I checked with my neighbors to see if they lost power. And for those of you thinking, “Well why didn’t you just check the circuit breaker?” I have one question for you:
You don’t think I fucking thought of that?
Remember when I said my apartment was rent controlled? Fun fact: Apartments will lose their rent-controlled status when—and only when—the apartment is torn down, gutted, or otherwise renovated. If you passed the second grade you can therefore deduce that my apartment has not been renovated since my parents were born. Roughly.
There is no circuit breaker in my apartment.
I painted every last wall in that apartment. I would know if there was a circuit breaker within it. Therefore, I searched every reasonable area outside my apartment. I checked the hallways in the common area of my building. I asked my neighbors. I looked outside.
And that is how, my friends, on a very last strand of blind determination, I walked into the Chinese restaurant.
I got into a screaming match over deep-fryers filled with egg rolls asking to search their basement. When I was flat-out denied, I grabbed a bunch of random-ass papers from my GLOVE BOX, marched BACK inside that kitchen, declared it was my “legal right” to search their basement, walked downstairs, CLIPPED THE WIRE to unlock a metal box with “Second Floor” written over it…
Only to discover that metal box was my electric meter. Not the circuit breaker. And now you know why me getting thrown out of that kitchen was totally warranted.
Because I’m an asshole.
Neighbors are a funny thing.
I grew up in Iowa (which I’m sure all of you know) where my “next door” neighbors lived almost two miles from me. These neighbors were my best friends. Their parents were my parents’ best friends. To this day, my brother and I have never, EVER seen a key to, or locked the front door of, my parents’ house.
Never, in one bazillion years, did I think I would find that in DC. I live in a city where more people live on a single block than the entire population of my hometown.
But at the end of the day, we are all just people. People will always seek purpose, community, and a sense of belonging.
Where that happens might just look really, really different.
Two years ago, I could walk down 14th Street without A) a bra or B) a single fuck as to what anyone thought about me, because no one knew me. I had my core group of friends (who will always be my backbone) and few coworkers, and thus completed my entire circle in DC.
Now, I bump into random people regularly. I hear my name being called. I see certain people almost daily and (after I stopped being a five-year-old about the whole ordeal) make eye contact and wave hello. Like an adult.
I know I talk about my coffee shop in basically, every post I write, but there’s a specific reason why: I consider the baristas my neighbors, and that shop my community. And just like my parents’ friends go above and beyond for them, those people give me that same safe/comforting/at home feeling that’s so rare in a big city.
I told you that little story about my power going out so I could tell you this one:
Last weekend, my air conditioner slid out of my window. [Note: It didn’t fall out, had it fallen out I wouldn’t be typing this, because I would have sold my Mac with all my other possessions to pay for the lawsuit filed against me.]
So my air conditioner slides out of my window, I’m flying back to Iowa the next day, and I call my landlord who—SHOCKING—refuses to fix it. I had a couple staying at my place while I was away, so I start calling every maintenance man I could Google to come out on a few hours’ notice.
I got one man to agree to the rush job, with one exception: He would not step foot inside my apartment without someone else in there. In the middle of the workday, I couldn’t name a single friend available.
My solution? I called the coffee shop.
And by the grace of God, the manager Katie, who’s the sweetest girl on the planet and a BOSS at her job, answered the phone.
“Here’s my cell,” she said. “I’m leaving in fifteen minutes, but shoot me a text when he gets here and I’ll send somebody up.”
Guys, I handed over the code to my lockbox without even THINKING about it. I did not care if every worker at that shop knew how to break into my apartment. I trusted that they were good people. Just like my parents trusted their neighbors enough to not lock their house for thirty years.
When I rolled up to the counter my first morning back in DC, Ashley (the same girl who played babysitter for the maintenance man) was working the counter. “Your apartment is soooooo cute!” she told me. Then she handed me a coffee on the house.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. I swear, it takes a village to keep yourself alive during your twenties.
In both stories, I called-in ridiculous favors to someone in my mini Kara-DC-community. Each with very different outcomes.
Sometime in the future, I will need these people again. Hell, who do you think gave me the PLIERS to clip the lock on my electric meter? THE COFFEE SHOP!
Who do you think is going to be more willing to lend such favors? The baristas I smile at, ask about their mornings, and make brownies for on occasion; or the restaurant owners I strong-armed into letting me waltz into their basement?
Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies outside your three-block radius.