On the day I was supposed to take possession of my Dallas apartment, I arrived at the manager's office with my computer and some other necessities crammed into every square inch of space in my '90 Beretta (you may find it useful to know that it's possible to fit four whole loaves of split-top wheat bread into the glovebox, by the way). According to the little clock sign on the office door, the manager should have returned from her lunch two hours earlier, but the door was locked and the blinds were drawn. In her absence, I spoke with the complex's maintenance man. When I told him who I was and why I was there , he grinned ominously.
         "Oh, you ain't gonna be happy," he predicted. "The painters're still in there an' the hole in the ceilin' ain't been fixed yet."
        I thought about this for a moment and decided this must be a sample of Texas humor.

It wasn't.

After an hour or so, the manager finally showed up and apologised for the inconvenience, but there was really no way the apartment could be made ready for at least a week.
         "But I was promised that the apartment would be ready today," I bleated. "I'm driving around with all my good stuff in the car, and the rest of it is on its way."
        She just shrugged and said, not at all convincingly, "Sorry."
         There was an annoying delay of a couple weeks, during which time I became far too familiar with the housekeeping staff at La Quinta, but I eventually got into the apartment. It had, in fact, been freshly painted.
        All of it, including portions of the carpeting.
         By this point, I didn't care. I was that grateful to have somewhere for the movers to dump my stuff when they arrived. So, I got all moved in and everything went fairly smoothly until about two weeks later, when I discovered that I had roaches. Now, some of you--especially those living in the southern United States--won't think that this is anything to get worked up about. It's not uncommon to have roaches in large blocks of apartments, and the best one can hope for is to keep one's own unit sprayed so they'll go next door.
        This was different. I got up for a glass of water, one night, and wandered into a scene from a Raid commercial. There were maybe half a dozen roaches, each nearly three inches long and an inch across, playing poker on my dining room table. Several were smoking cigars and one was wearing a little green visor.

Alarming? Yes, but that's not all of it.

There were some Chili Fritos in a snack bowl (which I hadn't been able to locate since moving), but more on the table and floor. There were also enough empty bottles lying around to suggest they'd gone through the better part of the case of Shiner Bock I'd bought the day before. And there was nary a coaster in sight.
         I was steamed. What really put me over the top was seeing that not only were they playing my stereo but they'd also been into my treasured CDs and albums. There, lying out of its sleeve on the sofa, was my vinyl copy of Buckingham Nicks, the album that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks made before joining Fleetwood Mac and which has not been reissued on CD. Most of my several hundred CDs had been gone through, and those that had been in use lay out of their jewel cases, on the paint spattered carpet.
        I won't offend sensitive ears by repeating the conversation that followed. Suffice it to say that we came to an understanding, the roaches and I. From that point on, there was no smoking in the apartment, no loud music after 11:00pm, and my beer and snack food supplies were not to be abused. Any CDs taken out were to be put back in their proper cases and original cases. The LPs were off limits, but I agreed to make cassettes of anything they felt they just had to hear.
        They agreed not to breed on my kitchen counter tops; I agreed not to turn the place into a toxic waste dump. They agreed to stay out of sight when I had the infrequent date over; I agreed to leave them the occasional leftover slice of pizza. All in all, the arrangement worked pretty well and, once we had worked out some of the kinks, they turned out to be cleaner and quieter than most of the roommates I had to endure in the dorms at college. They even put the empty pizza boxes outside when they were finished so that the place wouldn't get ants.
        I still get all maudlin when I think about the birthday party they threw me when I turned thirty and no one else remembered. They never told me how they managed it, but they had a cake with chocolate icing and pecans (although I picked around these, fearing that I'd inadvertently eat one of the party guests) and a Japanese beetle they'd hired to do a provocative little dance for me. Not my type, but it's the thought that counts.
        The only really bad experience I had was when one of the guys invited this big red waterbug named Dirk over to the apartment. He got really out of line and wouldn't leave. Finally, I took matters in hand and chased him through the living room, finally catching him in a wad of paper towels and dropping him down the disposal. I had underestimated the toughness of the Texas waterbug, though, and before I could flip the switch that would turn him into waterbug paté, he grabbed me by the arm and tried to drag me in after him. I panicked, thrashing about, knocking over the flour canister. The guys didn't notice, they were so involved in an old episode of Gilligan's Island.
        I might have been a goner had Dirk not slipped in a slimy old piece of lettuce I'd forgot to dispose of. That was all the opening I needed, though. I nearly dislocated my volleyball-damaged left shoulder as I made a final desperate stretch toward the wall switch, but I was rewarded with a grinding roar as the disposal unit kicked on. Dirk had nearly enough time to finish the threat, "I'll be ba--" and then he was gone. Still gasping for breath, I managed to wheeze,

"I don't think so. Punk."

Exciting stuff, huh? Of course, the guys don't write or call since I moved out to the 'burbs...but then, neither do any of my other friends. Life goes on.

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