Thursday, November 4, 2010

Good News, Bad News

Again, I’ll include the whole story here, but here are a couple main developments:

The Good News: Jeff and I have our laptops back! And they work! Yaaaay! (And thanks to Dave's magic internet-tethering phone, I have internet!)
The Bad News: The apartment management is now estimating that it will be six to nine months before people on the ninth floor can live there again.

So here’s the whole story:
Though there’s not all that much I can do about the whole apartment situation, it’s still been incredibly disruptive and distracting, making it really hard to get normal work done. I haven’t been all that sad about the possibility of losing all of our stuff or having no access to our apartment, but I got pretty upset today just due to the frustration of not being able to focus on normal things I need to get done. I just want to be able to sit down and focus on one thing, and not be thinking about when I’ll go back to the apartment, under what contingencies I’ll stay where, or looking up places to stay in the future. I think the best word to describe the situation is just overwhelming.

I did manage to get some work done today, but there were also lots of new developments with the apartment situation. Jeff and I originally thought we might stay with his parents in Baltimore. It would be nice to see his parents, we’d be comfortable there, and some of our stuff is already there. But, it’d be almost impossible to make the trip to DC every day, and when we did go to College Park or DC, we’d probably need to borrow a car, and Jeff and I would need to coordinate.

Then Brendan called me and said that the Space Foundation, where I work, would pay for me to stay in an extended stay hotel or some type of corporate housing for a few weeks until I can move back into my apartment. That would be really great, because then we could stay in the DC area without having to take over a friend’s living room.

Around 7pm, we called the apartment to check the status of things. They said we might be able to get some things if we came by soon. So we ran over there immediately. When we got there, it turned out that our wing of the ninth floor was still completely off-limits (though the other wing was able to grab some of their stuff today). Our wing would maybe have access by Monday.  However, Niyi, who we keep talking with at the apartment, said that we could make a list of a few things and he would go up with some of the construction/ clean-up people and try to get them, which was really, really nice.

Trying to make a list of the ten-ish things that you would like from your apartment, not knowing when you might have access again, is a really crazy experience. It’s like one of those hypothetical questions you ask during icebreakers (e.g. If you could have ten of your belongings and nothing else, what would they be?) They also had to be things for which we could describe the location. Here was our list:

1. Suitcase(s) - We added this as an afterthought, because Niyi suggested it.
1. Laptop and cord - My computer on the coffee table
2. Laptop and cord - Jeff's computer on the kitchen table
3. Camera (SLR) - Under the couch - could definitely have been damaged by water
4. International Economics Text Book - I have class on Monday!
5. Black wool winter jackets - Mine and Jeff's - it's getting cold!
6. Camera charger - Might as well, if I'm getting the camera.
7. White box (this has our passports and other valuables) - Probably better to have get these somewhere safe
8. Boxes of Jewelry - Jeff's grandma just gave me that necklace, and I knew it was in here.
9. Any clothes that will fit in suitcases - We didn't know how describe what to get, we figured we'd just take whatever they could grab.
10. Garage opener and bike keys - Jeff's bike was in the garage, but not usable because he couldn't unlock it.

So Niyi went up and managed to get everything on the list! Yay! He actually filled a giant garbage bag full of our clothes – he grabbed everything from one of the closets.

Niyi also took pictures of our apartment. Everything looks almost completely normal. From what we can tell from the pictures it looks like there was probably standing water on the floor. And based on the things Niyi brought out for us, there is a thin layer of soot on everything. Also, everything smells like a bonfire, which is weird, but probably fixable with a couple good trips through the washing machine.

The pictures are also really strange for Jeff and I to look like, because it's such a moment-frozen-in-time sort of feel. There's a coffee cup sitting out next to the couch, a tie on the kitchen table, dishes to be done, etc. Lots of things that are not the way you would leave them if you knew you'd be gone a long time. In a weird way it reminds me of the pictures of houses in Pompeii, where people left in the middle of what they were doing.

We also got some updated information while talking to Niyi. The apartment management is now estimating that it will be six to nine months before anyone can live on the ninth floor. So essentially we need to find a new place to live.

However, the management will replace one week of hotel stays at either the Double Tree of the Washington Hilton while we look for new housing. Also, they’re reimbursing everyone for the November rent as quickly as possible.

The Double Tree was full, so Jeff and I head to the Washington Hilton, since it was already getting pretty late. When we got to the hotel, the first thing we did was flip open our laptops – and they both work! Soooo lucky! And my DSLR camera, which I keep under the couch, also seems to be completely functional! Here you can see some of the soot I wiped off my computer - not too bad.

Also, I’ve been trying to keep my status message up to date on gmail and facebook so people know where we’re at. And I have to say, Jeff and I have the most amazing friends ever! Seriously, so many people have offered us a place to stay or tried to help in other ways and it has been really, really heartwarming. We’re very lucky.

Here’s the current plan:
Things aren’t set yet, but here’s what I’m thinking at the moment.

It’s hard to do work at the Washington Hilton, because there is no (free) internet in the room, and we can’t cook any of our meals – which gets expensive. Also, we’d like to be able to do some laundry. So I think we may stay at Stephanie’s house over the weekend. She and Rosalie are both gone, so there is plenty of space for us, and Stephanie is lending us her car.

During that time, in addition to doing some school work, Jeff and I will look into new apartments to rent. We don’t want to change locations completely, and we don’t want to spend much more per month than we were before. One possibility, actually, is that we’ll move into an empty apartment within our same building.

It’s unlikely that any units will be available (even in our same building) until December, so we may still need to take my work up on the offer to do some extended stay living.

Hopefully by December at the latest we’ll be set up in a new apartment, and back to normal.

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