What are Your Deal Breakers?

I just want to do laundry in my apartment. In Austin, that’s a problem. I’ve heard a lot of reasons for this, most of them being that apartments built in central Austin were built in or around the 70s when, apparently, if you didn’t own a house, you went to a laundromat. My mother confirms that when she was doing laundry in that decade this is exactly what she and my father did.

Now, I’ve gone to laundromats. In Florida, I went to one where the owner called me baby, and offered suggestions for how I could do laundry in a way that was more pleasing to her standards. (I did laundry fine, but she didn’t like how I combined certain things into a single load, and she was not afraid to make this known.) The best thing about that place was that they had a Ms. Pac-Man machine where I spent 50 cents for every load of laundry that I did, making a $2.50 wash and dry cycle a nice, even $3.00. In college, I often had to but cross the street to do laundry, and I’m ashamed to say a lot of shirts got sprayed with perfume and worn more than once because I put off washing clothes until the last minute.

I know myself, and I know that I have a professional job, where I can’t go to work in clothes that smell like yesterday or run by a thrift store and pick up a used t-shirt for $1.00. So, while I’ve been apartment hunting, I’ve really had to ask myself how much of a deal breaker is having washer and dryer connections. Last week, a very nice apartment locator did some research and showed me my two options. One was older and not in the best part of town, and it’s completely shallow to say this but the real deal breaker was not that it might not be that safe but rather that the chandelier in the kitchen was ugly and the carpet looked like it was made out of teddy bear fur.

The other was cute. Soooo cute! Dark wood cabinets, a very cool swimming pool and huge stainless steel grills. Somehow even the parking garage was sexy. It was the epitome of style, but it was small (a tad shy of 600 square feet) and expensive ($920 a month for rent alone). I did the math, I called my mother and discussed budget. She pointed out that I can be a bit of a tightwad, which is sort of true, but ultimately it’s not a question of losening purse strings. It’s a question of freezing any frivolous spending, especially in the summer months when I work less. It’s getting a summer job instead of having a few months off.

My friend Mike had warned me this might happen. He told me that it was uncommon to find washer and dryer connections in apartments where he lived and that it was usually more expensive. I heard him say those things, but I never really believed it would be the thing that priced me out of the market. I knew it would be more, but not that much more. And those were the two options available to that were remotely within my price range. And suddenly, this one thing that I was fixated on and hung up on seemed kind of stupid. I felt pressure to give on this one thing, and I would suddenly have so many options available to me.

I was a little heartbroken at the end of the apartment tours, but my locator, Dwight, was pretty great. The last locator I had tried, just didn’t show me places that had a washer and dryer option. They were small, and laundry machines wouldn’t have fit anyway, but I had asked for them specifically, and had soured when I realized he gave me three options that just didn’t have the thing I wanted. Did he think I wouldn’t notice? And it felt like he was suggesting: Well, that’s impossible, so get over it and look at how great the location is at this place!

Dwight on the other hand, said, “I need to you to think on it tonight, and let me know what you want to do tomorrow. If it were me, I’d want a washer and dryer, but if you decide you can live without it, we’ll look at a few other places.”

And that was a huge relief to me because it made me feel like what I wanted wasn’t stupid. That I wasn’t impractical or naive to want this one thing. I did think on it, and decided that of the two options I saw, the best was the hidden third option of staying where I was. I’m currently looking for a new roommate when mine moves out in August, and if nothing pans out in the next few weeks, I’ll be calling Dwight up again and reconsidering my options. Is there another part of town I might be happy to live in? Am I willing to pay more than I originally wanted to spend (which was still pretty far south of the $920 I might pay for a sexy, sexy parking garage)? And maybe I’ll have to go out to do my laundry, which probably means first spending $200 on gym clothes so I can get another week or two between doing the load I do about once a week now. But at least I feel like I’m not wrong to want what I want even if it isn’t what I end up getting in the end.

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