There’s a bank in Toronto that advertises that we are all “richer than we think.” I snickered at that this week when I discovered that I was, actually, “poorer than I thought.” It all landed on my head when I was turned down for an apartment because my income was not enough to satisfy their formula for good tenants. It was the first time I had been rejected because of money. I always think of myself as being self sufficient and, certainly, trustworthy to make sure my rent is paid on time. I’ve been paying rent since I was 19 and have never missed a payment or bounced a rent check. But there was no budging those numbers into the positive column no matter how great a tenant I would be. It made me very sad because the apartment was terrific and ticked all my boxes except for $$$. The worse thing was that it meant I had to brace myself to start looking all over again.
I hate this time of my life. Now that’s pretty dramatic but it certainly describes how I felt this morning looking at the packed boxes that have no home to go to. But I don’t feel that way every day but, definitely more often than I like. I know I should be more positive. I know that positive energy put out brings positive results back in. And some days I really am just like that. But then, that nasty fear creeps in and I sink down into a depression letting out sad laments, through sobbing tears, shaking fists of rage towards the gods — and Len, next door. All of which, obviously, does nothing to change the situation or to find me a new home. It doesn’t even feel good.
But, there are moments, even whole days, when I can clearly see the good side of this. Change is good, I tell myself. Change is normal. Change offers opportunities for new adventures and a chance to see the world from a different view. The trouble is, that when I look at apartments, that change seems pretty dismal. This week I saw one place that was located behind a barber shop in a not-so-great part of the city. I had to meet the landlord in his barbershop. He seemed like a pretty cool guy so I gave the place one point for that. Then he said, “Well, let’s go down the driveway.” I could hear my friend, Sarah, admonishing me for not having my phone with me and not letting anyone know where I was going. It was a pretty dark driveway and I had visions of coming home latish at night and encountering who-knows-whats in that driveway.
Actually, that was the best part of this apartment. As he unlocked a very flimsy lock, I had serious qualms about moving forward. There was a very high, very narrow step into the apartment. Inside was a small room attached to a smaller kitchen with no counters and old, rather dirty appliances. Since it was also pretty dark in there, I asked him, “Where are the windows?” He pointed to one small window — that was it for the whole apartment. “I couldn’t live here,” I told him. To which he replied, “Well, since the bedroom is in the basement, I don’t suppose you want to see it?” I headed for the door and the driveway. The rent for this place? $1,600 smackers, sixteen-hundred dollars. Unbelievable. I was going to ask the nice barber how he could possible charge that for this dump. But I didn’t. He would have answered just like the other landlord did at another place, “I can get it. So why not?”
Evidently, while I have been contentedly living in my fabulous apartment with my fabulous low rent surrounded by fabulous light and my fabulous neighbourhood — well, since they’re right here, my fabulous cats — the rental market out there in Toronto has turned into a cesspool of greed inaccessible to anyone who does not have a lot of money. In the last few days, the word “criminal” has crept into any conversation that I’ve had with people about what’s happening in the rental market in Toronto. Is it inevitable that if you don’t have money in Toronto, you are doomed to live in an unsafe, dirty, rodent-infested, small, dark apartment? Or are all of us not-so-rich undesirables to be shuffled out of downtown to live out of the city where none of the amenities we love and value exist?
No, I say, and no again. As I believe that these grey, cold days of March will one day turn into spring, so I believe that I will know my place when I see it. Home is coming to a world near me — soon. I do believe. I do believe. I do believe.