I just learned a Facebook friend's daughter just moved to DC and is having trouble finding a place to stay, which reminded me of all the places that I've stayed over the years in this crazy city.
In some ways, D.C. is extremely homogenized. Most people have jobs having something to do with Government, many are Type-A Go-Getters, arriving here with dreams of personal grandeur or of changing the world. (...or arriving here by accident because you lived in small towns your whole life and why not live in D.C. for a semester and see what happens?! - like I did.)
But housing in D.C. is anything but normal or standardized. It's so expensive here that people resort to all sorts of creative living situations.
At one point, I lived with five other girls in a two bedroom apartment - with one full bathroom. For five. Girls. At another point, me and my roommate had a Couch Dweller (aka one who sleeps on your couch full-time and pays you a little rent. We had one in two different apartments). But those were just two of several unorthodox environments I've encountered.
When I arrived in D.C., the most I ever spent for rent in college was $450 for a 3 bedroom townhouse. $450 that was split 3-ways between me and my roomates.
And we nearly didn't take that place because it was "a little too pricey."
I now live in a city where you spend $1000 to live like a mole in someone's basement with zero bedrooms and sometimes your shower is in your kitchen...
Here are some of my personal favorite housing adventures:
After my original semester in DC, a classmate and I decided to stay in D.C. She found a place while I was back home in Tennessee so I had no idea where it was. I still agreed to it, packed up whatever of my things I could fit in a Mustang (so, like...a toothbrush) and headed back to start my new life.
On a cot.
In a room that was only big enough ...for the cot.
In a basement that used to be a dentist office.
In the ghetto.
There were literally bars on our windows - and bullet-proof glass on the stores in the neighborhood. When my friend came to visit and started to walk from the metro to our house, a local advised him to "walk quickly..." I eventually broke the closet because my clothes wouldn't fit, the place was clearly a fire hazard, and there was mold in my roommate's room.
BUT - you could park on the street without a permit, and rent was $800 total.
I stayed a year and a half.
After that, I moved into a 2-bedroom with two other girls because they had both been living in a studio apartment together (AKA no bedrooms) so anything with a room was a step up for them, and anything where I didn't see my neighbors being handcuffed at 3am was a step up for me.
On our move into that place, one of the cushions from our couch flew off the truck on I395 and was run over by a passing truck.
We kept it. Tire tracks and all.
After that, I subletted a friend's place in D.C. for 3 months while she travelled on the Bush Campaign. My car didn't have tags for that part of the city so I parked it on a random street a few miles away, left it there through the week, and metro'd back to the house to live with her things: including a cat that woke me up at 7:30am by pawing my face.
After that, I looked online and found a random stranger to live with somewhere in Northern Virgina. She seemed normal enough....
Her lazy boyfriend ended up practically living in her room, nearly saw me naked one day when I didn't realize his sorry self was napping in there, and used our utilities without paying anything. She and I ended up having a very heated argument and parted ways after a year. However, all that was after I first moved in:
And someone was LIVING IN THE LIVING ROOM IN A TENT.
I'm not even kidding. The girl who's room I was taking was a soldier who's deployment kept getting pushed back. But instead of just staying in the bedroom - she set up her own Army camp in our living room. Where she held awkward personal calls with a guy she was breaking up with. And tents don't create sound barriers....
After she left, we never got living room furniture and I just went straight to my room each day, avoiding the other girl and the boyfriend. I got out of there as soon as I could.
Which is when I moved into another 2-bedroom with 2 other people, including our Couch Dweller. Who informed us that if we scared him by coming into the living room unannounced, he might vomit out of fear. He also broke out into spontaneous push-ups and yelled out "STRONG!" and kept his entire closet behind our couch. (Love you Brian! Mean it!)
I now live in a different place and things have been fairly normal for several years. Except when I find things near the dumpster like this.
But you know, otherwise- super normal.
Good luck, Facebook-friend's-daughter! It's sometimes a crazy ride to live here, but trust me, it's worth the craziness!