YoChicagoan Joel Hoglund consulted an apartment finder service when he and a friend were in search of a two-bedroom for less than $1,000. They hoped to find a nice place on the North Side, and if the stars were aligned, in Wrigleyville. A British woman drove them to see “a couple of ratholes that, sure enough, were under a grand,” in her tiny Volkswagon, which was packed with newspapers, McDonald’s cheeseburger wrappers, ketchup packets and the like.
Poor Joel had to squeeze himself into the backseat and sit on all the garbage. And he didn’t appreciate her smoking a cigarette with the windows almost all the way up. Joel, however, refrained from complaining because, he thought, maybe this was an old English custom.
The apartment in Ravenswood had floors that sloped at odd angles, so appliances had to be propped up with cardboard. The apartment in Buena Park was actually pretty nice, but the neighborhood was sketchy. The last apartment was in Wrigleyville one block north of the Metro. But Joel did not see it as an apartment so much as an underground cave dwelling or a windowless concrete bunker. There was no hardwood or carpeting, no drywall, just dismal concrete everywhere, and to top it off, a sloping floor.
And it gets worse: “It was February outside, but inside the place was sweltering,” Joel says. “Hot-water pipes about a foot in diameter ran the length of the ceiling. I reached up to touch one to see how hot it was and she grabbed my hand – the only thing she did for me that day. Apparently, they were boiling hot. I imagined them bursting in the night and searing off my skin, boiling to death, and other unpleasant things. So she dropped us back off at the office and I grabbed a Chicago Reader on the way out, knowing I’d do my own apartment hunting from now on.”