Do I really need a toilet?

It’s the peak of the pandemic, and I’m looking for an apartment for the first time in 17 years. Some things never change: Finding a pla...

It’s the peak of the pandemic, and I’m looking for an apartment for the first time in 17 years. Some things never change: Finding a place in Lower Manhattan is tough if you’re not fabulously wealthy.

I just saw a 150 square foot studio apartment on West Fourth Street for $2,000 a month, and was told I could save space by hanging my winter coat in the stairwell. ‘building. “It would probably be safe there,” the agent reassures me.

He then takes me to a “duplex” around the corner, a ground floor cell with a menacing spiral staircase that spills into a windowless basement. “$2,300,” he tells me. “Better break it. Won’t last.

I love my sunny Greenwich Village apartment, but Covid has gotten me in the way: My theater and teaching work has dried up, my lease is expiring, and the landlord is raising my rent as prices drop across town. The thought of moving during a pandemic is daunting, and the likelihood of my friends risking infection to help me carry furniture up four floors is remote. On the plus side, for the first time since the Clinton administration, I might be able to afford a decent apartment without leaving the comforts of Lower Manhattan.

At the end of 2020, I see a great apartment on Carmine Street. Amazing is a relative term, of course. This apartment is raw, the designer loved stucco, and the hardwood floors are painted a brutalist gray. But it’s huge: a real two-bedroom apartment, with high ceilings, incredible light and a breathtaking view of Greenwich Village, all for $1,995 a month. Now that I’m working from home, the extra space feels positively luxurious. I’m ready to make an offer.

The agent, who described each closet as seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, pulls me aside at the end of the tour. “Did you notice anything about the bathroom?”

I am intrigued by his sense of mystery. Was there a bidet that I missed? A Jacuzzi ?

“No toilet.”

Before telling me that, he holds my gaze for a few seconds, as if to say, “A less scrupulous agent wouldn’t divulge this, but I’ll even you out because that’s the kind of agent I am.” He is proud of himself.

I had actually peeked into the bathroom and noticed the large tub and sink. I missed the glaring omission, though, because you don’t usually notice things missing until you need them. (See: lifeboats/Titanic.)

“No, uh, a toilet? is all I can handle. If I wasn’t wearing a mask, it would have been a good time for a spit catch.

“A lot of people prefer it that way,” he assures me. “It’s cleaner.”

I find it hard to believe that there are people who prefer not have toilets in their apartment. For the record, it’s the only bathroom in the apartment. And the toilets are not broken. It’s just not there. It never was. The ad, which mentions that the apartment is close to an Equinox and a Starbucks, fails to mention this.

“So what happens when, uh, we need to use the bathroom?” I ask.

He leads me to a single toilet stall in the hallway and tells me it’s shared by the apartments upstairs. No sink, just a toilet.

This is an old building, and a shared bathroom was common when it was built over a century ago. I love old things and I enjoy seeing this history alive; at the same time, I’m not sure I want to be that intimate with the story.

It’s a deal-breaker, of course. Where is it? Huge arched windows. In the heart of Greenwich Village. Less than $2,000. No storage of my clothes in the hallway.

When I get home, I call friends for advice.

My citizen friend is in favor of it: “Americans are too isolated in their little bubbles. I support collective efforts. Also, most people share bathrooms with family or roommates. You would only share the toilet.

Another friend wonders how a romantic interest might react when she asks where the bathroom is and is told to line up in the hallway and wait her turn. My potty training friend offers the extra plastic toilet they keep in the bathroom.

Another friend votes against, saying fervently, “You don’t want to be known as the guy who doesn’t have a toilet in his apartment.

And there are questions: who cleans the bathroom? How many people live upstairs? Do you share it with one other person or 11? If the bathroom is occupied, can you use the bathroom on another floor? Why did this building resist the bathroom-to-apartment conversion, which pretty much every other building in New York undertook under the FDR administration?

I google about installing my own toilet and learn that it’s not a simple solution: not only would I have to connect pipes to the main sewer line – which would require ripping up floors and walls – this should most likely be done on every floor, per New York City building codes.

There are a few unorthodox options – there’s something called a macerating toilet that can apparently be hooked up to a regular line – but I decide I don’t want to run an illegal toilet out of my apartment.

I’m tempted to rent the apartment anyway. The communal pool in my childhood neighborhood in Texas made friends from all the neighbors – could this have a similar effect? Imperfect indoor plumbing was enough for every human being on Earth until about 100 years ago – surely I could manage. I was a student of ancient history – this will connect me to the past. I am an artist – this will keep me humble.

Plus, and that’s a big deal, the apartment is twice the size of anything I’ve seen in my price range, and it’s bright and airy, a canvas on which I could make a big home. .

In the end, I decide not to. Two weeks passed and I saw 10 more depressing apartments, all smaller, with lower ceilings, fewer windows. I check online. The Carmine apartment is now down to $1,850 per month. I’m thinking about it. I still think about it a bit. I double check two days later, and it’s in the contract. Too late.

I’m starting to realize that most Lower Manhattan places in my price range have a flaw. They would be marked “irregular”, if such a thing existed for apartments.

While an untraditional space appeals to me — an old warehouse or converted church sounds lovely — the quirks prove more mundane: The handsome apartment on East 12th Street has a stand-alone shower in the living room, promising to make the awkward parental visits; the penthouse on West 21st is lit mostly by a skylight, with narrow bunker-style windows at eye level, perfect for survivors or bats. I begin to despair.

But the large one-bedroom apartment on Avenue B is perfect. A corner apartment, bathed in sunlight, it comes complete with a home office, for a more than reasonable price of $1,895 per month.

I can’t find any faults so I guess it must be haunted. At this stage of my research, it suits me. The street noise can sound like Rio de Janeiro at carnival, and I expect the rent to skyrocket when the lease expires post-pandemic, but I’m signing on the dotted line.

Not before rechecking the bathroom, though.

New York-based writer Stephen Ruddy is often at The Moth and McSweeney’s, and is one of the creators of the upcoming scripted podcast, “The Rubber Room.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Do I really need a toilet?
Do I really need a toilet?
Newsrust - US Top News
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