Stylized line drawing of mark playing the flute

Renting an Apartment in Boston

Working for a startup has plusses and minuses. One of the big perks is a certain amount of flexibility when dealing with unique personal situations.

It was late 1999 and my wife and I were looking to move out of our shithole Boston apartment into something nicer (eg had functioning heating, a non-rotting bathroom and didn’t constantly lose power because of blown fuses).

Here’s how renting an apartment in Boston worked at the time.

\1. Scour real estate listing for possibilities.

\2. Make zillions of phone calls only to find everything unavailable because you don’t have the necessary personal connection to have gotten to the listing first.

\3. Resign yourself to hiring a real estate company to do the searching for you. This costs 1 month’s rent.

\4. Finally find a decent place, sign a lease. Put down first and last month’s rent as a deposit. For those of you keeping score, we’re now at 3 month’s rent and we haven’t even moved in yet.

\5. Find out that the landlord requires a security deposit because you have cats. The deposit is 1 month’s rent.

\6. Try not to think about the fact that you’re paying FOUR MONTH’S RENT just to move into a slightly nicer apartment.

We’d decided, since this apartment had a decent basement we shared with the landlord, we were going to splurge and buy our first washer and dryer (a washer and dryer that we still have to this day). According to the real estate agent, all other appliances including refrigerator were covered.

Fast forward to one week before move-in day.

The real estate agent calls. There has been a miscommunication and there is no refrigerator. This is a problem because we no longer have enough money to buy a refrigerator.

In the end, the decision is made to cash in my meager 401k plan from work which had just enough to cover a new fridge.

I went and talked to the CFO of our small company. He initially tried to talk me out of cashing in the 401k but, when I explained the situation, helped me gather the necessary paperwork. He also went to great lengths to make sure things were expedited so I’d get the money in time.

Of course, banks being what they are, the day before moving day came and there was no 401k money in sight.

In the end, this CFO drove me to Circuit City (my car was out of commission) and bought a fridge on his personal credit card. The fridge was delivered the next day and I paid him back a couple of weeks later when the 401k money came in.

A year later, 6 months after I had quit and moved to the West Coast, this friendly CFO resigned after a big blowout with the CEO and VP of the company. 2 weeks after that, everyone’s paychecks bounced. 1 week after that, they sent everyone home.

Unfortunately, those paychecks never came through for everyone.

I still think fondly of this guy, although I’m ashamed to say I don’t remember his name any more, and the great lengths he went to on our quest for a fridge (a fridge that was just retired last month).