SOOOOOO if you haven't figured this out yet, I've had a lot of crazy, weird, life-experience. Amazing now, having this site - I can get these stories outta my head and onto paper ... er, not paper, into the blogosphere ... er, we're not really a blog since this is a revolution ... but you get what I mean and where I am going with this. I lead a very. very. very. interesting life - to say the least.
In 2007, I lost everything I owned in a massive cockroach infestation. True story ... here's how it all happened.
Please note, because of certain legalities surrounding this story (yep, bitches got SUED!), I can't say exactly where my apartment was, or the exact outcome of the final settlement. Cool, that appeases the suits. Let's get 'er done.
Here's the song I'm jammin' to ...
Picture it. Summer of 2007. Pre the recession, pre the latest threat of the apocalypse, pre ... well a lot of things. I was working as a sales rep for Verizon indirect sales, and had just gotten out of a just shy of a year long relationship. Our relationship was sort of on its last leg for the last 60 days or so, so since we lived together in a townhouse, I opted to get a "commuter" apartment closer to my sales territory. Yeah, bullshit. I knew what I was doing, he knew what was going on - we just both weren't quite ready to throw in the towel. I don't remember what exactly happened, but yeah! the day finally came and we both threw in the towel.
I packed all my belongings up, and fully moved myself into this BEAU.TIFUL. apartment. Like seriously!! It was a studio, with a brick wall (very NY), a massive kitchen/ dining area, and even a little vanity outcove by the bathroom.
It was the perfect bachelorette pad, and the perfect location for me to be able to see all of my accounts and make it back at a relatively descent hour. Wasn't in the greatest area, but wasn't in the worst either. It ran me $900 a month, but I didn't care - I just wanted to start my new life being single, and focus on getting over how bad the last few months were. Tangent: UGHHH!! The slow death of a relationship suckkkkksssssss!! Seriously, just pull the band-aid off peoples. PULL. IT. OFF!
I had noticed not long after moving into the apartment full time that there were a few roaches here and there. I just figured it was city living, and it was a SUPPERRRRR old building, so whatever - I can deal.
(The building was an old 1920s hotel - like seriously old, but SERIOUSLY beautiful. Very very very posh, glam, and old Hollywood.)
Living in Los Angeles means you are never home. No, seriously. I was 23, I had 80 accounts I was managing across Southern California, and a pretty active social life to maintain. I was home for a few hours in the morning, a few at night, and a handful on the weekend. Pretty much just long enough for me to play with my doggie El Senor Rocky Balboa - yes, his name is longer than he is.
I was there for about a month before my mama came out from back east to make sure I was okay after the break up, and check in on me as it had been a few months since we saw each other.
She arranged to come out 4th of July weekend, and boom! The day came here before either of us knew it.
Like any good mother who has a daughter that just went through a super gnarly breakup - of course, she stops off and grabs some champagne on her way to the apartment from the airport.
LET'S CELEBRATE! She proclaimed.
I grabbed two super big wine glasses from the kitchen and say, we're going to need this.
ANNNNNDDDD there went the bottle. HAHA, we had a blast. It was great to see her, and we gabbed the night away.
Then, came time for bed. We both put our glasses down - I put mine on the floor, and she put hers on my nightstand.
We had arranged for the next morning to go and do a series of super touristey things, so I was looking forward to a good night sleep before an otherwise relatively draining day.
I woke up the next morning, to my mom SCCCRREEAMMMINNNNGGG!!!
What?! What?! What?! I said!
Jennifer, you have a bug problem.
Oh, mom, I know. It's just a few roaches here and there - it's city living, what can I do about it.
No Jennifer, I'm serious. LOOK!
She points to our glasses that had less than a sip of champagne in each and there were 3 dead roaches floating in mine, and six floating in hers.
Yeah, fucking. gross.
That's it! You cannot live like this - if you're not going to do this for yourself, do it for your dog. Think about what he must be exposed to.
You're right, I thought. Let's go.
We then went and talked to the manager who lived on premises. We knock on her door, and explain the situation. She then informs us that they will send someone to spray sometime over the next few days.
Not a problem. My mom and I continued our touristey little day. See! See! Here's a picture from that day:
See, when you live here - you never ever do things like this.
We had a great time, and over the next few days, my mom had a great visit. On her very last day, there was a note on the door saying that someone was going to be spraying in the morning.
Yes, finally! I thought.
I was given a series of instructions on what to do to prepare that included leaving the premises for 24 hours, removing all living things, emptying out all of the cupboards, and putting all of my things in the middle of the living room.
Not a problem. Fortunately my mom was there to help, so it didn't take very long.
The morning came, July 7th, it was time to say goodbye to my mom, and time to say goodbye to those gross gross roaches.
I dropped my mom off at the airport, and took my little buggar around with me for the day to all of my accounts while they sprayed. I don't remember exactly where I spent the night, but either way, 24 hours later - I went back.
I was warned that there would be a lot of dead roaches, so I picked Rocky up, and walked further into the unit to examine the bodies.
I remember walking into the apartment, and something did not look right. I can't even describe what I was feeling other than it was that eerie feeling of "you know you're not alone."
I walked the perimeter of the apartment, and didn't see that many roaches - one here, one there. Nothing to write home about, and certainly nothing as bad as I had been experiencing.
I then hear something move under the tarp. (Remember, I had all of my things moved in the middle of the living room - the spray duderinos put a plastic tarp over it.)
I lift up the piece of plastic.
Insert very literally THOUSANDS of roaches inside all of my things.
Tangent: I say things ... let me personalize it a bit more. This was EVERYTHING THAT I OWNED in life in the middle of this living room. Clothing, baby pictures, yearbooks, various academic awards, baby blankets - I mean LITERALLY everything. Look around the room you are in right now ... take EVERYTHING off the walls, out of EVERY drawer, empty EVERY shelf, clean out your ENTIRE closet, and you have this unbelievably massive heap of Jen Friel in the middle of a fucking living room that is now inhabited with at first eye ball - at LEAST a thousand roaches. Dudes, this is at LEAST!
I SCCRREEEAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMM as I still hold Rocky and RUN out of that apartment shrieking down the hall to the manager.
They're still in there!!! THERE'S SO MANY NOW!!! WHERE DID THEY COME FROM!!!?!?!
The manager attempts to calm me down, and says there is nothing she can do right now, but she will call the exterminator in the morning and make sure they come back to take care of it.
FINE! I say! JUST TAKE CARE OF IT!!!
I call up my friends Chelsie and Alex (who btw, Chelsie I met back in 2005 on the shuttle to the playboy mansion. True story, those chicas are friggen family to me), tell them what is going on, and ask if I can crash on their couch.
OMG, yes! I'm so sorry.
Mind you, all of the bugs were inside all of my clothing at that time. I couldn't grab any new clothing for work or play. Fortunately, I always kept a change of clothes for both work and going out in the back of my beetle since I was a road warrior, I never knew if I was going to need it.
Totes came in handy!
I go to their place and crash on the couch with Rocky Balboa. I vividly remember that night trying to close my eyes and not being able to shake the unbelievable horror that I had just witnessed.
I'm not a pussy by any stretch of the imagination (although I do have one), I have NEVER. EVER. seen that many bugs of ANY kind in my entire life. This was like 1980s horror movie worthy. It was just ... wow. BAD!
I was so spooked after what I had witnessed the first day, that I waited 48 hours before returning to the apartment; I was attempting to ground myself and prepare myself emotionally for anything before returning.
I drive back to my building, and pull into the lot. I remember sitting in my car and taking deep breath after deep breath. I left Rocky over at Alex and Chelsie's because I figured no matter what they were also going to have to send a cleaning crew in, so it wasn't like I was going to be even allowed back in that night.
I walk up the old creaky stairs from the garage, and into the hallway. I stand for a moment.
I don't want to do this ... I don't want to do this ...
Breathe Jen. Grow a pair, and just do it. No one else is here to help you. You're a big girl.
I fiddle for my keys as I walk down the hall to my door. I put the key inside the lock and slowly turn it.
I turn the knob and open the door slowly.
I immediately start coughing from fumes as I pull my shirt up over my nose and mouth.
::cough cough cough::
The apartment is dark, adding 100 points to the creep factorness.
I take my left hand and reach for the light switch - turning it on.
I SCCRREEEAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM as I realize not only is my ENTIRE apartment covered in roaches, some still alive, but they are still falling from the CEILING!!!!!
THIS IS AN INFESTATION, I scream as I run down the hall to find the manager.
This is an INFESTATION!!!!! Where did all of these roaches come from!?!?!?! I can barely get the words out of my mouth. I want to talk to the landlord ... NOW!!!!!! This is Disgusting!!!!!!! These did NOT just come from my apartment, and this is NOT just because this is an old building!!! I have never ... EVER seen anything like this.
Looking back, the poor woman - I was SCREAMING to the likes of which I have never done before in this woman's face. Albeit yes, she is the manager, this wasn't exactly her fault - but in that moment, I didn't care.
She grabs a flashlight from her unit, and proceeds to walk down the hall to my apartment.
I warn her, this is bad. This is really bad.
I stay in the hallway not wanting to go back in.
Less than 60 seconds later she comes back out - we have a problem.
Yeah, no shit Sherlock.
She then tells me that she will call the landlord in the morning, and asked if I can meet her back here then.
I told her I would be expecting some sort of reprieve on the rent for being put out so many days.
I understand, and that's something we can talk to the landlord about in the morning.
Fine. I will be here.
I get back in my car, and I am having a full blown heeby jeebs attack. Like SERIOUSLY. Every time I felt an itch on my leg I FREAKED out thinking it was a roach ... omg even now writing this, I just scratched my leg. Ewe. Ewe. Ewe.
I drove back to Alex and Chelsie's and the next morning, there I went right back to my apartment.
I was excited meeting with the landlord knowing that there was no way she could deny what was happening in the apartment. There were literally THOUSANDS of roaches, SOME STILL ALIVE!!! all over my things, all over the floor, all over the kitchen, all over the dining room, in the bathtub, in the sink, FALLING FROM HOLES IN THE CEILING!!!!!!! I kid you not when I say this was an infestation. Just - period end of sentence.
The landlord arrives on time - she was some super corporate looking chick, and agrees to examine the unit.
Again, I warn her, as I take my stance in the hallway.
A few minutes goes by, she still hasn't come out.
I peer through the door, she sees me.
Well, I don't know what you expect us to do. You have a bug problem.
Wait, hold the phone here ... "I" have a bug problem? Me?!?! The chick that's been here for like a month, and as is, is barely even home?!?! Wait, wait, wait, "I" have this problem? I don't even have groceries in my fridge - how did "I" do this?
There are a myriad of explanations I can give you.
Um yeah. Well let me tell you this - you are not only spraying again, you are going to clean every inch of this apartment. This ISN'T my problem, this is a building issue.
A roach, as if sent on a perfect suicide mission, then fell from the ceiling and landed directly on her Jimmy Choo.
How's the unit above me doing?? Think the roaches from up there are my problem too??
We'll be in touch.
She leaves the apartment.
I close the door, and reach into my purse and grab my camera. (Yes, camera! Not camera phone! I was rockin a blackberry back in the day, and it didn't have a camera. SHOCKING!)
Being a lawyer's daughter, I knew I needed to take pictures - particularly since I wasn't staying there, I had no idea what these people were going to do ... I just knew that now I had pissed them off being so vocal.
I snapped pictures of literally every.single.inch. of that apartment - and then proceeded to take video of every.single.inch. of everything. I couldn't even touch what was in the middle of the living room, all of my belongings, those were COMPLETELY infested. HARDCORE!!! Dude, put a white shirt down on your table, imagine not even being able to tell the color of that shirt because there are THAT many bugs on the damn thing. This wasn't just a ... oh, few bug issue - remember, I wasn't even going to call them when I saw a roach here and a roach there. This was THOUUSAAANNNDDDDDDDSSSSS OFFFFF THHEEMMMMMMMM!!!
I took out my blackberry, and proceeded to google "board of health."
I think this is something that they need to be involved in.
After about 6 department redirects, I finally figured out where I needed to be, and left a message for the duderino to call me back.
I pulled myself together at that point realizing I still had accounts to visit for work, I did my best to put this all out of my head and focus on the task at hand - helping my accounts sell more Verizon activations.
Later that afternoon, the board of health duderino called me back.
What's the address??
Oh, it's XXXXX XXXXXXX road.
AHHH yes, I know that building.
Yeah. Talk about 6 words you never ... ever ... want to hear come out of the board of health inspector's mouth.
"ah yes, I know that building."
That building to him was my home. My new beginning of a new life after a break up ... my everything.
That was me inside of that building! My things!!! My memories!!!
He agrees to meet me the next morning.
Thank you so much for your timely response - I really appreciate it. Things are really bad over there, and I just want to be able to move on with things and get back home. I hate sleeping on a couch (hahahahahaa, funny considering my last year).
I remember our appointment time was at 10 am.
I remember the day, 80 degrees. Sunny. Not a cloud in the sky. That day was the reason why people moved to Southern California in the first place.
I see him standing outside, I introduce myself.
Hi, I'm Jen.
Hi, I'm Sam he says with a mild hint of an Indian accent.
He is dowdy looking - the typical "I am the board of health inspector" kinda guy. In a movie ... he would play himself. hahahaha. I can't imagine anything phasing him, I'm sure he's seen it all in this town.
We walk into the building, and down the hall to the apartment.
I say nothing. No warning, no ... nothing.
He takes one look at the place and says - this is bad.
Wait I take that back ... THAT is the NUMBER ONE thing you never. ever. want the board of health duderino to ever say about you.
"This is bad!?!?!?"
This is LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA!!!!! I've seen on the news all of the slumlord problems and what not - and you think THIS is bad?!?!
He walks through the unit stepping on roach after roach. Some alive, some dead.
Spraying isn't going to do anything - this is an infestation.
I stay quiet.
Jen, we are going to have to condemn the apartment.
Condemn? What do you mean? Like, I know the literal definition of the word - but what does it mean?
It means you can't live here ...
My brain races - alright fine, I'll just pop on Craigslist, find a new studio. I'll have to get them to clean all of my things, but whatever, it can be done.
... and anything in this apartment cannot be removed.
MY THINGS?!?!?!?!?!!?!??!!? YOU CAN'T TAKE MY THINGS?!?!?!?!?!
Miss, they're already gone. When it comes to this type of an infestation roaches can get into any little crack or crevice and leave an egg sack. If you don't leave your things, this problem will follow you - it is my job to stop that. I am saying as a representative of the board of health, that you are not allowed to take anything from this apartment.
I had gone through a lot in my life at that point ... considered myself a relatively tough chiquita banana ... I have never, and i mean never sobbed so hard in my entire life. I didn't even do the "pretty chick cry" with a few tears here and there - I started WHAAAAAILLLIINNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG from the DEPTHS of my TOOOEEESSSSSSSSSS.
Sam places both of his hands on my shoulders and embraces me.
My arms laid at my side, my body incapable of movement.
My great grandmother's antique chest. My yearbook. The afghan my mom made for me before I was born. The teddybear lamp that was given to me when I was 6 and was hospitalized for being bitten by a friend's dog. My desktop computer. Every thing I owned, every thing I was, had to stay.
I was completely. Totally. And utterly in shock.
Like shock ... shock ...
It wasn't like I lost things in a fire, and had only charred remains. I could SEE my things - although yes, they were covered in cockroach carcass, I could still SEE them!!!! They were RIIIGGHHHHTTTTTTT there.
The inspector helped me out of the apartment.
You're going to be okay, miss. I am very sorry. I have to say, this is an extreme case, and one of the worst cases I have ever seen.
Why can't I just clean things? I don't understand. My clothing?
Miss, they aren't going to go away. They leave a scent, they leave a trail. I can't let you take anything out.
He hands me his card and tells me I can pick up the report in a few days.
He walks out the front door, and I collapse in the hall.
THIS. IS. NOT. HAPPENING.
A few minutes go by - I don't collect myself emotionally because that wasn't about to happen, but I grab my blackberry and call my parents.
I can barely even get the words out to my mom ... everything ... gone ... condemned ....
I start whailing again.
My mom starts crying right along with me. I'm so sorry baby. I'm so sorry - I didn't know it was that bad either.
I call work and tell them I need a personal day - and proceed to drive back to Alex and Chelsie's in a complete state of shock.
Dead to the world.
Dead to myself.
Everything I owned ... gone with one word: condemned
I stare off into space, and drift off into sleep.
Later that day, Alex and Chelsie came home from work. I explained to them what was going on, and they comforted me.
Stay here as long as you'd like. Anything we can do for you! I'm just so sorry this is happening.
Yeah, the best friends a chick could EVER ask for.
The next few days were a blur. I remember the board of health dude telling me that he was going to formally file some stuff with the landlord saying that I couldn't go back, and that the unit was inhabitable.
The landlord then fired back some super gnarly shit. It got weird ... for a while. So much so that I got an attorney, a super mean one in Beverly Hills, and he took care of everything for me (mind you that process took two years before it was all said and done).
In total per the report, it was noted that there were over 100,000 roaches in the unit. I don't know what happened to the building, I know it's still standing, but I have no idea what they did with my stuff, I just know it's gone.
This was a really difficult thing to experience. I very literally had a life do-over.
It took me almost 2 years to fully process emotionally losing everything that I owned. So many times I would think, oh! lemme go grab this XXXX, and then POOF realize - um yeah, it's not here anymore. I lost work related things, I lost ... everything.
My family would even ask me about various pieces, and every time I would tear up and say, I'm so sorry ... it was really hard on everyone. I felt like I failed in some capacity. Even though I knew it wasn't my fault, how can you have this super old looking chest that is LITERALLY HUNDREDS of years old that doesn't even survive a year in LA? Total lame sauce.
I learned from this experience however that as much as I wanted to say that Jen Friel was there, in the middle of that living room ... I in fact wasn't. I'm still here ... today ... writing all of this. I wasn't in those belongings, and I never will be. We like to tie memories to something tangible like a chest, or a teddy-bear lamp - but those are just things, and they're just being. The memories stay with you ... in your heart ... and those last a lifetime.
I wouldn't say that I wanted to have that experience, but when it came time for me to give everything up that I owned to start this website and move into my car, it was super easy. I was like pffffttttt! I can totally do that over again. It was such a no brainer to follow what made me happy versus focusing on just the things that surrounded me.
Had I not had this experience however, I don't think I would have been able to do it. In that regard, I am thankful.
But things are just things, people. They come ... they go ... but you stay the same. I am a LOT less materialistic than I was prior to this experience ... and I dunno, I'm just so much happier not having so much clutter in my life. It was my ego that felt a void of sort that felt like I needed to fill it with designer clothing, and purses. Now, I rock vans, wear the same hoodies over and over cause I genuinely like them ... and I'm frankly, a lot more happier than I have ever been.
Thanks a heap for reading this post guys! Superly duperly appreciate it. You can click here if you want to read the blog I put up on Myspace the day I got the check. Kinda rad.
All my love and all my heart TNTML! Do what you LOOOVVEEEEEE!!!! Don't focus on the "things!" They come ... and trust me, they go!!! =)
PS. I'm also super glad I listened to my mom in calling them in the first place. I had this wicked cough and had no idea it was from the roaches. The board of health dude said I was lucky my doggie was still alive. He was shocked he didn't get super sick from that level of exposure. Totally fucking gross. BAHHHHH!!!