Hell's Bitchen

Texts from Hell['s Kitchen]

By Kelly Kreth  |
March 14, 2013 - 10:23AM

Probably the biggest mistake my landlord ever made was giving me her cell number. 

In February I was due to begin paying rent—I had paid a year up front back when I moved in—and she texted to let me know where to send the check.

Before that, when I needed to get in touch with her, I typically would call her husband as I have the number of the shop he works at around the corner and get random workmen to relay messages to him, but figured texting was a far better, convenient and deliciously passive aggressive way to communicate.

When I first noticed a bed bug crawl across my bed at 10:30 p.m. about a month ago I urgently texted her.  She told me to mail her the bug so she could have it analyzed, and texting made it way easier to put the kibosh on that and tell her I would be calling the bed bug dog in the morning so as to waste no time.

Now I text her all the time, but am sure to use a variety of emoticons and say LOL to soften the blow of complaint after complaint. I hate myself. But it is effective--my bed bug problem was handled efficiently.

On to my weekend heat problem. Or more precisely, the lack of heat on virtually every weekend. 

Before I had her cell number, I had rarely complained about this problem because, in the past, I knew her husband would not be working nearby so no one would be there at that number and I had no other way to reach them. I’d suffer through weekends of freezing temps in my apartment and sometimes no hot water.

“Whatevs,” I thought, “This is NYC living.”

But one recent Saturday my un-super super knocked on my door asking if I had “steam”. (He calls heat “steam” so I go with it.)

I said no and he asked me to contact the landlord because I speak English better than he does. I think he is just afraid of the landlord and I’m not.

I texted her: “No heat. :-("  and she responded within seconds saying she’d have her plumber look at it.

A few hours later I heard the distinct clanging of heat coming up and thought nothing else about it. But then the next weekend it was the same and after suffering through daylight hours on Saturday I texted her again, “Brrr. Freezing. It’s the RETURN OF THE BROKEN BOILER.” She responded again that a different plumber would come.

This time I was in my robe when the super knocked asking me to go into the basement yet again as his interpreter. It’s creepy down there, especially in a robe and fluffy slippers, but I am fairly intrepid.

Plumber Number Two was far more official—and by official I mean he had a shirt on with his name embroidered on it--and, more importantly, he seemed to know his shit. He explained there were myriad things wrong: The switch to the heat regular was cracked off; the vents needs to be replaced on both sides and the hot water heater was fucked. (His words, not mine.)

He explained all he could do was jankily rig the heater by hitting the bypass button and turning it up to max temps. It was seriously like being trapped in a "Lost" episode and I feared the whole island would blow up.

I wasn’t really sure what any of it meant but dutifully took notes to text the landlord. I even took pictures. I gathered from our brief talk that he was jerry-rigging the system but it would break again as rigged systems are wont to do. Plumber #2 gave the firm directive to keep janky building Plumber #1 away from the system completely.

My super, being hard of hearing along with not well versed in English, got paranoid and told me not to get him in trouble with the landlord. I tried to explain none of this had anything to do with him as he’s just the guy with a key to the underworld of the building. Still, he refused to speak to me for three days, rudely ignoring my morning greetings. (This might actually have to do with fact that I texted my landlord that the super was once again propping open the building doors with rocks; I took a picture as evidence.)

I texted my landlord with clear and in-depth notes of my robe-clad talk with Plumber #2; explained he seemed to know his shit; and she should get on this. 

Later in the day there was a notice taped to our building’s front door saying she had a court date for improperly caring for our fire escapes and they needed to be completely replaced.

Booyah! I send her a text about it, took a picture and gave the obligatory: Fire Escape FAIL and sad emoticon.

The following weekend—I suspect you are sensing a trend as three usually makes one—there was no heat. Plumber #3 was not an official plumber like Plumber #2 so I feared him and stayed away from the basement this time because in my heart I knew he was not here to actually fix the costly heat regulator’s broker switch or change the vents. I suspected there was some rigging going on with nothing more than an exacto knife and some duct tape and didn’t want to have to witness that.

I texted my landlord one more time telling her the boiler still seemed on the fritz and she said it’d be fixed by summer which I assume means that in a month or two we won’t need heat and voila! the problem will technically be fixed….for several months.

The heat pumped on again in a few hours and I suspect soon there will be a huge boiler explosion that will engulf the building in flames. (At least it will be warm then.)

I will try, of course, to use the fire escape to flee, but having seen the notice, I will probably fall to my death below. Wish me luck.

See all Hell's Bitchen

More posts by Kelly Kreth:

15 things I've learned from 'Million Dollar Listing NY' so far

The 20 deadly sins NYC rental agents should never commit (but do)

Escape from the UES: Goodbye douchebaggery, hello Hell's Kitchen

Dear Neighbor: I am your worst nightmare

Living next to a bridge & tunnel club: KY Jelly wrestling, all-night noise, no regrets


Kelly Kreth

Contributing writer

Contributing writer Kelly Kreth has been a freelance journalist, essayist, and columnist for more than two decades. Her real estate articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Luxury Listings, Our Town, and amNewYork. A long-time New York City renter who loves a good deal, Kreth currently lives in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment in a luxury building on the Upper East Side.

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