I met OCD and it scared me.
One of the realtors we've been meeting with told me last week that she had an apartment, a "wonderful place" with everything we were looking for, but that the owner was "a little difficult." She didn't elaborate, and I didn't press. After all, difficult people tend to like me, and I often prefer them. There's always a story with difficult people! Besides, finding a good, furnished apartment in Rio is hard. I'd be willing to put up with a lot if the couch was nice and it had a porch...
We went on Saturday to view the place. It was much closer than we'd expected and so we showed up a few minutes late. Two women were waiting for us: our realtor and another lady, who would actually be showing us the place. Our realtor wasn't coming up, which I found a little strange, but whatever. We got in the elevator and the new girl, let's call her Bia, asks,
"So, do you have a problem wearing shoe covers?"
Oh dear. I know where this is going. We are walking straight into an episode of Seinfeld.
"No, provided that it won't be a requirement if we actually rent the place!"
The door is open to the apartment as we step out the elevator and a lady is standing there, a little nervous.
"Oh, oh, you're here already? Hold on one second, please," she says, rushing back into the apartment in her bare feet to answer the intercom. The doorman apparently forgot to advise that we were coming up. She returns, stool and shoe covers in hand, offering them to us with all graciousness. While Bia tries to talk through the awkwardness and find a happy medium between apologizing for the inconvenience to us and not offending the lady for being a clean freak, the owner seems oblivious to the fact that this is not normal.
I peer inside (she is blocking the entrance until our covers are on...) and am impressed. The place is immaculate. It looks like it's been styled for an apartment magazine shoot, the kind with thick, glossy pages that retails for over 50 bucks. A single perfect orchid rests on the glass table, the wooden parquet floors are buffed to a nearly mirrored finish. Which is lovely to look at, but with shoe covers, it's a bit like being a kid on the ice rink for the first time. I had visions of myself skidding across the living room and crashing into the perfectly aligned books…
The place was perfect. Tiny but well-proportioned, great storage, a spacious kitchen (still lacking counter space but at least the counters weren't threatening concussions like ours do) and an actual SHOE closet! The spare bedroom, converted into an office, had the full-length closets turned into a makeshift filing cabinet. We peered inside to find office supplies sorted by color and type, evenly spaced along the shelves, not a grain of dust, not a single angle off.
Up to this point, we were just looking. But then Bia asked what we thought about the place.
"Oh, it's lovely!" I replied. Poor hubby, not really following all the conversation, was giving me happy signs. He likes verandas. "We like it," I proffered. After a cautious smile from the owner, we switch to English, where she grills him about Houston (her husband lives there and vetos all the renting applicants if their companies don't meet their criteria) and his job. Whether his company was Brazilian or American (both) and so forth...And then the interrogation began in earnest.
Nervous, with an aggressiveness that belied some serious control and fear issues, she asked about pets. If we liked them, I think. (The best answer to pretty much every one of this woman's otherwise innocuous questions was a lie.) No pets. How long are you going to stay in the country? We're willing to sign a full contract, is that okay? I don't want to rent to anyone who will only be staying a year...are you going to have kids? I don't want kids...are you sure you're not going to have them? She looked askance at me when I laughed and said we were newlyweds and I didn't have family in the city. Brazilians depend on their families to help with kids, so I figured this would ease her mind and I was enjoying seeing how far this would go. (It was only a slight fib. I don't want to have kids RIGHT THIS SECOND nor do I want them to go to school here, but I'm not discarding the possibility of near-to-later future.)
When we finally left, I had a hard time containing both my lust for the apartment, my incredulity at the amount of crazy we'd just been exposed to, and my frustration that the apartment search was not anywhere CLOSE to being over.
As hubby pointed out, it would be nice to live there. But we might have to pay $30,000 to leave if anything got scratched!
Though, if anyone has experience in writing a Brazilian rental contract that protects the renters from landlord's foibles and potentially manic freakouts about normal wear and tear, I would love to enlist your services!