Before we head downstairs, you may wonder why I didn't take more photos. I can honestly say, being a fan of iphone 'of-the-moment' photography, I was just a bit overwhelmed by the tasks and situations at hand to possibly think of capturing more after the nightmare that was upstairs. I also just didn't want to touch my phone. The previous post's photos did a good job of summating the worst of the experience anyway. Yes, I'm retro-justifying not taking pictures.
Apartment 5 - Teen Parents.
Upon walking into this unit, I noticed a somewhat less smoke stained environment than the sty upstairs. Instead of the dense stale cigarette smell, we were treated a smorgasbord of air filled with moldy food and cat box odor. There were the obligatory discarded ashtrays full of butts and typical abandoned furniture and food packages. Although the cushions of the oversized crushed velvet couch and matching chair were all relatively intact, they were left in what I suppose was their original places - as though the previous owner possibly considered feng shui. In, under and around the furniture was, at this point, even more stained newspapers, empty junk food containers all interwoven with the ubiquitous discarded clothing. Along the right wall were a massive pair of classic Radio Shack woodgrain speakers flanking 'the entertainment center'. There was a big red splatter of paint behind the speakers, which at first glance, indicated the possibility of finding a body. Miraculously, much to our mutual relief, there was no body. In the closet was more of the same discarded papers, photos and clothing. Items such as CD's, XBox games, and other salvageable electronics were set aside as what we considered "Goodwill material". The selection of these items began to collectively paint the picture of the previous tenants. We began guessing and joking about the various elements out loud to keep our spirits up. We began to think we were getting let off lightly with this place until we ventured into the kitchen and back bedroom and bathroom.
This kitchen, compared to upstairs, was much more cluttered and full of cookware, cutlery and glassware - as if the owners left in a hurry just after a big grocery run. On the floor were at least 6 cases of Ensure baby formula. (just expired this past October) The sink and countertop were piled to the cabinets with every dirty pot and pan ever used in the home. These items mingled with half empty moldy microwave food containers and other formerly edible leftovers. It seemed a a huge waste of what could have been salvageable goods. Once again, in the cabinet underneath the sink, were several unopened cleaning products mixed with a stash of recyclable bottles and cans. A toaster oven, microwave and other well-used, badly stained appliances that were all added to the dump pile. When I opened the cabinets, I was amazed at the quantity of food left behind. Each cabinet was virtually full, and looked as though the owners were stocking up for the apocalypse. At least 10-15 lbs. of sealed bags and boxes of pasta mingled with dozens of canned food items and at least a dozen jars of unopened peanut butter. (some of which still appeared usable) What surprised me here was the fact that mice had not gotten to any of these items since there were no signs of droppings or nibbled packaging. After emptying the cabinets, and leaving the sink for later, I made my biggest mistake of the day. I opened the fridge. I did this partly out of curiosity but also out of diligence for the job. I peered in and saw that the freezer had been left full, and was about to remark on some of the items within when the smell hit me, through my respirator mask, like a 9 iron over the bridge of my nose. The strength and density of the rot smell physically knocked me back against the wall and I began to gag uncontrollably. I ran to the open window for a breath of air while simultaneously slamming the fridge door shut. Through my gags, I warned my coworkers to not open that fridge under any circumstances. After regaining my stomach and composure, managing to NOT vomit in the process, I put my respirator back on and decided to try and tackle the back bedroom and bathroom - after all, there couldn't be anything worse in there right?
Wrong. The back bedroom was filled with a supremely dense and dank cat box smell. This smell emanated from the bathroom, which had been inadvertently converted to a large litter box in its entirety. The dank smell again pierced my respirator like a well aimed dart up my nostrils. At least 6-8 inches of cat litter, pock marked with petrified cat turds, filled the room and bathtub. Mixed in was the obligatory soiled discarded clothing. Some of this clothing however, was different as it was a small child's. An additional wave of sadness crept over me as I observed other children's things in the bathroom such as a child's giraffe night light, a shredded dirty stuffed animal, tiny socks and other decor.
Outside the bathroom, in the bedroom itself, was a massive pile of clothes and other completely random detritus. (the biggest pile yet) These were mostly oversize "hip-hop" style clothes, which despite their size, matched that of a 12 year old white kid who listened to nothing but 50 Cent and Wu Tang Clan. Again, we spotted several pairs of finger and toenail clippers (gold this time), more discarded once-worn socks, several lamps, 2 TV's and a couple hot pink fluffy women's robes and slippers. Amongst these 'fashion-challenged' discards, were more children's clothes. Thankfully the kids clothes appeared more appropriate for a small child - festooned with infantile animal patterns and pastel color palettes. Behind the chest of drawers were more discarded XBox games, broken sunglasses and other depressingly cute attempts at providing a modicum of childhood for this poor little unknown soul. I couldn't bear to delve deeper into the Candyland game that had been left behind beneath more cat litter on the rug. I was amazed at how many bags it took to get this cleaned up. It seemed the more bags we filled with clothing, the bigger the pile appeared. I could have fully outfitted a small army of hip hop kids with the amount of goods left behind. It had become apparent that these people not only didn't know how to take care of a child, but themselves as well. Which led me us to a mutual assumption that the former tenants were a couple of teen parents in way over their heads.
We were happy to have finally cleared this space, taking advantage of the window directly above the nearly full dumpster, to heave the clutter over and out of the space and our lives. At this point, we were also glad to have finished with the more disgusting elements of the day, while simultaneously looking forward to the stories the next units had in store for our imaginations.