Hartley Brody

Adventures in Boston, Day 1

It is now Sunday evening, which means I’ve been in Boston for 48 hours. I knew the first few days in a new city by myself would be an adventure, but I don’t think I was actually prepared for what was in store.

The adventure starts back home in Cleveland. In between packing everything up on Friday morning, I hopped on Hotels.com to book a room for Friday and Saturday night. As I’m reading the fine-print on the confirmation screen, I see “Spring Break Minimum Age: 21”

I had never considered the fact that hotels might not let me check-in by myself. I figured checking into hotels was one of the perks of turning 18. I knew the spring break policy wouldn’t be in effect in early January, but I decided to call the hotel just to confirm that I could check in on my own. I couldn’t, I was told.

After half-an-hour on the phone with Hotels.com returns service, I was able to cancel my original reservation. I tried calling around to other hotels in the area and kept hearing the same thing: “No, sir, I’m sorry, you must be at least 21 to check-in.” Finally I insisted on speaking with a hotel manager. He told me that he could potentially bend the rules for a mid-week reservation, but not for Friday and Saturday night. The area has been having lots of problems with underage drinking at hotel-room parties, he told me. No hotels would allow me to check in by myself, unless I went far outside the city.

I thanked him for the information and tried to figure out what my options were. I could either keep trying hotels that would put me further and further away from the areas that I needed to be, or I could fly into Boston with no real plans, show up at a hotel and try to plead my case until they agreed to let me stay. I chose the latter.

I didn’t have too much trouble getting to the Holiday Inn Express in south Boston. There was a $5 hotel shuttle that picked me up from the airport, I paid for my room in cash, and the staff never checked my birth date – or if they did, they didn’t care.

Paying in cash was a bit of a hit for me, since I had a limited amount and had forgotten to throw my checkbook into my backpack, which was the only piece of luggage I brought with me. I decided that I should try to avoid the cost of a hotel for Saturday night by finding a place that I liked on Saturday and asking to move in that evening.

I spent Saturday morning learning how the MBTA system worked. It took me almost 2 hours to travel the three miles to the first apartment I was looking at in Medford, near Tufts campus. [tweet] I looked at a few places in that area, but I really had my sites set on this place in Somerville. It was much closer to my office and it was significantly cheaper than the other places.

The room seemed cozy, convenient and affordable. I asked the roommate who was home (Robert) if it was cool if I settled in. He hesitated. The other roommate (Brendon) had some friends coming by tomorrow that wanted to look at the room as well. Robert told me that I would have to wait for Brendon to get back so that they could decide together. [<a href=http://twitter.com/#!/hartleybrody/status/23839845335957504” target=”_blank” title=”i think i found it… a nice cozy spot in somerville. just gotta wait for the other roommate to get back and “approve” of me”>tweet</a>]

Robert told me that if I really needed the place, I could crash on the couch. Tired from a day of walking all around Somerville – and trying to avoid paying for another hotel – I quickly accepted his offer and settled in. As I sat on the couch using the wifi, I had a few pleasant but subtly awkward conversations with Robert. Nothing seemed too weird, but there were some moments that felt a little uncomfortable:

At one point, he offered me a drink. I asked if he had any juice. He said he meant an alcoholic drink. I laughed. Noting his short graying hair, I asked how old he was. “What does age matter?” he responded. “Oh, I just… I was…” “I’m 37, but I don’t see why it matters.” “Well, you know, I was just…” his glare kept pressing me “It was just because I’m not 21 and so when you offered me a drink it brought age to my attention. That’s all.” He seemed satisfied. I was uncomfortable with the conversation – and the fact that he was almost twice my age – but I dismissed it.

A few hours later, Brendon came home. I didn’t get the impression that he really wanted me there and he seemed rather standoffish. I started to feel uncomfortable. I knew that I was asking a favor by moving in so quickly, but I didn’t want to be living in an apartment where I wasn’t wanted. Robert and Brendon talked quietly in the kitchen for awhile. Finally, they emerged and Robert suggested I go take a shower. I couldn’t tell if he was suggesting that I should leave them alone to keep talking or whether he was trying to seem hospitable. Their faces seemed distant, but slightly sweet, so I still couldn’t tell.

Since we were all standing in the living room and I wasn’t sure if I was welcome to use the empty bedroom yet, I awkwardly started taking my shoes and socks off in preparation for showering. They just stood there. I wrapped the towel around my waist, preparing to take my pants off. “What are you, gay?” Robert asked me. “Go change in the bathroom!”

Still not knowing what to make of the situation, I headed to the shower. The vibes I was getting were so weird that I was really starting to think something was up. I texted several friends to let them know the address of the apartment, in case they didn’t hear from me. Maybe it was a little paranoid, but I figured I’d rather be safe than sorry.

When I came out of the shower, Robert was in his room and Brendon was in the kitchen making dinner. I started talking to Brendon to see what his deal was. He was a Middlebury grad, he told me, and an elementary school teacher in the Boston public schools. He seemed to be in his late twenties, and something about him reminded me of one of the villains in the Spiderman movie, although I couldn’t quite figure out what it was.

I sat down on the couch and went back on my computer. Robert came out. Something about him seemed weirder than before. He stopped in front of me and I looked up. He looked back at me and started swaying on his feet, seemingly unable to stand up straight. “Hartley, I want you to meet my girlfriend.” “Oh, is she here?” I asked politely. “No, but you’re going to come for a ride with us.”

No I am most certainly not, I thought to myself. I told him I was meeting up with friends for dinner and politely declined. He insisted. I declined again. He insisted and I declined again. I was about ready to tell him off when suddenly his phone rang. “She’s here!” he said, storming outside to greet her.

Shaken, I went to the other room where Brendon was eating. “Was he…. like… was there something going on? Is there something going on?” Brendon just shrugged and didn’t seem like he understood why I was alarmed.

The door flung open and Robert came back in, girlfriend in tow. She was surprisingly cute and normal-looking and appeared to be in her late twenties. Robert introduced us. Turning, Robert said to me, “I’m surprised you were able to find a job in Boston cause she has been looking for work for a long time.”

She and I exchanged awkward glances as Robert smiled widely. She tried to recover gracefully by saying that she had decided to go back to school. I told her I got the job because I knew some people, which wasn’t true, but I felt bad that she had been put on the spot like that.

I sat back down on the couch and tried to hide behind my laptop. “We’re taking you to dinner!” he said to me. “No, you’re not remember? I’m meeting friends,” I responded. I felt like I was talking to a mentally-challenged person. “Hartley! Get off your laptop and let’s go eat!” He repeated, walking towards me. “No!” I responded, almost ready to break the charade of normal conversation and tell him to leave me alone. Why wasn’t Brendon intervening? Why didn’t his girlfriend tell him it was okay, that they would just go eat alone? Why couldn’t he understand I didn’t want to eat with him? I had even given a legitimate excuse!

He stood in front of me, swaying again. I was able to force a smile and pretend to be busy on my laptop. No one said anything. Eventually, he gave up and left with his girlfriend. I expected Brendon to make a comment about the situation, since I figured any sane person would have realized something wasn’t right during the exchange. A few minutes went by and he didn’t say anything.

That was enough red flags for me. I started packing my things. “Alright, I’m headed out…” I told him. “Okay, have a good one!” he replied. I slammed the door behind me and hurried up the street to the bus stop, trying to get the fuck out of Dodge. [tweet]

It was dark and snowing, and at this point I had no plans for where I was going to spend the night. As I waited for the bus, I texted several people to try and figure out my situation. I had all of my possessions in my backpack and nowhere to go.

Eventually, I got a hold of Julian. He and I had never met before, but he was a friend of a friend and he had helped me narrow down my housing search, since he was a young professional in the real estate business. I told him what had happened and he immediately offered to meet me downtown. He had already invited me to come party with him and his roommate that night, and he insisted that it wasn’t a big deal for him to pick me up, especially considering that I had nowhere else to go. He was an angel.

It took me awhile to get into the city, and once I got there, we had some trouble finding each other in the tangle of one-way streets. Eventually, he picked me up, took me to get food, and then we went back to his place to hang out and get ready for the evening’s activities. His hospitality eased my tension, and I started looking for new housing leads in preparation for Sunday’s search…