When I was in my early twenties I rented a shoebox apartment in the armpit of St Kilda.
My landlord, an excitable 70-something Jewish man, lived upstairs with his excitable 20-something Russian bride.
(They had a tumultuous relationship ‒ they were either loving or fighting, but they were always very, very loud.)
My entrance to the apartment was via a dodgy back alleyway. Someone had obviously tried to jimmy the door open, because as I was leaving for work the front door handle fell clean off.
So I called the landlord. A few minutes later he came downstairs with a screwdriver, which he handed to me.
“You want me to fix the door?” I asked.
He took a long drag of his cigarette, and began to chuckle.
“No. This is your new door handle, key, and security weapon … all rolled in one!” he barked through a coughing fit.
I still remember the strange looks I got when I arrived at work with my screwdriver.
My country-living parents found these big-city stories highly amusing. They were the ones, after all, who (lovingly) threatened to change the locks on our family home, and thus drop-punted me into the real world twenty years ago.
What a learning experience it was!
I learnt how to make my money stretch (hello homebrew), how to cook (once a flatmate asked me, “How long do I cook two-minute noodles for?”), the art of diplomacy and negotiation (eventually the landlord replaced the door handle with a … second-hand handle), and the importance of cleaning (something admittedly I hadn’t placed a high value on … because up until that point my mother had done it for me).
Yes, you’re not living until you’ve had at least one stint in a share house ‒ it’s the ultimate rite of passage.
And as you read this, kids across the country are spreading their wings, flying the family nest, and landing in their very own rented armpits. So this week I’ve decided to answer their questions.