There are lots of things to love about New York, but I’d like to think that even the most diehard New Yorker would admit that the housing situation is as easy to decipher as a message sent by an Enigma machine in Sanskrit, and about as pleasant to deal with a hungry Reaver.

In recent days, I’ve been in a fight with various New York agencies as I try desperately to get permission to give them a ton of money. You see, I’m trying to rent an apartment on the Upper West Side directly adjacent to Central Park. In most parts of the country, this process works as follows:

  1. You inform the landlord that you would like to live in the apartment
  2. You give the landlord a bunch of money
  3. You move in

Most apartments would also want to run a credit check on you, and a very nice apartment might want a personal reference or two, but that’s it. You’re done.Things in New York work a bit differently. First, you fill out a lease, which, in the case of the apartment I’m trying to get, runs a cool 57 pages. Then, eight or nine hours later, you ask three friends to write you personal references, all of which read:

Benjamin is the most kind, friendly, loving, generous, sympathetic, empathetic, helpful, cooperative, gracious, reliable, trustworthy, responsible, and extremely rich person I have ever known in my entire life. I would gladly give most of my major organs in exchange for the privilege of living in his vicinity, and would pray that you accept him as a tenant lest your life become profoundly devoid of meaning.

Then you go to your bank and ask them for a letter of good standing, which is basically a how-to guide for identity theft that contains your account numbers, account types, current balances, average monthly balance, and so on. Then you sign a credit authorization form, perhaps a form saying you won’t have any pets, a form saying you will not hurdle objects out the window, and a form saying that you will not chew on windowsills but that, if you do, it’s your fault you get lead poisoning (I swear I am not making this up). Then, depending on how you found out about the apartment, you write checks for at least one of broker’s fees, application fees, or duplication fees—and it’s not unheard of to have all three of these, the first two of which run anywhere from several hundred dollars up to a month and a half’s rent. (I have just an application fee, thankfully, and it’s far less than a month’s rent.)

If you’ve actually made it this far, then you finally get to submit your application to the apartment’s board, who will take up to a month to tell you whether or not they will deign to give you permission to live there. If they finally give you approval, then you usually have upwards of 18 minutes to move into the apartment before it goes back on the market. Also, your first month’s rent, and the last month’s rent, are due immediately, so get your checkbook back out.

Currently, I’m stuck before the last step. The problem is that, because I’m a yougin’, I need to have a guarantor, and my guarantor is very legitimately unwilling to give them certain things that they’ve demanded, such as personal references (why on Earth would the guarantor need personal references?!) and a detailed listing of his accounts. So, currently, I’m just in a stand-off. I have no idea how this ultimately will turn out, but hopefully, I’ll end up with an apartment. And, if not, there’s always joining the hoards of homeless.