One particular time I was apartment hunting, I showcased my supreme naivete. Twenty years old, I was sitting in Starbucks mid-morning with the paper open and grande white chocolate mocha in hand. I was going through the "For Rent" ads and circling possibilities.
I found one ad that fit all my requirements. Two bedroom, two bathrooms (it was never a good idea to share with the roommate, I'm sure many of you can attest), 1,000 square feet, around $700 a month. At the very end though, there was something strange. It said, "Section 8 only." I thought about what this could mean for awhile and concluded that it must be that the city was divided into sections and this particular apartment was for people who lived in Section 8.
I had no idea which section of town I lived in but surely it didn't matter that much,did it? I mean, I'd lived all over the area over the past few years and no one had ever asked me about which section I lived in, so I figured I could convince the landlord that my current section of town was totally irrelevant.
I called the landlord up and this is how the conversation went:
Me: Hello, my name is Ginny. I'm calling because I'm interested in the apartment on West 92nd.
Landlord: Okay, great. Are you section 8?
Me: Actually, I don't really know which section of town I live in right now. But I've moved three times already and no one has even asked me that before.
Landlord: (long pause) So, you don't know what section 8 is?
Me: Well, I assume it's the section of town where the apartment is and I only live a few blocks away right now as it is so I didn't really think it matters.
Landlord: It matters. Section 8 is for people who need help from the government paying for housing. It's like welfare. The town is not divided into sections. Do you receive assistance from the government?
Me: Well, I get student grants and loans from them...
Landlord: You are not on Section 8 and you do not want to live here, trust me.
Me: Oh,okay. Well, thank you anyway.
Landlord: (stifling a giggle) No problem.
And, it was back to the drawing board for me. In the end, I found a lovely house for a roommate and I to share. I never found out which section of town it was in.