Four weeks into my time here, I've discovered that Philadelphia is not for the faint of heart.
I come from State College, the home of Penn State University. I thought that living my whole life up-to-now at the largest school in the state (and one of the largest cities in the state on football weekends) with its rash of public drunkenness and frat-boy harassment, had prepared me for city life. I've traveled abroad more than a few times, to busy metropolitan areas; I've conquered both the London tube and the Paris Metros; I walked around Rome all by myself when I was 13years old.
So, I've been places, I've done things, and I even have fought off my share of advances, especially as a bartender. So, this past summer, when trying to wrap my brain around the idea of big city living, I thought, Philadelphia? I can handle Philadelphia, no problem, piece of cake!
I was wrong.
Because this place is not like other cities. It's wonderful and exciting and my neighborhood in Center City is lovely, but the public transportation terrifies me (especially the subway system). My neighbors scream at each other just about every night, and after long hours of pavement-pounding, I have yet to find anyone even to interview me for a part-time job, despite having worked in the food service and hotel industry for the last three years.
The tone for the beginning of my tenure was set less than four days after I moved into my little, adorable studio apartment. I came home the Tuesday after Labor Day, excited from my first day at my internship, looking forward to the months ahead--and found I'd been robbed.
(However, it was actually a theft--robberies are at gun point, burglaries are when people break into your place, and theft is just...well, theft. The nice officer from the Philadelphia police department explained all this to me, because apparently, classification of how something was stolen is taken very seriously here.)
A whole envelope of cash had disappeared from my apartment -- all of my savings from the summer, and I'd even hid it and everything. This began a torturous three-day process of dealing with my landlords (who'd sent in exterminators to spray my place at my request, silly me), the exterminators (one of whom was fired, apparently), and finally the police, with whom I filed a report.
It ended well enough; I got my money back. But it was cripplingly to my want and need to make this move work, to bring myself to Philadelphia with an open mind and open arms and say, Hello, Philadelphia! I am ready to love you!
In short, my buzz was killed, and I spent every moment not at work huddled in my apartment for safety (and the comfort of my entire collection of The West Wing on DVD). The theory being, if I'm not in the outside world, and I don't leave my apartment, I'll be okay, right?
I was wrong, again.
Two weeks ago, the ceiling light fixture in the five-foot area that is generously called my kitchen started dripping. And then, there was a flood of water with enough force to actually break apart the light fixture. This event ended with me having a hole in my kitchen ceiling for a day and a night, since the leak in the kitchen forced the maintenance people to rip out part of the kitchen ceiling.
In case you were wondering: A hole in your kitchen ceiling is creepy. It freaked me out, having a hole in my ceiling. And I couldn't really cook in my kitchen, because of the hole and the leak and the dust, so I ate SunChips and Diet Coke for two days, wondering why the city of Philadelphia was trying to voodoo me out of the zip code.
Everything seems to be in working order, now. There's no more hole in my ceiling. Unless my floor falls out beneath me and my IKEA futon, I think I've survived the worst my apartment can throw at me (with lots of knocking on lots of wood).
Despite my apartment's attempts to scare me off, I do love it here. I love the Italian Market, and the ladies at Sarcone's Bakery who tell me to speak up because it'll do me good in the city. I love Rittenhouse Square and all the greenery, which I admire on my morning walk to work. The locals who inform me that now that I'm here, I have to be an Eagles and a Phillies fan are hilarious and dedicated; the number of dogs, big and tiny, walking their owners all over the city is surprising and adorable.
You have to earn brotherly love from this city, I've figured out now. And I'm willing to stick it out to get it.
Emma Futhey is sticking it out in Center City, no matter what.