OK. I’ll admit it. For the most part, I make a shitty roommate. It’s taken my wife over 14 years to settle on the fact that I’m not going to do all the things a perfect roommate (or housemate) would do. I track mud into the house. I hate washing dishes. I like loud music and I like having random people over without my roommate’s permission.
And worse. Much worse. There’s stuff I do that I won’t tell you about because I’m actually embarrassed by it. But it can’t be helped.
In the past I’ve angered two roommates by getting sick. I’ve secretly moved out on two more, leaving them in a bit of a financial lurch, because I was scared they were gonna steal my shit. I’ve butted heads with at least two more because our schedules differed. Wildly. I’ve had cultural differences with at least three roommates, religious differences with a couple, and musical taste differences with every single one of them - with the possible exception of Keifer Sims.
But you know what? When I think about it, while I am indeed a shitty roommate, the truth is… most of my roommates were kinda shitty, too.
My first roommate outside of my parents and brothers was an Indian dude named Amanpal. We lived together for six weeks on the Valdosta State College campus when we were attending the Governor’s Honors Program together. I got along with all the other guys on my hall, but me and my roommate, well… we only talked twice. The first time we talked, I confessed Christianity and he confessed Sikh. At the time, I was being molded into a potential bigot and Bible-thumper, so I immediately started in on the evils of his religion, which A) I didn’t fully understand and B) I didn’t even TRY to understand. It’s no wonder we only spoke once more.
Amanpal was right to avoid me after that first confrontation. Or was he? What if he’d been patient and accepted my ignorance, maybe made an off-handed remark or two that might have made me reconsider my position and see him in a more diffused, less black and white light? Of course, he was 16 like me, and despite NOT being a potential bigot and Bible-thumper, he was still somewhat immature. So instead of taking the high road, he made fun of my ignorance behind my back. Or so he thought, because I caught word through the guys on my hall whom I DID get along with. I never said anything about it until now.
Our other conversation? About music. We were comparing music, and Amanpal played me a song called ‘The Kiss’ by a band I’d never heard of called The Cure. And this much I CAN say about Amanpal: he changed my musical outlook forever. He may not ever know it, but I’m grateful to him for it. Also, I’ve really liked every subsequent Sikh person I’ve met, and I’m fascinated by their religion.
My next roommate was Brian, whom I lived with my freshman year of college. Brian was an essential lesson in roommates - we got along famously for months, but our relationship turned on a dime into something that almost, but not quite, approached hatred. We spent hours playing music for each other, but the only thing we could settle on was Queen. He didn’t care for the old school prog rock I played (classic Genesis, Yes, Marillion), and I really didn’t care for Tone Loc. I’m pretty sure Brian didn’t care much for my new college girlfriend either - if ever two people didn’t see eye to eye on ANYTHING, it was those two.
The clencher came when I caught mono - the kissing disease. There was a small epidemic of it going around campus at the time, and I’m pretty sure I caught it from drinking after my buddy Phil (and not by kissing him). Anyway, several people urged me to drop out of school and come back the next quarter - but I couldn’t. If I left school for ANY reason, I’d lose half of my scholarships - and scholarships were the only reason I was able to afford college. So I suffered through two weeks of illness, and Brian had to suffer, too. He had to suffer skirting around me to avoid getting sick himself. He had to suffer not knowing IF he’d somehow contracted the kissing disease from me (and not by kissing me). And he had to suffer the presence of my girlfriend, who stuck around and took care of me, even at the risk of getting sick herself (she didn’t) and at the risk of incurring Brian’s wrath (to my knowledge this didn’t happen either). Still, I don’t think Brian ever forgave me for being such a pain in the ass, and we remained not on speaking terms for the rest of the year. I’ve never seen him again since we both moved out of that dorm. I hope he doesn’t still like Tone Loc.
The lesson of Brian is that you never know when someone you’re living with - even a good friend - will turn on you. And you never know what will cause that person to turn.
My next roommate was Fred. Fred and I lived together for a quarter until we both agreed - I’d like to think amicably - that we were just unfit to live in the same space. This was in Reed Hall at the University of Georgia, on the second floor.
Basically, Fred and I didn’t get along because Fred was a pentathlete and an ROTC guy who got up at four every morning and needed to be asleep by nine at the latest. I was a social bug with a taste for drinking cheap alcohol and listening to loud music, and I didn’t need to go to bed until midnight or later. You see the problem here.
Thing is, I never yelled at Fred when he woke me up in the morning, and I never questioned the fairness of his demands that either I turned my lights out at ten or stayed out of the room. He yelled at me A LOT, like he was my drill sergeant or something, and never sought to compromise even once regarding how HIS schedule encroached on mine. Good thing for me that I had a lot of friends and that same girlfriend, because I was able to stay out of my dorm room most nights. I only went there to get dressed, really.
I missed my stereo though.
Looking back, Fred was a dick. Sorry, Fred my man - and I’m sure you’ve matured some since we knew each other way back then - but if I had been, at that time, the person I am now, I’d have told you to stick your cross-country skis up your ass and cut me some slack. Nine o’clock lights out is bullshit.
After Fred came Michael, who was as patient as he could be with me, but who eventually moved out as well, after I got sick with the measles and almost started a fight with his friend Ken over Ken’s girlfriend. Michael had great taste in music and a bunch of cool friends who were becoming MY friends until I picked that fight. After that, Michael faded away, along with all those people. Fortunately, that made room for the best roommate I ever had - Keifer Sims - who was my absolute LAST roommate until I graduated from college and met my wife.
More about Keifer, my wife, the measles, and Bong - my Korean roommate from hell - next time….