Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Worst Roommate Ever

While we're on the subject of horrible people in your living space...I adore my single girl apartment. The one I share with only furry roommates. They are kind and loving and we have a mutual respect. I don’t even mind that their lack of opposable thumbs means I have to do all the house work.

Getting to my own place has been a long journey. Along the way I’ve had some great house-mates and made some lasting friends. But like everyone else who has done time in the roommate trenches, I have my war stories too. I can see that my problem is all me. I have this silly belief that people should treat other people with whom they live with a modicum of respect and consideration. I tend to get offended if people sharing my living space don’t operate on that premise. It seems common courtesy is not so common.

Of all the not so great people I’ve lived with there are two that are tied for the title of Worst Roommate Ever. The first was an aging handyman I’ll call Kid. He was one of several guys I lived with during my post-college stint in Haight Ashbury. Given we were living a hippy life, I was pretty open to life and dirt but Kid took the cake. Or the mud pie.

I met Kid as one of the other roommates showed me around the place. He was with his 3-year old son and his dog. I was introduced to them as Claw and Joe. Naturally I assumed Joe was the kid and Claw was the dog. I was sorely mistaken.

“Hi,” I smiled.

“I hate you!” Claw screeched at me. “My dad’s going to kill you.”

Welcome home. Claw didn’t live with us – thank God - but when he visited, the house was an instant shambles. He’d open a whole pack of powdered donut gems and crumble them all over the dining room table. And then leave them there. We’d ask Kid to clean up after his… kid. But generally he didn’t feel like it.

Joe the dog was a mangy hound who chewed my stuff and rubbed her back all over the walls leaving brown smears at dog height and an offensive odor in every carpet. The house mounted a cleaning effort to counteract the smell and smears even going so far as renting a carpet cleaner. We each took turns in the rooms. Except Kid who couldn’t be bothered.

I came home one afternoon to find that Kid had instead decided to clean out the bathroom we shared. His version of cleaning was to throw out all my toiletries because he “didn’t know what they were.” I demanded he replace them all but he just handed me a twenty for what was hundred of dollars worth of product and said he didn’t feel like going to the store.

Then came what I consider to be Kid’s crowing moment. We had a wicker trash can in the bathroom and upon deciding he was finished with his Starbucks, he threw the half-full cup into the wicker trash can. Wicker, as you may be aware, is far from water-tight. I came home to find coffee all over the bathroom floor. When I pointed out this logic flaw to Kid, he just shrugged and said I could clean it since it didn’t bother him. He kind of liked the smell.

I would have given just about anything at that point to kick him out of the house on his scrawny ass but naturally he was the only one actually on the lease so we were stuck with him. Instead I left for New York City about a year after moving in. He told me later he’d done those things on purpose because he knew they bothered me. To which I responded in the only way I could: “You are an absolute asshole.”

My other Worst Roommate Ever contender did not act out of malice as Kid did. All of her transgressions were out of sheer carelessness and cluenessness. I’m not sure which is worse.

I met Katie at work when I came home to the mountains from New York City. Katie was a sweet, kind and easy-going Southerner. She was popular and at the center of our work-based hang-out crew. We hit it off and when it became clear that I was not moving back to NYC, she offered to rent me the second bedroom in her little downtown apartment. I was thrilled.

At first everything was cool. We had a great time and went out on the town nightly. At first I didn’t notice that her drinking was an issue. Then she broke up with her controlling boyfriend and the shit hit the fan. She became a huge party girl which is all fine and good…until you start to endanger me and my stuff.

When winter set in, I stopped going out except on weekends but not Katie. She’d go out every night and wander in at all hours slamming the door open and leaving it that way. I’d wake up to find the night’s snowfall half in our living room, the heater working overtime and her dog missing. I’d clean out the snow and bundle up, trudging into the snow to find her dog. If I didn’t find him, she’d shrug. “He’ll come back.” She never did offer to pay the whole of the ridiculous heating bills.

Some nights I’d awaken to the sound of sex with whomever she’d picked up at the bar that night. On the couch right outside my room. Since she gave so little regard to my sleeping, I was tempted to wander out to the bathroom just to embarrass her even though it probably wouldn’t have. But I never did. That would have been inconsiderate.

As her drinking increased, so did her messiness, willingness to eat my food, and her lack of regard for her dog’s or my well-being. Or sleep. The worst part was her popularity. We’d still go out with the whole crew on weekends and everyone just thought she was the cat’s meow. I was so angry and frustrated. If I tried to talk to anyone about my side of things they just looked at me like I was crazy. Sweet, popular Katie couldn’t possibly be that way. Clearly I was just a bitch.

I felt like I was living with the head cheerleader and I was the only one who knew the truth about how awful she really was. I was trapped in one of those B movies where everyone else is crazy but the sane protagonist is the one locked in the asylum. I was shouting in a windstorm. No one could hear me. My upset at her unbridled selfishness just served to ostracize me from the group. I was shocked and hurt. So I moved out. It was either that or shovel all the snow from the living room onto her bed.

Some months later, she decided to leave town and asked me if I wanted her dog since it wasn’t going to be convenient to have him where she was going. I declined and later saw him at a Humane Society adoption fair. It was then that I got it. The dog and I were the same to her: disposable. Or just expected to endure her whims since she was sweet and popular Katie.

It took me years to rebuild the friendships with the other people from that group and Katie’s name is still never mentioned. Either they don’t believe me or they figured out I was right but don’t want to betray their friendships to her by agreeing with me.

While each of my Worst Roommate contenders are very different people, they share an innate self-centeredness and inability to see how things might be for someone else. They both lack that old chestnut: common courtesy. Or they’re just evil. After this analysis I can’t decide. I award them both the title, crowned with a laurel of heating bills, donut crumbs and empty drink cups.

So kids, my advice: live alone if you can. But if you go the roommate route, look at how they treat people before you live with them. Not that I’m still bitter or anything. But I’ll sell my left ovary before I have a roommate again.

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