Monday, March 30, 2009

Living With Lunacy

As I readied myself in my room one morning and prepared to go out into formation to either yell or be yelled at, my roommate, who had been inexplicably out all night, came tumbling in the door. He looked cheerful. Still wearing the same clothes he was when he left the night prior, something was noticeably amiss. It was his face.

“Dude, you know you have purple glitter on your face?” He looked puzzled, smeared his hand across his cheek, and stared at it.

“Yeah. It went really well with the purple dress I was wearing.” I dropped the subject. This wasn’t as bizarre as one might think. I figured the less I knew, the better.

Right off the top of my head, I can count at least a dozen roommates I’ve had over the years, in college, in the military, and afterwards. Though a few of these “situations” ended well, most did not. For whatever reason, the forced marriage of the roommate selection process was typically an abysmal flop.

The nature of most colleges is that, in the absence of a reasonable suggestion from the student, a roomie will be chosen at random and everybody just hopes you get along. Mine was afraid of me, was horrified that he walked in on me studying physics in the nude once, and I was left with the challenge of explaining to the cops why my room smelled like marijuana (long after he had left). I returned the courtesy, however. Whenever he was drunk, he snored. So I’d smother him with a pillow until he stopped. Stopped snoring that is; not breathing. Apart from this, we got along swimmingly, though we never went out anywhere together. We just weren’t cut from the same mold.

In the military, roommates are chosen for us at the whim of a senior staff NCO, who may be incredibly sadistic, apathetic, or simply unfamiliar with our personalities and who will most definitely not get along with whom. This is how I ended up with a convicted murder sleeping across the room from me. But you know, he was a pretty nice guy. I still wish I had kept up with him better. He more than any other, taught me tactics and TOW missile gunnery. Even the strange cases turn out well.

There was one guy who never showered, so constantly reeked of dirty shoes and fetid socks. He also had other difficulties – namely with his digestive system. During one particularly bad spell, our other roommate would awaken in the night gagging from all of this guy’s bad gas. I, thankfully, slept more soundly. His light sleeping may have been what encouraged “glitter roommate” to seek another place to rest, though it also appears he sought another lifestyle as well. There were other mornings that he returned with rug burns on his knees and wooden spoon prints on his back. He, too, was actually a great roommate. A little weird, yes, but not afraid to enjoy himself. The only time I resented it was when the entire infantry battalion found out that he was wearing purple toe nail polish. That went poorly for ALL of us in that room. Thanks buddy.

In Iraq I beat one roommate with a bed slat for something, but I somehow ended up with more blood drawn. I tried repeatedly to get him back, but without any sort of success. I’d slowly and carefully lay in the bunk below his and remove all the slats, meanwhile propping him up with my feet and hands. Then I’d roll out of the way and he’d slam down – still on his mattress, and still asleep. I, now having no place to sleep, was relegated to the floor. He won that battle. I was just glad that I didn’t have the roommate that always insisted on air drying his backside. He’d stand naked in front of his fan for as long as necessary and yell at anybody that disturbed him. Somehow they impeded the drying process. I was pleased that he was in another room.

College was little different, though, even when I DID select my roommates. I didn’t choose so well, I suppose. Of the four of us, I only keep up with one. The rest, I couldn’t care less about. They caused me too much grief. One was just weird, invited his girlfriend over a lot, and she would invariably save her daily business for our house. Yet she still clung to the silly belief that women never smell like anything other than flowers and potpourri. We ALL suffered because of that. “Hi,” she’d smile, as she strode out of the bathroom, leaving the door wide. She never turned on the fan.

But the pinnacle of my angst was the other guy. The short kid who, in between playing video games and chatting online with highschoolers, would wander around the house with a tissue and a pair of tweezers – picking acne publically. This was a daily event. He also never cleaned his dishes, which eventually grew mold and may have grown maggots had we not stirred things up a bit and moved them to HIS room. But even then, he never cleaned them. They just sat in his room, leaking the odor of pungent, rotting food into the rest of the house.

That advanced apathy, actually, was the final straw. During one rather heated “discussion” of the situation, he ended up high on the wall with one of my hands clenched tightly around his neck, and the other balled into a fist. All I needed was a little more encouragement. He looked at my other roommate in desperation, who simply raised his text book a little more and kept on studying (sniggering behind the textbook). I put the runt down and was told the next day that there might be a lawsuit for harassment. Two of us spent the remainder of the semester tip toeing around to avoid being charged. He would have done it, I know.

Post college and military wasn’t that much better, when the roommate’s cats went out of their way to irritate me, play in their water, fiddle around in the toilet, and then leave hairballs and puke throughout the house. I got along with the roommate splendidly, but not so much the cats. They hated me, and I, of course, hated them back. I offered more than once to duct tape them in the middle of the road, which earned me dark looks.

So now I’m in a quandary. When I next pick up a lease and realize that I have four bedrooms and insufficient income to pay all the rent, I’ll have to get roommates again. I’ve had more luck with random strangers than with my own selections, but at the same time, random strangers could also be a lot WORSE than the oddballs that I’ve previously chosen. Should I post an online ad and take my chances, or should I invite friends and see how long they remain my friends? I’d prefer a living situation to be pleasant, not chaotic and stressful, but this may mean living alone. And that costs lots of money. I may have to pursue alternate living arrangements that I can actually afford. If that is the case, just wave at my tent in the front yard as you drive by. Lord knows I won’t have any friends in there.

Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw
All Rights Reserved


  1. I've been meaning to ask you this question. How does a convicted murderer get into the military?

  2. Juvenile crime, juvenile conviction, short sentence. Then hooray: freedom...

  3. So, you can get in the military but you can't get a job.....hmmm!