before noon, Tom 'a most incompetent bachelor' Waters
September 16 2003
a roommate is like being married without the sex. You get the
fights, the feuds, the fits, and the neglect without the motivating
It's been well over a year
now since I've had an apartment, and it's really taught me to appreciate
the simple things. That's because I can't afford anything other than
the simple things. A roof over my head, a five pound brick of cheese,
and a cigarette out on the back porch during dusk. It's been a learning
experience. I can't budget for the life of me, I've learned to tolerate
having another person around all the time, and I'm still trying to avoid
learning how to cook. Without any conscious decision on my part, I've
grown up a little.
There's an impending collision
with my 28th birthday in two months, and this is the first flat I've
had proper. When I was 17, I ran away from home and rented a room in
a strange old man's house with my girlfriend at the time, but that doesn't
really count. That lasted about ten months, and it was a catastrophe.
Aside from that, I've never really been on my own. I commuted to college
(when I did attend) and lived at home until 26. I was the momma's boy
who lived in his parent's basement. I'd seen the metropolitan hell-holes
my friends had and wanted no part of it. I'm either sociable to a fault
or so withdrawn that I can't stand the company of others, so I didn't
want to cohabitate with anybody. But last year I also came to the decision
that I didn't want to be living at home by the time I was 30. I pictured
myself skulking around the house in sweatpants, talking to the family
cat and turning into more of a geek than I already am. So I packed up
all my crap and moved in with my friend Chuck at his posh townhouse
in the suburbs. The rent was cheap, the place was really nice, and Chuck
was quiet and reserved when we hung out. A perfect fit. Sort of.
Having a roommate is like
being married without the sex. You get the fights, the feuds, the fits,
and the neglect without the motivating physical rewards. Chuck's a decent
guy; a bit scatterbrained and a bit of a slob, but nothing to have a
brain hemorrhage over. To his benefit, I'm nearly impossible to live
with. I've monopolized the television, I've managed to avoid cleaning
either bathroom since I moved in, and I have a habit of peeling my socks
off after work and piling them up into a smelly pile next to the others
just to the right of my favorite chair and leaving them there until
I do the laundry, which is a once-a-week chore on good weeks. We get
on pretty well, but it's tough to put up with someone else every day,
all the time.
Little things magnify and
get to you. Chuck washes his hands for forty minutes in the bathroom
and from the outside it sounds like a walrus is having an epileptic
fit in the sink. Being Italian, he's got a temper that goes from calm
to psychotic in 0-2 seconds. Once, he spiked a ravioli can in the sink
screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs because he spilled some
sauce on his clean shirt. If he can't find his car keys or if he's in
a hurry, he'll stomp up and down the stairs like a four year old without
dessert. He leaves hair in the shower drain. He brings home newspapers
and lets them pile up for months in the kitchen. Why does he hang on
to them, I wonder? In case he needs to re-read his horoscope from February
of 1998? He's half deaf, so when he watches television after I've retired
the remote for the night, it sounds like Dharma and Greg are traipsing
through the kitchen with a bullhorn. Cohabitation is an exercise in
tolerance. The key is making some alone time for yourself. That, and
reminding myself that I'm a massive pain in the ass.
I pitch fits when he picks
up the phone before the answering machine gets a call and it's for me.
I'm not always in the mood to talk to whoever's calling. I had my parents
schooled really well on the subject, but it's taking him a while to
get past the training wheel stage. I'll pile up seventy beer cans in
the kitchen before I get around to putting them in the basement. I use
up all the toilet paper. I go through an alarming amount of paper towels.
I leave game controllers strewn across the living room floor. I have
terrible gas in the morning that, aside from forcing Chuck to navigate
past when he wakes up, has probably ruined the mint condition of his
furniture forever. You learn terrible, disfiguring, horrific personal
things about people when you live with them.
I'm getting by in the everyday
chore department. I never did the laundry before I moved out. For the
first couple of weeks, I took to it with gusto. Hot water with whites,
cold with darker colors. I folded, I threw things up on hangers. A real
dynamo, I was. Now I dump the whole laundry basket into the washer in
the morning, set it to dry before I go to bed, dump everything back
into the basket and fish out the cleanest items I can find before I
leave the house. I wash my sheets when the ketchup and hot sauce stains
get too starchy.
Grocery trips are made out
of desperation or critical states of malnutrition. I spent an entire
month eating drive through tacos and salt and vinegar potato chips.
This might contribute to the gastrointestinal problems mentioned earlier.
There's a freedom with independence that takes some adjustment. I fly
through the supermarket like it's a timed giveaway, and I err on the
side of cheese, cheese flavored products, or foods that you can melt
cheese on. I like to buy food that a)doesn't spoil after four months,
b)can be microwaved in less than five minutes and c)tastes better with
multiple condiments. I have a stock pile of macaroni and cheese that
could carry me through three world wars. I've used the stove twice,
and one of the occasions was during a dinner date when I catastrophically
tried to boil steak in a large casserole dish.
It's more expensive than
living at home, but it's freedom. Aside from my ineptitude and total
lack of self sufficiency, I've managed. And it's nice to come home,
peel off my socks, and collapse in front of the T.V. It feels like home
now. When you're the one actually paying for the roof over your head,
you take a bit of pride in it. There's one day off out of every week
where I'll wake up, suck back a pot of coffee, and lounge around the
house smoking cigarettes, eating cheese, and catching up on the laundry
while Chuck screams obscenities and drowns his hands in the bathroom
sink. It's ordinary. It's not spectacular. It's simple. And I've learned
to appreciate it.