By Liam Kinney
I live in Synergy. I have 5 roommates. We live between 2 rooms on separate floors, and hold tenuous reign over a tiny third, which we use as a projector room (only holds a couch and a coffee table). We sleep in the double-sized room and live in the triple. Two of my roommates snore loudly. One of these boys’ closets is directly next to my desk, and wet neoprene is no friend of mine. All five of my roommates lack the stomachs for a vegetarian house and their insides complain loudly and regularly. This is a story of clandestine aggression, brotherhood and guilt. This is also an apology.
The way the room setup is established at Synergy – and reestablished every quarter – is by a loud, mimosa-fueled, uneasily polite meeting at 9:00 sharp the Sunday morning before classes. It was the beginning of Winter Quarter, and in order to lock down our double-triple setup for the second quarter in a row, we needed to take on a fifth. Attempts to finagle some of the notorious chill bros out of their comfy doubles fell flat:
“Um, yeah, I’ll get back to you.”
“Oh hey, that sounds cool! I just wanted to check with Andrew and see if he had a roommate yet.”
“I haven’t seen Kevin, but I’m pretty sure he wants to live with Jon.”
Or, of course, the ever-dreaded “Thanks but I’m good.”
Our seemingly permanent quad was just about out of hope when a too-excited dormmate popped out of nowhere. “Hey guys! I heard you’re looking for a sixth. Mark doesn’t get here until Tuesday but I’m his proxy and he said he’d be down for anything. What do you guys think?”
Before I could voice my suspicion at (1) an emotion experienced at a rooming meeting that was anything other than thinly veiled panic and (2) the fact that a boy with bags under his eyes was trying to pawn off the kid on his bottom bunk, my roommate jumped in, “Yeah, we’d love to have him!”
We went about the following cheery move-in days in delusion until Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Then, well…I’ll just describe it for you.
1:37 A.M. I wake up from dying in a deafening plane crash. A jet engine’s got nothing on apnea.
1:59 A.M. I fashion makeshift earmuffs out of my two pillows. I think as loudly as I can.
2:40 A.M. A lawn mower runs over a cheese grater, or something like that.
4:02 A.M. I start writing these times down so I can angrily show him his problem in the morning.
7:30 A.M. I wake up hours before my alarm (but hours after I could hit snooze in the daylight) to a tractor going through the wall.
It wasn’t long before my roommates did what we could in response to this nasal nightmare – make fun of him. Don’t get me wrong: We made it clear from the get-go that he could shatter a wine glass at close range with his REM. But none of us had the decency or communication skills to tell him that it was giving us all red alerts. Before one fateful night shortly before Spring Break, we were one quip shy of a burn book.
While procrastinating yesterday afternoon, I struck up a conversation with Mark’s girlfriend’s roommate. It was garden variety banter and schadenfreude until she brought up how she had kicked Mark to the curb a week previous for, yes, snoring. That intel really ground my gears: We weren’t telling him how loud he was, but here was solid evidence that he knew and simply didn’t care. The fact that he still slept with us was just gross negligence.
I spoke to him later with blazing conviction: “Mark! – uh, hey, how’s your day?” Trying to disguise the intervention as dinner conversation, I continued, “I just wanted to let you know that there have been some anonymous complaints about your snoring. I think you might just have to move out. Didn’t you say you used to sleep in your van?”
I felt like the supervisor from Office Space. I didn’t even know if he could hear me straight through all that passive aggression.
“Oh, well that’s fine. My girlfriend doesn’t really like it out there, but I guess I can. I wish you had told me sooner. I feel bad.”
“Damn,” I thought, “I wish I had told him sooner.” After six weeks of high-school-girl-style hating between the other roommates, this guy was the nicest kid in our room. Now, just because I couldn’t communicate, my roommates and I bear the guilt and the remorse of having lost a genuine friend.
Let this be a lesson to all barely tolerant roommates. The “college roommate” has the potential to be a staple relationship in life, for what person in your life ever comes closer to the role of sibling? Unspoken conflict is a golden apple of discord. Be open with your roommates and you could soon be the next Moskovitz, or Brin or Wilson (because Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson were roommates; duh). I couldn’t take my own advice, and now here I am, sitting sleepless and cold on the porch, looking at the van where I should be. I’m sorry, Mark, and I hope your future roommates are more upfront with you.
My opinion is this: A lot of us come into college thinking that we’re going to be good friends with whichever roommates we’re stuck with, and a lot of us aren’t, and that’s usually a mistake. We shut the door on that opportunity too soon. We stigmatize the roommate as the one who sexiles, or the one who runs his coffee maker too loud, or the one who won’t clean up his side of the room (I even have to empty the trash can on his side). This leads to a distance between roommates, and it’s a shame. We are paying a fortune every few months to hear the perspectives of smart people. So if you have roommate problems, why won’t you listen to the one right next to you?
Contact Liam Kinney at [email protected]