When Good Roommates Go Bad

The roommate who doesn’t get along with his fellow living mate will either address his grievances to his living mate or amicably part, working out the nature of his departure through courtesy and discussion, and ideally without resorting to pistols at dawn. Assuming that the two roommates are rational people, there will often be a discussion, if not a common ground where these two roommates agree to live out the remainder of their lease with the same easy adult skills that one puts to task when balancing one’s checkbook. In other words, the two roommates take the appropriate responsibilities and make the most of an unpleasant situation. That generally means giving the other roommate enough time to divvy up common area possessions or plan accordingly for the other’s rental-related demise.

Of course, such a smooth hitchless transition assumes that both roommates are rational, reasonable and courteous. But as I learned when returning to the apartment late this afternoon, my now ex-roommate, despite replying “Great” (and possibly “Swell’) when I asked him how things were going (bimonthly, I might add), even the kindest visages hide screwball dispositions, whereby logic operates on truly skewered methodologies and even the tiniest of trinkets becomes territorial (of which more anon).

Or to offer another possible explanation: My roommate is a registered Republican in San Francisco.

Now that I’ve signed a new lease for a kickass apartment, some of the reasons for my hiatus can now be publicly addressed and the fascinating story of what I found left in my apartment this afternoon can, at long last, be unraveled.

The deal was this: At the end of this month, a one-year lease expired. My roommate, as one of the two tenants on the lease, planned to leave, not citing any specific reason other than that he was maybe moving in with his girlfriend in the not-too-distant future. In light of the play and the other secret projects going down, this was inconvenient but fine. I had plenty of notice from the guy. And, of course, in my efforts to be a good guy, I congratulated him and communicated to him the exact date and details of my migration — this, with the suggestion that we could, if desired, split costs and keep the communicative beacon flaring so as to benefit the twain.

Apparently, giving him the moving skinny was my first mistake.

There had been some talk that he was planning on moving the weekend of the 26th/27th. And I had not seen or heard from my roommate for a week until this morning, where I was in the process of cooking breakfast for my sweet and fantastic girlfriend. With approximately five seconds’ notice, my roommate informed me that he was moving out. this instance, rather than the 26th/27th weekend we had talked about. Sorry. Oh, and the plates were all his and he wanted to pack them now.

Never mind that I had just deposited some freshly cooked eggs, sausage and other stuff onto these very plates and was planning to take the goodies into my bedroom. I told him I’d get back to him in an hour. Fortunately, my girlfriend was beneficial in pointing out that stuff was just stuff, that it didn’t really matter, and that I could always get some more. So, rather than figure out just which of the common area kitchen shit was mine (I knew I had purchased at least a few of the plates, but whatever), I told my roommate to take what he deemed his, silently concluding that if he took my coffee machine, he would be drawing blood. My girlfriend and I left, letting my roommate do his thing.

Telling him to take whatever he wanted was my second mistake.

Late this afternoon, we returned home to find various dusty trails on the ground. We opened bare cupboards and witnessed an ironic message hidden in these airy deposits. There wasn’t a single plate, glass or bowl left for me to use (save one coffee mug and three shot glasses from a four shot set I had purchased a year ago — what happened to the fourth shot glass?), not even a friendly note saying, “Goodbye, you gullible bastard! Have fun trying to serve your girlfriend some eggs now!”

Okay, whatever. I’d start from scratch. And maybe my roommate was right about buying most of the kitchen ware. It didn’t matter. The new place kicked serious ass. It had an icebox, man. Tuxedos and martinis weren’t too far away.

But as my girlfriend and I walked up the hall, we noticed that the shower curtain had been removed. Never mind that this shower curtain’s days were numbered. It was a mildewed, ratty, and ugly old thing that was on its way out — in other words, the perfect shower curtain for a remaining week in this place. Frankly, we were shocked that my roommate had laid claim to this.

But that wasn’t all. My girlfriend and I recalled that there was half a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom when we left in the morning. When we returned, we noticed that the toilet paper had been reduced to a cardboard roller with a few spare strands of paper that, collectively, couldn’t fit a pygmy marmoset’s bottom.

And if this wasn’t enough, I noticed this morning that my roommate had seen fit to apply his last name via Sharpie to a three-to-two prong electrical adapter (a whopping 49 cent item at Orchard Supply Hardware). This too was gone, no doubt mounted to an Elks Lodge den next to the shower curtain and a few moose heads.

Was this a joke? A testament? Some kind of canard?

It’s worth noting again that my roommate never once raised his voice, nor did he address any problems, even when I asked him how things were going. Were these passive-aggressive acts the end result? Me? I’m just relieved that it’s all over.

But if there’s any lesson to this story, whatever you do, always have extra toilet paper and a spare shower curtain — ideally with a printed tag bearing your name. You’ll never know what kind of crazed living mate will get all proprietary on your ass.

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  1. I feel for you, Ed. My ex-wife decided that she had to have the shower curtain and the curtain rod AND the bar of soap and bottle of shampoo that had been ours up until “that” moment. Interestingly enough, she did manage to leave a sink of dirty dishes, taking everything but what was in the sink (thus everything but the kitchen sink cliche).

  2. This is a sad, sad story.

    ‘To contemplate truth without sorrow is the greatest gift”

  3. Sad? Nah. To me, it’s more funny than anything else. Besides, the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades. This tale is more about the mad follies of human nature. The truly tragic part here is that my roommate couldn’t communicate whatever issues he may or may not have had with me, which I would have been COMPLETELY cool with. I would have listened and rectified my behavior or hashed it out.

    And as Jeff noted above, yeah, holy hell, it could have been much worse. The curtain rod? THE CURTAIN ROD?

  4. I guess you’re lucky dude didn’t go at the place with a crowbar and a screwdriver and walk off with your fixtures. “A printed tag bearing your name” is probably not sufficient–more like a barcode and a microchip.

  5. This is why I have never lived with anyone. The few months I’ve had friends living with me have been a disaster. Enjoy your new place Ed!

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