Is there a rule that roommate situations have to end horribly at least like 90% of the time? Are human beings not meant to live together unless they're having, or are the product of having had, intercourse? Last night was a doozy, and I can feel free to re-tell it for everyone's glee since my roommate doesn't read this blog, and doesn't know anyone who does. I hope.
First off, my girlfriend and I are moving to North Carolina in August. I've always kind of liked moving, but the process does come with its share of stress. Finding a place, figuring out how we'll get all our shit down south, and a plethora of mosquito-sized problems tend to keep you on your toes. So it should go without saying that our current roommate, the lease-holder, e-mailed us last month to let us know that we'd have to move out by June.
Awesome. Two moves in two months, one of them the ten-hour variety. It wasn't gonna happen. We decided to basically say no. We're subletting and paying about 70% of the rent illegally, so I knew we had some "bargaining power" in this situation. I sent what I consider to be a hilarious e-mail in response to her eviction notice. In it, I tried to use vaguely lawyerly language to let her know that the situation would be unpleasant, but without resorting to outright aggression. Behold my jargon:
Sorry to hear that. We're in a pretty impossible situation, as we won't be able to find housing for two months and certainly don't want to have to move twice in such a short span. The costs alone would be prohibitive. It strikes me that it would be much easier for xxxx to find temporary housing for two months since she's already presumably living somewhere else. If you want to pursue this, I understand, but in that case we'll have to protest more officially, which I think would be a shame. Let me know how you want to proceed.
"Protest more officially" seems sinister, right? So does "which I think would be a shame" (if only there was a way to communicate a high-pitched, creepily calm German accent over e-mail). What's gonna happen? Am I getting a lawyer? Am I some kind of loose cannon? Who's to say?!
Anyway, that one worked itself out without me lodging a 'more official' protest, but last night I got another e-mail.
I need to talk to you. What is a good time?
These are my least favorite kind of e-mails. Oh, you want to talk to me? WHAT ABOUT, MOTHERFUCKER?! Don't leave me hanging with this vague ominous shit. Since I'm a paranoid person, I always assume this is a psychological ploy on the other person's part to mess with me and make me uncomfortable. At the very least, it guarantees that I won't think about anything else until this mysterious meeting happens, and that I'll run through every possible scenario in my head in the meantime, complete with dramatic speeches and scathing tell-offs. I wrote back that I was going to take a quick shower, but that I'd be around the rest of the night. And right after that, I go into the bathroom, and it was occupied for the next 30 minutes! Shady, right?
Actually, it was her boyfriend, who is a very nice dude and who has no clue about any of this stuff. But I'd convinced myself that it was a very subtle maneuver by her to deny me use of the bathroom. This is the problem with paranoia; you're wrong at least 50% of the time, and being wrong makes you feel like a huge suspicious jackass.
Moving on. My girlfriend and I had both had long days, so we ate tacos and drank beer. I got buzzed rather quickly, since I barely drink anymore. How quickly? After about 2.5 beers. You might think that's a pretty sad state of affairs, but wait until I tell you the kind of beer:
That's right, it was "Hardcore Premium Apple Cider." The fact that it was cider is bad enough, but the "Hardcore" name makes it doubly pathetic. So of course, after dinner, the roommate came home. By this time I had completed my three alcoholic apple cider drinks, was feeling a bit giddy, and didn't feel like a confrontation. But I also didn't feel like waiting any longer. "Did you want to talk?" I asked with all the innocence I could muster. By my tone, I tried to convey that I had no preconceptions about the forthcoming topic. Maybe she was starting a charity and wanted me to donate. Maybe she had extra tickets for a theater show, and we would all double date!
My girlfriend, being a coward, mumbled something about bringing a pot back to our side of the apartment, and escaped. So I stood in the doorway and listened to a variety of complaints, all of which I'd anticipated. These were the main ones:
1) We had a dog in the apartment. My girlfriend and I house-sit once in a while for a wealthy couple on the upper east side, and walk their dog. For the first time ever, we took their dog with us back to Brooklyn last Sunday. The dog is hypo-allergenic. He was in our apartment for about two hours. But she came over during that time (of course), looked aghast, and said "is that a dog?" As if we'd found a way to bring Hitler back to life, stripped him nude, sat him on our couch, and gave him a giant novelty pencil and some crossword puzzles to pass the time.
I communicated that this was the first time we'd ever had a dog, and would definitely be the last time, that it was a fluke, and on and on. But she did that thing people do when they have a complaint, have rehearsed the speech, and won't be interrupted. She was "very disappointed" in us, we'd "put her lease in jeopardy," etc.
2) She has no privacy in her living room because we use the kitchen. The set up of the place is that we have our own living room and bedroom, but we have to use a separate door to get to the kitchen (New York City, right? LOL!). The kitchen is right next to her living room. Which probably sucks, but that's how it works, and for her pain we pay $1,000 for an apartment that I'm pretty sure runs either $1,400 or $1,500. But now she was fed up, couldn't spend time with her husband or friends (she even installed a hilarious zig-zaggy dressing screen to block our view of the living room- the ones women in the 1800s used to get changed behind), and requested that we make an official schedule for when we had to cook. She asked what time we wanted to 'reserve' the kitchen.
"It really varies," I said, trying to stare directly in her eyes. When confronted, I become incredibly noncommital. I'm the kind of person who can string coherent sentences together under pressure that have absolutely no meaning, but somehow serve the purpose of bringing the conversation to an end with nothing accomplished. Or, as in the previous example, I can toss out a few words that satisfy no one, and let the subsequent silence make the situation so uncomfortable that we all want to leave. I'm like the Derek Jeter of verbal conflict; I say nothing with many words, and before you know it, I'm out the door. Back me into a corner, and I will become the corner.
Then a strange thing happened. The alcohol had my head swimming, and I felt a little distanced from what was actually happening in the living room. Her complaints started to seem like they were about a third person, and instead of trying to rebut them, I just began nodding and giving supportive half agreements. She said again that she was disappointed in us. "Oh yeah," I said. Then she said it was really difficult for her to live with us. "Mm-hmm." We didn't use the sink filter correctly. "Right, right." The bathroom floor was wet one day. "Okay."
And I wasn't even trying to be a smartass. It just seemed appropriate. Some part of me had shut off, and I was just in sympathetic agreement mode. "Yeah, that really sounds tough," I might as well have said. "Hope things work out." I could have been in a neutral conversation I didn't particularly relish with a complainer, but which had no direct bearing on my life.
I highly recommend this approach when someone is trying to chastise you for bullshit that has more to do with their own well-being than anything you've done.
At the end of the conversation I felt the urge to laugh because I finally felt how absurd it was for me to be nodding along with whatever she said. But I don't think I betrayed it, and I successfully made it back to my side of the apartment, where my (coward) girlfriend rushed over and demanded the details.
Back to my original question: is it a rule that the last few months of any roommate relationship are destined to suck completely? This keeps happening to me. Sometimes I share the blame, sometimes it seems like I'm being railroaded, and other times there's just a mutual fatigue shared between the occupants. Right now it's like, my God, we have less than three months to live together. We barely see each other, so can we please try to make this something other than extremely stressful?
The Universe's Response: Impossible!
Does everyone else have this experience too, or am I secretly a shitty roommate? If you agree with my take on things, please comment below.
Wow, that was longer than I anticipated. Looks like someone had something to get off his chest! Instead of talking about sports at all, which I'll do later, here's another quick story from yesterday at work, told in the present tense with short staccato sentences.
I need to book a conference room. I call the number for the 4th floor room. A guy named Mike answers. I ask if I have the right number to book the room. "Just do it online," he says, rudely. I ask him for the online site. "You've never done it before?" he asks, incredulous and still rude. "No." "Well I'm not going to sit here and walk you through it!" he yells. I feel the strong urge for a lame comeback. "Thanks for your rudeness," I say. "No problem!" he yells. I'm pissed, and want to make him feel there will be consequences. "What's your last name?" I ask. He tells me, and asks mine. I tell him. "Don't even bother booking the room," he says, "you're not invited." "You'll be hearing from me, Mike," I retort.
Long story short: When I told my boss about the encounter with Mike (last name omitted), she informed me between laughs that I was not speaking with some petulant secretary. I was speaking with the CFO of the company. And I told him my full name, and then threatened him.
Awesome. Somehow I'm not fired yet, but I expect that shoe to fall within the next hour or so.