You wake up to their alarms, endure their protracted washroom rituals and skip breakfast thanks to their liberal approach to your groceries. They're roommates, and unless daddykins has invested in a nice condo near campus, you're going to have to live with them. At least you'll likely have friends who share your pain.
My first questionable roommate moved in before we'd even met. I was working in Whistler selling overpriced extreme gear to Americans "hiking" up the mountain, with a little help from a gondola. My serene sanctuary from the hell of retail work came to a tragic end.
You know the stereotype of the extreme sport jock who skis or dies? For him it was more of a drink-or-die thing. It was always interesting finding him half-naked and unconscious on the living room floor, frying his daily meal of pork chops or drinking with his surly couch guest, who figured some chocolate bars were a fair trade for weeks of lodging.
There were good moments, too, like his joy when I told him that the library lent videos for free, or when the big black garbage bag left the middle of the kitchen.
But, then again, he still owes me money, that great source of roommate hate. It starts with beer money loans, IOUs, the rounding of a dollar here or there on the phone bill, and, if you're one unlucky NOW staffer, ends with a co-signed loan.
My playwright friend Johnnie Walker (yes, that's his real name) certainly has his share of stories. His most memorable roommate was a fan of cost-rounding who took a couple of months to grasp the concept of "last month's rent." After a particularly good run at her schoolwork, she asked for a free month of cable as a reward.
Another friend, Lisa, endured the pain of a coke-addicted subletter who "opted" not to pay rent. The mulleted fellow from whom the cokehead subletted also "opted" to take up living on the couch for free.
Thankfully, my roommate experiences in the last few years have been decent. I've attempted to avoid life with close friends or total strangers. That way there's no needy attachment to my personal life and less of a chance that they're going to steal from me or kill me in my sleep.
Okay, there was one roommate who turned into a girlfriend and trust me, it's a bad idea. Golden rule: no romance with the roommate.
Take my friend Steph Peters. She spent three years living with an on-again, off-again boyfriend who, when he was "off" with a girl, liked to keep the bedroom door open. Surprise!
Beyond romance, friends have had to deal with semen-stained couches, a threesome with a prostitute in a sublet's bed, and a roomie porn star screening his own scenes to all who showed interest. It's the price you pay for living on the cheap.
Sometimes it's not just humans making your life hell: while asking around for tales of horror, I heard of one puppy that pooped on the rug, dined on female hygiene products and scattered the leftovers around the house.
My friend Jordan Bimm lost a couple of his guitars to a naughty pooch that relieved itself on/in them. To the roommate's credit, she did try to clean the mess. The downside: "She cleaned them in the kitchen sink."
Worse than any singularly awesome horror story is the hate you can develop for someone over the minutiae of coexistence: the gradual disappearance of your favourite Mennonite jam, the TV volume set a couple of tics past tolerable, the grey ring in the tub, the toothpaste squeezed in the centre, the door slammed at 6 am, the empty toilet paper roll, the know-it-all intrusive parents, the unlocked door, the crusted dishes and the frowns that pile up into a mountain of domestic sadness.
You may end up feeling a little guilty for sweating those little things, but remember, your roommate probably doesn't sweat the little things or feel guilty.
By all means, attempt to find the elusive balance that allows for a few years of semi-sane life. If you're lucky, that little talk about "garbage is everyone's business" or "please stop being naked on the shared furniture" may improve things.
But if a tête-à-tête with your roommate doesn't establish equilibrium in the home, just butter the kitchen floor, set up a camera and have a laugh.