As I write this blog week after week, I can’t help but think about my college days (yeah, you could use the word “daze” there, too). I often think of my old roommate, Greg, and wonder whatever happened to him. I think I found him on the Web, but haven’t summoned enough motivation to try to contact him.
Don’t mention Facebook or Twitter to me, though. I must be one of only two or three carbon-based lifeforms on the planet who doesn’t have a Facebook account. That’s just fine with me. If I want to know what you had for lunch or the color you decided to paint your bathroom, I’ll just call you or send an email. I don’t need a second-by-second Tweet-storm from you, thanks very much. Please don’t get me started on social media, the bane of modern society, in my view.
But I digress. Back to roommates, and this applies to both college and boarding school life, since you will be thrust into a small living space with others whom you’ve never met.
By now, you probably have moved into your digs at college or boarding school and had at least a reasonable amount of time to get to know, for better or worse, the person or persons with whom you’ll be living day in and day out across the expanse of this school year. If you’re a freshman (sorry Yale, I’m not going to use your gender-neutral references here, since I’m a cranky old-school guy), you may be experiencing social shock by having to live outside of the comfort and familiarity of your own home and bedroom for the first time. If you’re an upperclassman (sorry again, Yale), you may be a bit more savvy about new roommates but still cautious about getting to know a new someone.
My old buddy, Greg, was certainly easy enough to get to know, but as time went on, certain traits (some far less desirable than others) began to emerge. For example, my college era unfolded in the days before smoking regulations put something of a lid on the air pollution and downright stench of cigarette smoke. Greg was a chain smoker and I didn’t smoke. Thus, our room smelled like a butt museum 24/7. I have no idea how much second-hand smoke I inhaled, but it must have been a lot, owing to the fact that the ashtrays on Greg’s desk had a nonstop series somewhat interesting architectural structures made out of cigarette butts. Anyway, I accepted this because that was a time in history when smoking was matter of fact, unlike today’s enlightened-thinking period.
Greg was also a binge drinker. I didn’t drink (although my soon-to-be Navy days changed that). This proved to be a problem several times freshman year when Greg returned to the room and “refunded” not only his latest meal but also the majority of the contents of his last two six-packs or quart bottle of Don Juan Sour Grape wine. I was always vigilant about keeping my closet door closed to shield my Spartan wardrobe from projectile refunds, so to speak. I think that happened twice over the two semesters we lived together, maybe once per semester.
So, the good news about my roommate was that he was an exceedingly nice guy and generous. He would say to me during our late-night study times, “Hey, I’ll buy if you fly,” so off to Hilltop Sub Shop I would go to get us steak sandwiches and chocolate milk. Can you say “Freshman 10”? The bad news was the chain smoking and binge drinking. I got through the year with him, though, and we consequently met again later for some non-school-related hijinks.
What’s your roommate situation these days? Are you acquiring a new best friend for life, or are you on the verge of petitioning for a room or roommate switch?
I researched this issue a bit and found The 10 types of roommates you’ll meet in college, an article that may give you an insight into the kind of person you’re facing every day. Writer Allison Raeck notes, “Whether you’re moving into a tiny dorm room or suite-style apartment, chances are you’ll have a roommate or two to share it with. For new students, this may be a major lifestyle shift that is as exhilarating as it is nerve-wrecking. Though everyone is a little bit different, here’s a field guide to the people you may encounter and how to live with them.”
Let’s take a look at six of the 10 roommates Allison depicts. Hopefully, this will give you some tips on how to deal with them. If you don’t see your roommate’s type among this half-dozen, then check the article for the remaining quartet.
1. THE ONE WHO’S NEVER THERE
Who they are: Whether they’re constantly going home, staying with their significant other or camping out at the library, they’re always MIA. They said they were going home for the weekend, but when Sunday night rolls around they’re still gone. After you haven’t seen them in five days you start to worry, but then they stroll into the room after class on Thursday like nothing happened.
How to deal: This is actually a blessing. With your roommate gone all the time, you pretty much get all the benefits of a single room for half the price. If you were hoping for them to be your best friend though, this may not be the case. Do your own thing and invite your neighbors over when you get bored.
2. THE ONE WHO’S ALWAYS THERE
Who they are: The exact opposite of #1, this roommate never seems to leave your room. They spend Friday night watching Netflix in their loft and Sunday morning eating brunch on the futon. You begin to wonder if they are even enrolled in classes, since they always seem to be sitting in your room.
How to deal: To make sure you get some time to yourself, find a study room in your dorm or apartment and make note of what times they are in class. While it may be frustrating that you’re rarely alone, understand that your roommate might be a homebody type who is more comfortable staying in. Invite them out with you once in a while and introduce them to some friends, since they could just be shy about getting out there.
4.THE PARTY ANIMAL
Who they are: It’s a Tuesday night during finals week and it’s pouring rain outside but, like usual, your roommate is still going out. It’s a mystery to you how they are able to creatively put together theme party outfits night after night, but they somehow find a way. You’ve come back to find an all-out rager going on in your room without a word of warning, and they often stumble in at 4 a.m. with people you’ve never met and forget you were sleeping up in your loft.
How to deal: If you tend to focus on academics (even just a little bit), this one can be difficult. Find a good alternate location to get your work done, like the library or a study lounge. If you have an exam coming up, repeatedly hint that you’ll need to get a lot of rest or just come out and ask them to keep it down. It’s also a good idea to make some friends on your hall with futons, since you can crash there when you need to somewhere else to stay. But keep in mind that you can use this to your advantage, since they’d probably love to have you tag along every now and then.
7. THE MR. OR MS. CLEAN
Who they are: The moment you walked into the room on the first day and saw their matching comforter set, coordinating wall canvases and color-coded file folders, you knew their area would always be spotless. You’re astonished that they have the ability to make their bed before 8 a.m. class and constantly feel guilty that your side of the room looks like a garbage truck just unloaded there. It’s nice having things neat, but if they find your hair on the shower floor, you’ll definitely be hearing about it.
How to deal: If you’re a clean person yourself, this is great; keep doing what you’re doing. If you tend to be on the messier side, you have the potential for more issues. Remember to respect their boundaries and contain your mess to your own area, such as your desk or dresser. You’re not obligated to keep your own space spotless but, when it comes to shared spaces, keep it neat. It wouldn’t be so bad if you picked up some of their clean habits, either.
8. THE COMPLETE MESS
Who they are: Unidentifiable crumbs. Empty soda cans. Dirty laundry. They’re all there, and they’re everywhere. This roommate always leaves a pile of dishes “soaking” in the sink, and definitely doesn’t own a vacuum. Multiple surfaces in the room are covered in a sticky residue, probably from last week’s orange chicken. They tell you they’re going to clean up after their exam but you know that’s not going to happen.
How to deal: Even if you don’t consider yourself a clean freak, this is aggravating. Remember that your roommate’s allowed to mess up their side of the room as much as they want but, if it’s encroaching on your own space, don’t be afraid to call them out on it. Assertiveness is key here, and understand that they probably won’t take it personally if you confront them on their consistent dirty dishes.
9. THE NOCTURNAL ONE
Who they are: It’s 3 a.m. and they’re still at their desk tapping away on that paper. They could’ve started it earlier but, as they’re reminded you many times before, they “work better at night.” You’ve got an 8 a.m. lecture the next morning and the night owl act is getting really old really fast.
How to deal: Chances are, there are multiple places outside your room for studying in your dorm or apartment. So, be blunt about your need for shut-eye and ask if your roommate could study there after it gets late. If they need to stay in the room, don’t be afraid to turn off the lights — the desk lamp will work fine. Invest in a sleep mask.
Allison presents a quite accurate survey of what you might encounter when you go to live away from Mom, Dad, brother(s), and/or sister(s). If her methods of how to deal with your situation don’t work, then you’ll probably have to petition the school’s housing department for mercy. Let’s hope that it doesn’t get that far, because I’m thinking about Greg here. Had I bailed on him, I would have missed a chance at some excellent times and friendship.
And by the way, Greg, if you’re reading this (fat chance, I know), please know that I still have (and can wear!) that blue Cricketeer blazer I wore to the homecoming dance. My dry cleaner was able to cleanse the Pink Catawba stains you bestowed upon it the one night I left my closet door open!
Be sure to check out all my other articles on College Confidential.