The summer before freshman year of college, I elected to have a random roommate, since I wanted to broaden my social circle a bit. I received my roommate’s contact info in mid-July, and said roommate (let’s call her “J”) and I chatted online a few times over the summer. Move-in day came, and she seemed normal enough.
The first red flag went up around dinnertime on move-in day. Us freshmen were supposed to join our New Student Orientation group leaders in the dining hall for supper, but J refused. Although students living on campus were required to have a meal plan, she insisted that she was exempt from the rule because of her religious beliefs, and that she’d just cook in the dormitory kitchen or in the microwave in our room. What were these religious beliefs? Slash-and-burn shamanism. And apparently she was restricted to a diet of purely Raman noodles, which she cooked in the room, so within a few days’ time everything–clothes, books, sheets, bedding, EVERYTHING–positively reeked of stinky noodles.
She ate them loudly, too–smacking, slurping, belching, and always with her headphones around her neck, blaring techno music loud enough that my own headphones couldn’t drown out the racket. Heaven forbid I ask her to cook in the dorm kitchen, or even open the window, and she’d go off on a rant about how it was “her” fridge (that we’d leased from the College and had split the cost for) and “her” room, and she could do whatever she pleased.
J did occasionally buy other food, though, such as meats (which she didn’t know needed refrigeration until I pointed it out to her, and then she didn’t understand that the temperature of the fridge needs to be, y’know, COLD in order for things to not rot), or fruits (which she’d forget about under the mountain of crap on her desk until they had fur coats and we both had bronchitis). She also mentioned in passing that she had a knife collection. Knives with blades longer than six inches weren’t allowed in the dorms, but she insisted she’d gotten special permission because of the aforementioned religious beliefs and dietary restrictions.
Things started to go downhill fast after midterm. Her general cleanliness was atrocious. Plastic shopping bags, papers, garbage, and dirty clothes littered her bed, the desk, and the floor on her side of the room, yet she’d be on my case if I so much as missed the garbage can by a centimeter when throwing away a wrapper. She was obsessed with death and had all sorts of creepy drawings of skulls and skeletons taped up on her side of the room. She quit going to class, stayed out all night, and slept and played video games all day, and then couldn’t figure out why she was put on academic probation.
The night before she had a major biology exam, I was headed out the door to the library when J stopped me. “Have you seen my textbook?” she asked. “I can’t remember if I bought it or not.” When I returned several hours later, she’d apparently found it. I asked her how the test prep was going, and she replied, “I think I’ll be fine once I figure out the difference between prokaryotes and eukaryotes.” I pointed out to her that there was a table outlining the differences on the very page she was staring at, but she said, “No, I think it’s actually more simple than that. I just need to think about it.” This is Biology 100, sweet pea. It doesn’t get more simple than that.
By the end of January, I’d almost gotten grudgingly used to her bizarre eating habits, nocturnal comings and goings, and general stupidity. I’d told myself that I could put up with it for one more semester, since I was too shy to approach the hall director and ask to switch rooms (like anyone else would want to room with her) or ask for a single room (even though I knew a few had opened up in our building).
The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back came the night before/morning of my first exam in the much-feared “weed-out” biology course. I awoke at 3 AM to the sound of the door slamming. J tromped into the room, turned on the fluorescent overhead light, and proceeded to stomp about, opening and slamming drawers and her closet door for a solid 15 minutes. I wasn’t eager to pick a fight with her because she had knives and I didn’t know where they were (though since she was barely 4’8″ tall, I probably could’ve climbed up onto my loft and held her off with a chemistry textbook until Campus Security arrived). Finally she left again, leaving the light on, and when I got up for class at 7, I emailed the hall director and told her that I needed to get the HELL out of there.
After acing that biology exam, I went back to the room. J was nowhere to be found, so I boxed up all of my belongings and got ready to move. I met with the hall director, who approved of the move but on the condition that I speak to J about it in person, so as not to hurt her feelings. I returned to the dorm, where J was playing video games. “J, can I talk to you about something?” I said. “Yeah,” she said, not looking away from her Gameboy. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve placed all of my belongings in boxes by the door. The hall director said I could move into the empty room upstairs.” “Oh, that’s nice of her,” J said. “Let me know if you need help moving.” And that was that.
That evening, as I moved into the empty room upstairs, I noticed a note that J had taped to the fridge that read, “Must pass classes!” After the last box was lugged up the stairs and the loft re-assembled, I was finally able to settle in and enjoy a clean-smelling, clutter-free, diurnal spring semester.