By MATT WIXON
If you’ve never had a roommate, you probably feel lucky. But sharing a living space with someone teaches you a lot about life.
The value of compromise, for one thing. And the importance of respecting how other people are different from you. Having a roommate even teaches you problem-solving skills, such as how to convince your roommate that a burglar broke in and stole nothing but his “Exotic Noises of Zatumba” CD.
“Yep, and they also stole your beginner’s guide to playing the sitar. Those jerks!”
Obviously, having a roommate is much easier if you are compatible. That’s why it was hard for me to get along with some of my college roommates. I, of course, was completely normal. But some of them were freaks -- the kind of people totally unimpressed by a person with an expansive knowledge of ’80s music and a habit of making a comment after every TV commercial.
So if you and your roommate aren’t compatible, what can you do? As college students move into dorms and apartments, I know a lot of them are asking that right about now, along with “this biology class looks like it's going to be hard, but can I drop it and still be a doctor and not disappoint my parents?”
Well, at least I can help you with the first question. The key to getting along with your roommate is getting to know him or her. That way, before there is conflict, before there is a bitter feud, before you start taking one of your roommate’s socks from his drawer and hiding it each day just to drive him insane, you’ll know what you’re dealing with.
So fill out this worksheet with your roommate. Find out where you’re similar, find out where you’re different, and find out if you’ll need a lock on your bedroom door:
My favorite hobbies include _____.
A. playing sports
B. listening to music
C. art and photography of nude models in our living room, or perhaps in your bedroom because the light is better there
I like to have friends visit _____.
A. only occasionally
C. because it helps them picture you when I talk behind your back
Overnight guests _____.
A. are fine with me, especially if they bring food
B. must sign a liability waiver
C. are expected to kindly direct me back to my room if I end up in their bed during one of my sleepwalking episodes
My pet peeves include _____.
A. people who don’t do their share of household chores
B. people who laugh loudly for the sole purpose of getting me to say, “What’s so funny?”
C. all the people who tell me that I’m “uppity” and “condescending” just because they are so stupid and jealous and beneath me
My belongings can be borrowed _____.
B. in most cases, as long as you ask me first
C. at your own risk, because I am watching and I will get you
To avoid potential problems, roommates should discuss _____.
A. what bothers them and why
B. painting a line in the middle of the room and picking a side
C. abortion, capital punishment, gun control and the JFK assassination
When I have a problem with you, I expect you to _____.
A. listen to why I think it’s a problem
B. discuss the situation with me without being offended
C. dodge household objects as I throw them
When you have a problem with me, I expect you to _____.
A. let me know quickly so our relationship doesn’t suffer
B. be open to different ways to resolve it
C. deal with it on your own time, like after you finish cleaning my bathroom
Indicate which of the following activities might occupy your time in the residence:
A. Repeatedly encouraging a roommate to sign up for an exciting financial opportunity that is absolutely, positively, probably not a pyramid scheme.
B. Asking a roommate if there is a way to “set the TiVo so it records anything with Ryan Seacrest.”
C. Breaking down and crying for no apparent reason, screaming “Why God why?” and running into the bathroom with the remote.
D. Telling a roommate “Don’t make me angry … you wouldn’t want to see me when I’m angry.”
E. Ordering a pizza to share and then suddenly not having any money because of the exciting financial opportunity, which I will refuse to talk about because it’s a sensitive topic.
Finally, although it sounds strange, I pass along this suggestion from a housing questionnaire from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. On the final page, it reads, “If you’d like to write a poem, haiku, etc. that describes you to a future roommate, please do so.”
Uh … I never thought of that one. But maybe that would’ve helped my relationship with my roommates. So here’s a haiku, probably the first one I’ve ever written, that describes me to a future roommate.
(Note: To maximize emotional effect, please visualize the slow strumming of a sitar)
I am like a bird,
and when I must fly away,
please don’t break my stuff
To be on the list that is sent out when a new column in posted, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great week.