Room Mates-Cautionary Tales

This photo may be part of a cautionary tale. If cleanliness is not “next to Godliness” it may be next to harmony in choosing and staying with a room mate.

Nasty tub

Getting chores done and keeping things running appears to be among the most important items in picking a room mate, “Last year Mitchell puked and didn’t clean it for 4 days so I pissed in his sink. Then we argued for two weeks and I ended up cleaning it anyway” says Will, between sips of a bright orange can of Keystone Light. “That is so not what happened” Mitchell chimes in, as he is partially drawn away from the first-person-shooter video game he’s playing from the couch.

This is an excerpt from the one group-interview of roommates I conducted for this article. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t amount to serious research but it does indicate some of the issues college students have living with room mates. I have changed the names of these roommies by request. I should say as well, Will wasn’t the only one with a beer. In fact as I arrived, Rick and I both nearly shot-gunned Keystone Lights (his idea) but he decided they were too cold so we just drank them in a more traditional style (sipping).

Having and keeping room mates is tough, according to most everyone I spoke with. Earlier that day, I talked with Alec Sullivan about his upcoming roommate agreement contract and his options regarding it. He told me he will sign it but when asked if he’d like to get a new roommate he responded this way, “I would feel bad switching roommates because I know him and we bought stuff together.” I then asked if he hadn’t known his current roommate before the move-in and if they weren’t sharing physical possessions and space what he would do? He said without hesitation, “Oh, I’d probably move”.

Switching roommates in the dorms while possible is not something Alec is planning to do in the near future. He said he is satisfied enough to keep going although reluctantly.  He did speak very highly of the accommodations themselves. Mentioning that it feels like a nice hotel or a personal apartment.

Contrasting Alec’s sort-of-satisfied dorm experience, Ciaran Reddy said, “That was a horrible experience. There’s no comfort. It wasn’t comfortable living there. Difficulties brought up with the RA staff weren’t really dealt with”. Whether these were roommate issues or not remains uncertain but I found a trend in regards to Residential Assistants.

When reminiscing about roommate life on-campus before moving to a “party house” off campus, Rick (from the beer story earlier) said “Madrone was cool. My RA would let us get away with a lot of shit. Our RA was a homie.”

The RA trend I found is that your personal experience in dorms may depend largely on your RA, and how you communicate with them. In fact when I asked in my next interview what could make his roommate experience better and how RA’s could help, David Oldham told me quickly  as if it was typed in all caps and bold text, “CHORE WHEEL”.

In contrast, off campus living with roommates and a couch dweller has lead to “very good experiences”, David says. He mentioned that he is very careful when selecting potential roommates and that despite some overall cleanliness issues and figuring out whose turn it is to do dishes, “We all have very good communication with each other. I’m happy with my roommate situation.” He did warn “Communication is the key to any successful living situation” and with a nice big grin through his large and in charge beard he added, “…always knock”.

David’s approach which he finds successful is rather simple, “I love ‘em but I don’t always have to like ‘em, and that’s the beauty of it.”

In the interviews I conducted most agreed it’s important to have a room mate who has similar values, priorities and states cleanliness as our photo of the bathtub illustrates.

Here’s one more quote from a room mate which you’re either really glad you didn’t have or wish you did to illustrate the point that communicating prior to moving in together is key, “…I had five roommates total over the year, one of which is a good friend that stayed all year, [the other] four which all moved out because of my crazy antics.”