When you have roommates, of course, you can't really be so lazy. You sort of have to adjust your habits to the other person's threshold for dirt. This is one of the reasons why I liked living with boys -- we have similar thresholds for dirt. I thought Dirty Artie was an outlier, but even he (with the hording and stale towels) was relatively clean in common areas. Enter Bahrry and Dan and their request for a "clean, responsible" roommate.
Bahrry, Dan, and I had a bit of an interrupted Getting to Know You period. I moved in and was there for less than a week when I went off on vacation for the majority of August. That first week the apartment was relatively clean. In my rush to get out the door to the airport on the day I left, I made sure to wash my breakfast dishes because I didn't want to leave the new roommates with anything extra. The dish drain was empty, and (being anal) I meticulously lined up my dishes to dry.
Flash forward three weeks. I get home from Tajikistan and Turkey unbelievably jet-lagged and with a bit of gastrointestinal distress. All I want is a nice glass of water. The Brita is empty, so I go to fill it in the sink, but I can't. The sink is so full of dishes that I can't even angle the Brita under the tap. Try as I might, my effort is futile -- every way I try to tip the pitcher, the water just rolls right back out. Then I notice that the dish drain is exactly as I left it -- meticulously arranged. Neither boy has washed a single dish in three weeks. Then I try to put something in the recycling bin, to find that not just the bin, but the entire cabinet under the sink is full of bottles and cans. I give up on being friendly to the earth and turn around to put the item in the trash, and it's overflowing with pizza boxes piled on top of it. I can't win. I leave the trash/recycling on the counter.
Then I go in the bathroom. After a fourteen hour trip, I was desperately in need of a shower. Looking in the tub, I almost threw-up. It was so full of dirt, grime, and hair that part of me wanted to clean it right then. Exhaustion took over, though, so instead I went and got my hostel bathroom flip-flops -- the ones I wear while traveling so I can shower without sharing *things* with all the other backpackers flitting through the hostel. My first night back in the U.S. and I couldn't even shower barefoot like a normal person in my own apartment.
The next day I cleaned the tub. Then I started to think about a plan. I thought I'd try to catch the boys and suggest we grab a drink and talk about apartment stuff. Unfortunately, I kept getting up at 5:00 am and going to bed at 7:00 pm, missing them entirely. After a few days of being on this ridiculous schedule, I sent them an e-mail:
Dan sent back a perfectly pleasant e-mail suggesting a time. Bahrry's was a little more . . . snitty? I'm not even sure, but he didn't seem game:
Wow!...ur alive? was hoping to hear about ur trip or see some pics sometime... I was beginning to think that maybe you were locked up abroad, kidnapped by gypsies, or contracted some contagious form of eastern block isolationism?
I don't think i've seen or heard from you since your arrival, other than the subtle clues of mysterious furnishings....and bathroom cleanliness...i haven't even smelled any coffee!
i suppose its a sign of the times when writing an email to housemates is easier than knocking on the door & saying wats up?...do we need to have an agenda and sign in sheet for a meeting? i'd rather just drink...i don't think i really answered anything...
talk to u later..
So much for my efforts at being nice and congenial. Did he just not want to talk about the apartment? Did he just have a problem with me taking the initiative? And if you noticed how clean the bathroom was, how could you have not noticed how dirty it was?
Anyway, Dan came home from work one evening and we went off to have a drink, not really knowing where Bahrry stood on the whole thing since he hadn't ever given a real response. Dan was really nice and actually took me on a little tour of Park Slope on our way to grab some beer. Hours (and quite a few beers) later, Bahrry finally showed up. At this point I didn't really want to talk about cleaning schedules, and I wasn't exactly in the right mind-frame to figure out Bahrry's weirdness. The night turned out to be fun, just not super productive.
Given that I brought up the cleaning thing and then didn't follow through, I felt like I should try to broach the subject again, I just wasn't sure how. Then I woke up one morning to find projectile vomit all over the kitchen, the hallway, and the bathroom (including the bathmat I bought). It was disgusting. I left a note on hideously florescent paper asking for it to be cleaned. I can't even remember how I managed to shower, brush my teeth, grab coffee, and get myself off to work in the midst of piles of vomit. I must have blocked it out.
After getting an apology about the puke, I sent this e-mail (which I thought was fairly reasonable):
Kitchen -- Bahrry
Bathroom -- Margaret
Living Room and Hallway -- Dan
I'm an elementary school teacher, so I can make a pretty chart for the kitchen :) Also, could we please impose a 24-hour statute of limitations on dirty dishes in the sink? I definitely don't always have time to wash my dishes immediately after using them (you will almost never see my breakfast dishes clean before the afternoon on a weekday), but when the sink is overflowing to the point where you can't even use the faucet, the dishes have overstayed their welcome . . . and we're beginning to attract flies and I'd rather not bring any other creepy crawlers in.
I didn't get a response from Dan, but did get this bizarre e-mail from Bahrry:
so...you could make one of those spinning pinwheels things like wheel of the unfortunate with caricatures of us all i.e., (me smokin outta my ears and ashing all over the house naked, dan hurling outta every orafice onto every surface imaginable, & you in a fetal position hiding under ur bed w/ a bowl of cereal & a bottle of wine...and maybe some arugula in your hair for good measure)....then there would be another wheel with all the required mundane chores i.e., (bathroom: streak removal,plunging toilets & sweeping pubes, kitchen: removing rotting meat products, maggots, & science projects from sink,living room: hunting dust bunnies, couch cereal,sock & condom removal)...we could all drink & take bets on who will get stuck with what...so even if you get stuck w/ something u don't want to do u might still get paid...play best out of 23 or so
its win, win or it could be lose, lose....but i'm optimistic
i think this worked on the brady bunch just fabulously...
It kind of sounds like he's trying to be funny, but by not giving me a straight answer, he's also kind of being a jackass. I concluded immaturity was to blame. I never got an answer from Dan, so after a few days of not seeing them or hearing anymore, I sent another e-mail:
So, I'm going to take the silence and the sarcasm as a "yes" and roll with this thing. I can definitely make pictures if you need the visual assistance . . . sadly, I have no "under the bed," so I'll have to adjust mine, and Dan's promised not to make the projectile vomiting a habit, so his'll have to be changed as well. In the lower grades we take pictures of the kids and stick them next to their jobs in case they can't read their names . . . I bet that could be arranged. Anyway, in all seriousness, I think the cleaning schedule will just remind us all to clean. I know I won't remember until I get really grossed out and then get annoyed about it. Might keep us from running out of toilet paper too. I should be home around 7:00 and I'm hoping not to pass out before 10:00, if you want to talk about it.
Dan sent me a perfectly reasonable response, adding some of his own apartment concerns (like buying two-ply toilet paper, which was probably in reference to my tendency to buy whatever's cheapest), and generally was positive. Bahrry, of course, could already be counted on to be difficult:
Sarcasm, of course...u get that for free...Silence? what silence? i was almost certain we were going to get chastised for being too loud last night?...I'm just glad Dave wasn't hittin the sauce...and i didn't burn the house down!
In all seriousness, are you always this serious???...I don't think we need to have a major parent-teacher conference about this; the basic premise is not unreasonable & the tasks seem fairly clear & familiar. I think all of us by this point in time are aware ,in concept at least, with routine household responsibilities (but you can elaborate and educate, if you can make learning fun again)...Do you have sock puppets?....so in the end if the rigor of a set schedule for our social obedience is easier to swallow and appeases the authoritative animal within...so be it, i'm sure we can all be clean and comply...
...damn, what a relief!...and i was totally thinking you were Already grossed out and annoyed....?
well...I can't wait to report to my kitchen duties!