Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Hello again. Just dusting off the old blog. Thought I might try, I don't know, being funny about my crazy roommates again. It's only been four months. Apparently some people update these things every day. Who knew? As the two year anniversary of the event that started it all looms, I thought it might be nice if I actually managed to share with you what the event actually was. The big day was October 8th, 2009, so my goal is to have that post up on Saturday. We'll see if I can do it. I also will probably be drinking. Not in sorrow, but in celebration of my freedom from roommates. Come one, come all.
But first, I have a story to tell. When we last spoke, I'd just gotten back from a disappointing summer volunteering and cleaning in Costa Rica. Yvette and my subletter Miranda had spent a rather uneventful six weeks living together. I learned the words for chlorine (cloro) and disentangle (desenrollarse) in Spanish. Miranda saved Yvette from the terrors of mice and met our man-sandal wearing landlord. It was mid-August by the time Yvette and I started our (brief) tenure as roommates.
Now, up until the week of the fateful event, Yvette really only did some things that were weird or questionable. To any roommate, in any situation, they would be oddities or irritants. Given that I was planning on leaving when the lease was up in December, I tried not to let them get to me. They also prove to be clues to what was to come.
The night I arrived back from Costa Rica was a great night. I was so excited about my bed and waking up late and drinking coffee in my pajamas that really nothing could harsh my mellow. I'd talked to Miranda about the timing, but somehow missed telling Yvette. Ooops! My bad! Anyway, when I got back she didn't seem to mind not knowing but said, "Oh! I wish I had known because I was planning on cleaning the bathroom for you!" Now, anyone who has actually been in my bathroom knows that that particular household chore is not high on my list. I assured her it was not a problem.
So Yvette is wandering around the apartment, doing her thing, while Miranda and I catch up on own summers. At some point Yvette goes into the bathroom. I can hear the water running and the curtain moving, so I assume she's taking a shower and don't think much of it. I go back to chatting with Miranda (a native Spanish speaker), attempting to impress her with my new skills. When Yvette comes out of the bathroom she's still fully dressed, clearly not showered, and carrying the shower curtain, the wastebasket, and the bathmat in her arms. "Oh," she says, "These weren't yours, were they? I decided to redo the bathroom."
Um, well, no. That bathmat wasn't mine. It was there when I moved in. But what if it was? Maybe, just maybe, I liked the bathroom like it was. Maybe I'm partial to people including me in decisions about our joint space. Maybe I don't like when people throw away stuff that's not theirs. Maybe I think that putting down a white bathmat is the stupidest idea ever because it will get so dirty, so quickly that, even though we try to wash it once a week and own a washer-dryer it will never be brighter or less grimy than a wall in a subway station.
Beyond wishing she could have changed the bathroom before I got home, her schedule made no sense. She worked for the city (something in the payroll department) and had normal city-worker hours, yet for days each week in August she would just appear from her room in her pajamas at 1:00 PM. I wasn't back to work yet, so I'd had all these plans to get my apartment and life together that I kind of wanted to do uninterrupted. There's something weird about having roommates and how it makes you (or at least me) act. There are things that I do now that I live by myself that I wouldn't do with roommates. Some of it is consideration of shared space (like the pile of mail next to my couch right now -- any time it would like to get up and sort itself would be great), but some of it is social pressure. I might not spend an entire day watching a Law and Order marathon if I thought someone might be judging me for it, because really, I'm judging myself a little bit for my supreme laziness. Now, though, with the shades drawn and the closest person a couple of locked doors away, I can feel free to be perfectly ridiculous and say, sing along to Glee (which I may or may not have done tonight because I may or may not have been in "West Side Story" in High School). Anyway, getting back to the point, when you have roommates, you like them best when they're not around -- whether you just want to relax in peace or give yourself a pedicure in the living room. So not only was I confused by this bizarre-o schedule of hers, I was annoyed that I didn't get my counted on alone time.
When Yvette was back on her "normal" schedule of getting up between 9:00 and 10:00 to go to work, we sometimes ran into each other on the way to the bathroom. I was on summer vacation, but the time that I generally started my day of leisurely coffee drinking was around the time she started getting ready for work. One morning she headed to the bathroom as I came out. When my back was to her she said good morning. Being a confused sleepy-head who can barely string two words together when I first get up, I sort of muttered good morning back as I continued my slog to the kitchen. Suddenly she said in a sing-song-y voice, "What? I don't get a good morning?" I turned slowly, resisting the urge to shove her "Good Morning" down her throat, and simply said, "I'm sorry. I really not a morning person." Then I went and made coffee so I could turn into a presentable human being.
The final sort of odd thing about Yvette was her passive aggressiveness. Now, I'm not claiming not to be a bit pas-agg myself -- in fact, it's kind of how I work best. I hate confrontation and love dealing in shades of subtlety with gentle nudging. Yvette took it to a whole new level. One of the days when Yvette was inexplicably home all day long, she decided it might be time to talk about bills. Even though we'd been home together all day, she chose not to talk to me about it, but instead to leave a note when I ran out to run an errand. Fine. I get it. Money is a touchy subject, but if you're going to avoid talking to me face to face, let me give you some pointers from a pro: First, use e-mail. This is the 21st century. A piece of paper on my desk is kind of lame. Second, ensure that the recipient will not receive the note in your presence. Don't leave the note on your roommate's desk when you're planning on staying in the apartment for another few hours and she might come back and have no idea what to do with your little note. Third, make sure the issue is note-worthy, makes sense, and includes all the necessary documentation. When a subletter has been living in the apartment for six weeks and the more permanent roommate for just a few days, said subletter might be who you're looking for to pay bills (sidenote -- Miranda ultimately paid them). When asking for money for utilities, you might want to actually include the bills. Most people will not write personal checks for $250 to relative strangers on blind faith. And finally, bills and distribution of responsibilities are a touchy, but necessary issue for roommates to discus and you should probably expect some kind of negotiations to occur. Beyond just splitting the cable bill, questions come up like should we have a cleaning lady? How should we distribute cleaning responsibilities? Who wants to be in charge of buying toilet paper?
I subscribe to the philosophy of meeting fire with fire . . . or passive-aggressiveness with passive-aggressiveness, as the case may be. So I waited until she was finally gone and wrote my own note. I explained that I would talk to Miranda about paying since I didn't live there when the charges were incurred, but that I would like to see the actual bills in the future being paying for anything. I also explained that I couldn't afford a cleaning lady, but gave an alternative solution that I thought would make us both happy. This was written on a giant blue post-it in purple ink and stuck to her door. I'm sure I included a smiley face. Pas-agg city.