Sunday, July 24, 2011

Weekly Whine: Bad Roommates (Part 2)

As nutty as my roommates were in college, my med school roommates were much more irritating.

I lived in a four single-bedroom dorm suite in med school. It was a suite in that we shared a kitchen, but there was really no common area, aside from a small table with two chairs in the kitchen. I lived there for about two and a half years and roommates would come and go, some med students, most not med students. But the craziest roommate I had was a med student. We'll call her Teresa.

Teresa was an MD/PhD student in my class, and she didn't move in to my suite until some time during second year. She was very quiet, but always seemed nice enough. But as a roommate, she was odd and sometimes slightly frightened me.

She and I shared one of the two bathrooms and she was really odd about her bathroom use. With prior roommates, we had worked out some kind of system for the toilet paper, or else one of us would just replace it when it got used up. But Teresa insisted on carrying her toilet paper around. So I would hang toilet paper on the roll and she would bring hers into the bathroom with her. I was honestly OK with her using my toilet paper, but I guess she didn't trust me or I don't know what.

She also had this habit that drove me crazy: whenever she was done in the bathroom, she would leave the light on and shut the door. I have no idea why she did this, but it wasted electricity and always made me think there was someone in there. Finally, I just started bursting into the bathroom when I needed it, because I was sick of knocking on my own bathroom door every single time.

She also would not let me leave dishes in the sink. I was hardly a slob who left tons of dishes in the sink, mostly because I only OWNED two plates and two cups. So I simply didn't have many dishes to leave in the sink. But I would put, say, a cup in the sink, and I'd come back an hour later to find that Teresa had removed it from the sink and placed it on the kitchen counter. Every single time. Why did she do this? I still can't figure it out.

OK, but this was the frightening part:

As I said, I only had two plates and two cups. Additionally, I only had two forks. I had lunch earlier in the day with my boyfriend and we'd used up both forks, and I was feeling lazy and didn't want to wash them before dinner. So I did something really, really, really horrible and I borrowed one of Teresa's forks. Seriously, I don't know what I was thinking.

I did clean the fork after using it and then put it in the drying rack. Then later that night, Teresa banged on my bedroom door.

Teresa: "Were you using this fork?"

Me: "Um... what?"

Teresa: "I found this fork in the drying rack. Were you using it?"

Me: "I... I'm not sure."

Teresa: "Because this is MY fork."

Me: "Oh. I didn't realize. I, um, found it in my dishrack." (Lie!)

Teresa: "It was in your dishrack???"

Me: "Yeah, well... maybe someone put it there."

Teresa: "Wow, that's really strange."

Me: "Uh.. I guess. I don't know."

Teresa: "I've been knocking on everyone's doors trying to figure out what happened with the fork."

Me: "Uh... I'm sorry. I didn't realize it was yours."

Teresa: "See how the handle is white? All the utensils that look like that are mine."

Me: "Oh, okay. I see."

Needless to say, Teresa and I never became great friends or had any heart to heart discussions during our tenure as roommates.


  1. Sooo... she's the bad roommate, but YOU left dirty dishes in a sink that you share with someone ('just a few' or not, would you wash your hands in a sink with dirty dishes in it? Would you want dirty dishes just sitting in your bathroom?)...and YOU used her stuff because you didn't feel like washing your own (it's not about whether or not you put it back, it was her property. If she didn't even wanna share toilet paper with you--weird or not, that's her choice--what would make you think she would be okay with you using something of hers that you put your mouth on?)...right. Fizzy I've been reading you for months and I love your blog, but this one seems kinda ridiculous.

  2. Yeah. Hate to say it, Fizzy... but this one was "your bad".

  3. I was wrong for using her fork, but I still think she was way creepy about it. I doubt most normal people would have reacted that way.

    Also, does sharing a kitchen mean that you must wash every dish you use immediately? I don't think any of the other girls did that.

    1. Honestly, it was your dishonesty at not owning up when she asked you. No one is born a perfect housemate, but the inability to own up to the small things is the deal breaker. I also think it predicts one's actions in larger things...(i.e. did you take 2 beers? cheat on me? etc...)

  4. Fizzy -- In some apt situations, yes you need to wash every dish immediately. If I already didn't like you, I'd have been pissed off about the fork too.

  5. OMDG: Dunno, it seems like in your own home, you should be able to leave one or two dishes in the sink. Nobody told me I couldn't.

    I always preferred the more communal living situations. With my subsequent roommates, we just shared all the same dishes. (And toilet paper.) It would have been easier to understand if she was a stranger, but we were in the same class. There was no reason for her to treat me like a stranger. And there was never any interaction we had before moving in together that might have caused her to dislike me.

  6. As far as I'm concerned, as long as everyone agrees to follow the same standard, it's all good. Right now, I'm in a living situation where my roommates flip out at the slightest mess I leave in the kitchen (even if it's just there until I finish eating because I like to eat my food hot). At most, my mess is there for an hour, well after they'll need to use the kitchen, as I cook my dinner and eat around 7PM, while they like to eat at 4:30. Likewise for 'my' side of the sink.

    By contrast, they'll leave their stuff on the counters all evening and sometimes until the next morning and in the sink for days at a time. This is a source of frustration for me, not so much becuase I prepare huge meals that require every bit of counterspace available (at most, I might need two pots, a knife, and a cutting board, but I usually am the master of the one-pot meal) but because of the double-standard they hold for themselves.

    Likewise for noise, I've always thought it best to set communal 'quiet hours' at the start of the arrangement (though, my roommates break those with abandon and yet freak out if I run a load of laundry at 9:55AM instead of 10AM).

    That said, my current roommates, as irritating as they can be at times, are nowhere near as bad as my old roommates, who used to sex it up on the couch all day and leave me with an hour of cleaning just to clear out the kitchen enough to make myself something to eat, didn't go to class ever and blamed me for all the mess even though I was at school from 8AM through 10PM (a schedule kept more to avoid them than anything else - most of my homework could have just as easily been done at home as on campus) and so really was only at home to eat supper, sleep, shower, and eat breakfast in the morning.

  7. Well, when you have roommates it's not your *own* home. You need to go out of your way to avoid stepping on toes. It's one of the reasons I never had roommates after high school. I'm not especially a fan of communal living myself. Seems like people often take advantage.

    She probably treated you like a stranger because she didn't like you either. Maybe she thought you were dirty and inconsiderate. Sometimes you don't need a reason not to like someone. *Shrug* Whatever. Just saying it goes both ways.

  8. **I should add -- I SUCK at not stepping on toes. Yet another reason I opted not to have roommates. I totally empathize with how much it sucks living with a weirdo or someone you just don't get along with.

  9. I think I was not the most annoying person living there. Our other roommate (a grad student) used to have these huge parties in her room (without asking) where she'd monopolize the kitchen for hours, have food all over the place, then lots of people in her room (including guys) late at night. The last thing I wanted when I was coming out of the shower late at night was a bunch of strange guys standing outside my room. Yet I disliked her less than Teresa because at least she was personable and didn't frighten me with her weirdness.

    But yeah, having roommates sucks. I've had a few that I really loved, but at least 50% have been horrible experiences. Sometimes I didn't have a choice though, as there was never a no-roommates option.

    Luckily, my husband and I seem to be able to live together without conflict.

  10. Yeah, not sure where you went to college or med school, but I have to say one of the cons of going to med school in Manhattan would have definitely been the roommates issue, as it is too expensive to get an apt by yourself. I remember the tension in the air between my 4 hostesses was palpable when I interviewed at Mt Sinai.

    Thankfully, where I lived in and post college the option of living by oneself was cheap enough to make it a reality. Having an income also helped.

  11. OMDG: I didn't go to school in Manhattan, but the apartments in the town where I lived were rare and pretty pricy. Actually, most people in my class rented a house to share with other classmates. It seemed like of the housemates from first year, 50% ended up living together for the rest of med school, and the other 50% ended up despising each other and never speaking again.

  12. well, i think it's strange that she asked everyone about the fork. But putting dirty dishes on top of the counter isn't that unusual, maybe she wanted to use the sink?
    And another thing - why didn't you guys buy a set of cheap cutlery and used it together? At least that is what all my friends do.

  13. Every once in a while I think it might be nice to have a roommate for company and companionship - this post makes me run screaming in horror from that thought. Thank you for reminding me of how wonderful it is to have my own space where I can leave as many dishes in the sink and use whichever fork I want.

  14. Here Here SD! I lived alone for 10 years before moving in with someone during university. She was witty, interesting and bookish but it still was awful! I liked to cook but she hated the smell of any food other than Dick's burgers and would spray aerosol air freshener while I was eating to mask the smell of garlic or cilantro.

    The company wasn't worth the loss of personal space. Never again!

  15. Oh god, what an awful situation -- Having roommates can be great, but it all goes to hell if you're stuck living with a nutjob. And sometimes people seem completely nice and reasonable until you live with them and discover all their hidden Crazy. Yes, you should try and respect people's personal space/property, but occasionally these things are going to happen when you live with other people and in those situations, it's great when people can be civilized about it. When you're in a program that's as stressful as medicine, it's really an unbearable added stress to not be comfortable in your own home...

  16. My boyfriend's roommate recently flipped out because he used the guy's only spoon (there were other clean spoons left, BF grabbed it on accident). She sounds awful!

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  18. Definitely your bad Fizzy, haha. You were in the wrong for using her fork, but it wouldn't have been a big deal (at all, especially since you washed it) had she not had OCD or something. I find it hilarious that she knocked on everyone's door asking about it!

    I'm with her on the sink thing, and with you on the bathroom thing. At least she didn't bug you about washing your dishes, she just put them on the counter out of her way. And the bathroom thing. . . was there a fan that came on while the light was on? Some people leave the fan on and close the door for a while after they poop, but I doubt she was going number two every time.

  19. Clearly this girl had other issues but if you cannot handle a cup in the sink then you have no business having a roommate unless you hammer out a very specific agreement of 'do's and 'do not's in advance of signing a lease.

    One reason I quit the roommate scene is that I had multiple roommates who were utter slobs. Post-party empty bottles and cups would litter the house for days. One delightful girl periodically emptied her filthy room into large trash bags. Yay for cleaning but she would leave them in the middle of our small kitchen for days, often missing garbage day (and yes, I did take them out, but the other roommates & I got sick of cleaning up her many messes).

    I also could rarely access the sink without an excavation effort that required major personal protective gear. But a few dishes for a few hours -- if you can't handle this then you are probably not flexible enough to live with a stranger.

  20. I realize there is a heated debate about roommate protocol in the sinks but I complete agree that she was kind of a creep about the fork. I mean you have like two pieces of flatware, total (not enough to clog a sink)...


    I'm with you on both counts. If these are the biggest of your issues as a roommate, you were a decent roommate. Seriously.

  21. Now I know who it is leaving dirty dishes in the sink at work.

    If everyone did it - the sink would be full.

    Habits die hard, and if you clean your dishes immediately - there wouldn't be the problem there is in every freaking hospital that I have ever worked in.

    As for the TP - I had a roomie that would use a 1/2 roll per sitting. Bringing in your own roll means you don't have to pay for your roommate's TP issues. Going through several packages of TP a week gets expensive.

    As for the fork - if there is no dishwasher - I would object to someone else using my fork. Never mind that some people will lose things. At work entire sets of cutlery goes missing due to people's inattentiveness.

    So I can see how the madness can have some method.

    On the light in the bathroom thing: now that's weird. Lights out if you are not in the room.

  22. CC: I think it's totally different to leave dishes in the sink at work than leaving them at your own home. I've never left dishes in the sink at work. If every in my apartment had left one or two dishes in the sink like I did, it wouldn't have been a huge deal.

    As for the TP, I assure you I absolutely do NOT use 1/2 a roll in one sitting.

  23. As long as you cleaned it and put it in the rack I don't see the problem unless she was strict vegetarian or kept hallal or kosher or something that required keeping dishes separate, where someone might be understandably picky about what food gets eaten with their silverware.

    What I hate is when my roommate puts her dirty dishes in the sink, fills the sink with water and just leaves them there. for days even. So if I need to use the sink I have to reach through the dirty water to pull the drain and take all of her dishes out. For goodness sake, having dishes sit in dirty, tepid water for days does no one any good. Yuck