Part of me was a little disappointed that I was already 36 by the time I finally moved into New York City. From what I’d gathered from my local friends (not to mention every TV show set in New York that has ever been made), you’re not a real New Yorker until you’ve got at least one “nightmare roommate” anecdote under your belt. But how would I manage this? I’d racked up 18 years experience living with other people; all I had to do was find one or two people roughly my age, with roughly the same level of experience, and everything would be disappointingly uneventful.
If Jurassic Park has taught us anything, it’s that life finds a way.
Stevie became my third
housemate roommate (see, I’m assimilating to American life already) one month into my three month sublet in Hamilton Heights.
She was a bad
housemate roommate before she’d even moved her shit into the apartment, by making me wait twelve hours to let her in.
Patented and Exclusive “Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” Roommate Tip #1:
If someone has to be at home to let you in on the day you move, do try to get to your new place before 10:20pm on a Sunday.
She was all moved in by 11pm, and we set about the task of bonding as
housemates roommates. This was slightly difficult as we’d never met before; I was a sublet tenant and so was she, so our living arrangements had been made by higher powers. But we were both Australians, so half the work was already done.
OR WAS IT? Because the second she found out I’d moved from Melbourne, she deployed one of the most boring, forced and pointless Australian cliches that exists: Sydney-Melbourne rivalry. I shit you not, she literally sniffed, arched her shoulders and spat “OH? YOU’RE FROM MELBOURNE?”
Patented and Exclusive “Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” Roommate Tip #2:
When meeting the people with whom you are going to live, it is customary to wait at least 24 hours before being visibly repulsed by them.
To smooth things over, I hastily explained that I’d actually grown up in Queensland, and had lived a little bit of everywhere. Not knowing quite how to carry on the conversation, I tried to finish her half of the Sydney-hates-Melbourne equation:
Me: So, you’re from Sydney?
Stevie: Oh. Well. I mean. Sort of. I guess. It’s actually hard to explain.
Stevie: My dad works for an international finance company, so I moved around a bit as a kid.
I MOVED AROUND. A BIT. AS A KID.
First of all, maybe you’ve heard of a little website called Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore?
Second of all: that took one sentence to explain. Things that are “hard to explain” take more than seventeen words.
Patented and Exclusive “Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” Roommate Tip #3:
The people who wash their genitals in the same residence in which you wash your genitals may, in order to be comfortable washing their genitals in the same residence in which you wash your genitals, want to get to know you a bit better. Do try to have the answers to some basic questions prepared.
My relationship with Stevie never recovered. Nor did her relationship with our other
housemate roommate, Michael.
Michael was a sweetheart who would ask you if you needed anything “from the outside world” every time he left the apartment. I never asked for anything bigger than an iced coffee, but I suspect I could have asked for a whole meal, or a piece of jewellery, or the still-beating heart of the fairest in the land, and he would have happily complied.
The first (and last) time he asked Stevie if she wanted anything “from the outside world”, she asked for a bottle of sparkling water. He went out, ran his errand, and returned to the apartment with the best sparkling water he could find. Not just any soda water. Not a Duane Reade-sourced seltzer. This was some glass-bottled San Pellegrino bullshit. He’d gone all out (well, as all-out as one can go in a three-block radius). He handed the bottle over to Stevie with a cheery “here’s your water!” and without even looking up from her laptop she reached out, snatched it from his hand and continued typing in silence.
Patented and Exclusive “Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” Roommate Tip #4:
“Please” and “thank you”. Do try to use them. Wow, I did not think I’d have to go quite so far back to basics.
Hey, while I’m on the topic of water, did you know that there are still people in their thirties in the third millennium of the Common Era who don’t know how to put a water jug they retrieved from the fridge back into the said fridge? Remember, this was a Manhattan apartment: the number of steps from the fridge to the counter and back was decidedly finite.
Patented and Exclusive “Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” Roommate Tip #5:
If something came out of the refrigerator, do try to put it back into the refrigerator.
Stevie also had a bad habit of locking us out of the bathroom and laundry when she wasn’t home. The bathroom could be accessed from both the main apartment and her bedroom, and in the morning she would lock the main access door and then exit the apartment via her bedroom, meaning we couldn’t get into the bathroom or laundry without going through her private space, which felt rude and intrusive.
Every time it happened, Michael would gently remind her that about the communal nature of the bathroom/laundry, and every day she would lock it again.
Patented and Exclusive “Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” Roommate Tip #6:
Do try to avoid blocking your roommates’ access to the amenities. Such behaviour may be misconstrued as being unhelpful.
Of course, the “intrusive and rude” feeling of having to go into Stevie’s room eventually dissipated, especially after I had to go in there to retrieve a stolen item. When I wasn’t home, she had pulled the Australia-to-USA power adaptor off the end of my laptop power cord and plugged it in in her room. On another occasion, after the Missing Australia-to-USA Power Adaptor Incident, Michael found a spare adaptor for me, but when he went to fetch it from where he’d put it, it had disappeared too. And then, as we approached the end of the sublet and Michael prepared to move to Europe, Stevie kept taking Michael’s things from the kitchen and squirrelling them away with her own kitchen items.
Patented and Exclusive “Christopher Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” Roommate Tip #7:
Don’t steal. I mean. Seriously. What the fuck is wrong with you.
By the time the sublet had ended, as sad as I was to leave my gorgeous street in a gorgeous neighbourhood of Manhattan, I was kind of happy to leave the nightmare of Stevie behind. Back out to my “family home” in Pearl River, with the rite of passage of a shitty New York roommate well and truly travailed.
Even if she did ruin it by being Australian.
AND from Sydney.