Monday, July 25, 2005

The College Roommate From Hades

In this day and age most colleges have questionnaires to help them select and match personalities that are best suited to be roommates. While they allow freshmen to choose their own roommates ahead of time, they strongly suggest that freshmen let the college do it. There are many good reasons for this, particularly if the rooming situation does not work out, the fact that the college chose makes it easier to change roommates without hard feelings.

I did not have the college pick my first roommate. This was a very bad decision leading to a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad semester.

Kathy T. was my first roommate. We met on the Pittsburgh district at church camp. We were both in a teen group that had been picked from all over the area to travel around and sing at various churches during vacations. We were roommates during these trips and got along well. I was only 17 when I went to college 1000 miles away from home. Kathy was 19 and had worked for a year after high school before going to college. She was outgoing and believe it or not, I was more outgoing then as well, just not as bubbly as she was. (Nothing like a good dose of life to make you pull back and change personality) She was fun to room with, for short (very short) periods of time.

I am not tall at around 5'5" but Kathy was very short, maybe 5' but no more. She was a little dumpy for her height and I was thin then probably a size 10 or 12. (Don't ask.) We both had long brown hair but I wore glasses. She had a strange walk, more like a lopsided strut; with one hand on her hip and hips swinging wildly, she walked across the room to someone and stopped with that hand on hip stuck out and the other foot placed behind it and angled outward. At those times she was usually flirting with a guy or trying to get the full attention of a group of guys. Kathy liked guys.

In short, (no pun intended) she had the common misconception of freshmen entering college that she was there to have fun, period. She was there with the sole purpose to snag a husband. These were two things I didn't know about her. Being naive, I thought you went to college to study and prepare for whatever job you thought you wanted to do in life. We were polar opposites. And I had not seen this in the weekend rooming romps we had at home.

It all hit the fan rather quickly, about two days after school actually started. As freshmen, we had study hours. That is an ancient concept, I know, long forgotten in most colleges and universities. Study hours meant that from 8 o'clock until 10 o'clock in the evening, Monday through Thursday, we had to be in our dorm rooms studying. Not in someone else's room (unless specific permission was obtained), not in a big study room, not on another floor....but in our own room. We could check out to the library, but had to be in the library by 8pm. Sophomore RA's on each floor did an actual room to room check at 8pm every night to see that everyone was in. We also had other dorm hours. Week nights the dorms closed at 10:30 pm and midnight on weekends except Sunday night when it was also 10:30 pm. And I mean closed and locked up. You could still get out in an emergency, but to get in required phone calls to security, the dorm mother who lived in the dorm and a lot of difficulty.

Kathy didn't study. She wasn't really stupid or should I say "book dumb", but she was stupid in the "total lack of common sense" area. She did her nails and curled her hair and listened to the radio. She talked incessantly to anyone who would listen. We weren't supposed to have phone calls but she would talk to guys on the phone as well during study hours. She giggled a lot, an annoying fake giggle with snorting at the end. Maybe it was the snorting that really got to me. I finally got permission to study in another room most of the time. I knew this was going to be a long semester but still had hopes she would change.

The weather got cooler and Kathy studied even less. She started hanging around with a few other guys and one or two girls who also did not study. More than that, they went off campus and on one occasion one of the boys in the group was caught with alcohol. This was a church school and unlike many who claim to have a policy against alcohol but really don't, this one did. He left for home permanently the next day.

Kathy took to "borrowing" my clothes without asking. I was a preachers kid and we didn't have much money. All of my clothes were homemade, by me. I learned to sew and made my dresses (yes, we had to wear dresses to class) and skirts. I had some store bought sweaters and a few made by my grandmother. One day there was Kathy, walking across campus with my favorite wool skirt, rolled up at the waistband and I might add, stretched out at the waistband as well, along with my favorite sweater. Her remark to this, "I thought you wouldn't mind." I let it slide as my non-confrontational side kicked in big time. But I started to seethe inside.

Seething is not a good thing. It will eventually either lead you to have ulcers or erupt like a volcano. In my case it would be the volcano route.

The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back came right before Thanksgiving. One night Kathy didn't show up for study hours. I didn't know where she was. They checked the library and she wasn't there. She wasn't in any other room in the dorm. No one knew where she was. The dorm mom was notified and security. She had not called or spoken to them. Study hours passed, no Kathy. Dorm curfew came at 10:30 and no Kathy. Everyone was starting to get worried, security was searching the campus, the dorm mom was calling other dorms and we were on the verge of calling the police. Then around 12:30 am, she pulls up in a car, the only girl with three guys. This group of boys did not go to college at our school and reeked of alcohol.

Word spread pretty fast that she was back. She spent some time down in the dorm mom's room and I sat in our room seething. I doubt that she was drunk, but she might have been drinking. She didn't have any on her and they couldn't prove she had been drinking so she did not get expelled, but warned firmly.

I was not so kind. When she hit the door, all the stupid stunts she had pulled during the course of the semester, all the nights I had to find another place to study, all the extra laundry I had to do because she wore my clothes, all the extra cleaning I had to do because she was a all came to the top and I blew up, forcefully.

I got in her face (looking down) and shook my finger at her. I gave her the "how could you just go off campus without permission and not telling anyone" one punch and the "don't you know you had everyone on campus looking for you" two punch and the "you are the most immature, selfish, self-centered, person I have ever met and if you ever pull a stunt like this again I will call your parents and the police and the dean of students and you will be on your way back to Pennsylvania before the night is through!" jab to the stomach. Then I told her to keep her grubby paws off my clothes, stay out of my closet and out of my life. I had found my self, and stood up for my principles in the face of her lack of concern for rules in general. I was shouted out. So I ended the session with a calm, "I will be finding a new roommate for next semester."

That was it. The rest of the semester I avoided her like the plague. I studied in the library or in other rooms, left early in the morning and came back to the room when I knew she wouldn't be there during the day. I came in the room at 10:30 pm and went to bed, never speaking more than two or three words to her at any one time. The friendship was over. She still didn't study but she did get in on time, barely.

I found another roommate on the same floor, across the hall. The way our dorm was laid out, it might as well have been on another planet. I got back to school before she did and moved my things, the room was ready for her new roommate when Kathy returned. We moved in different circles and they never intersected again.

She managed to make it through a second semester before dropping out and going back to Pennsylvania; but not without incident. One afternoon we heard screaming and yelling from across the hall. My roommate and I went through the central store room and saw the door to Kathy's room open, her new roommate standing over her screaming to the top of her lungs. There were two guys in the room with these spray cans and yellow suits. What happened?

It was Oklahoma, in winter, and cold. Kathy had happened on a tree stump that someone had cut down. It was about three feet in diameter and she thought it would make a cute table in the corner of their study area. It wasn't heavy either so she got some guy to help her get it back to the dorm and she drug it up the stairs to her room. Overnight this dead partially hollow stump warmed up. The little termites hibernating inside woke up.....and swarmed, all over their room. The little men in the yellow suits were exterminators.

I just looked up to heaven and said "Thank you God. Oh,and please bless her roommate, she needs it right now."

So, now you know, those little questionnaires are important, useful and can prevent a lot of hardship and pain. Fill them out. Trust me, I know firsthand.

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