'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
It has now been about a month since the fall semester started, and at colleges and universities across the nation many freshmen students are coming to grips with an unpleasant reality known as: roommaticus Norman Bateus (which is Latin for, “My roommate is a psycho!”).
Colleges do their best to match up freshmen roommates that have a good chance of being compatible. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out when two total strangers, each with his or her own unique personality quirks, are paired up in a small dormitory room.
The difficulties usually are not anyone’s fault; it’s just that different people have different ways of doing things. Some people are neat, others are sloppy. Some people like to go to sleep early, others like to stay up late and watch TV. Some people like to do homework in the evening, others prefer to wait until sundown to practice satanic rituals involving live chickens. Some people don’t really like to “party,” others like to have seven high school friends visit for a week and transform the dorm room into a combination beer hall/brothel/roller derby rink.
The issues that cause the most problems between roommates, know as the “freshman friction factors,” fall into three primary categories:
Noise – Besides the obvious sources of annoying noises—stereos, computers, TVs, video games, cell phones, alarm clocks, shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles—there are other less obvious noise problems. For example: bodily noises. Let’s face it, many of these freshmen had their own bedrooms at home, and now for the first time they are sleeping three feet away from a total stranger. They are not used to hearing in the dead of night an assortment of burps, gurgles, wheezes, sneezes, fizzles, and fazzles—not to mention the symphony of scary sounds that occur a few hours after Burrito Night at the campus dining hall.
Laundry – Most college freshmen vaguely understand that dirty clothes do not automatically clean themselves. (Although when I was a freshman in college, it took until early November for me to realize there is no such thing as the “Laundry Fairy.” Turns out, to my surprise, that for 18 years my clothes were cleaned, folded, and placed in the dresser drawers by my mom. Who knew?) Some college students take an approach toward laundry known as laissez-faire (which is French for, “Wow, that stinks!”). As the weeks wear on, these students build little mounds of dirty clothing throughout the dorm room, in locations carefully selected at random, until the place looks and smells a lot like a Gap store that just had a septic tank-cleaning truck crash into it.
Food – A friend recently told me of his college experience years ago. His roommate constantly ate other people’s food—especially cheese—and then vehemently denied doing it. One time, as a test, my friend purchased a chunk of cheese about the same size and weight as a cinder block, set it down on his desk, and went out into the hallway for 30 seconds. When he came back into the room the cheese was gone. His roommate shrugged his shoulders and, with a mouth full of an unidentified orange substance, said, “Nummgmmr wrrmngim” (which is Pig Latin for, “Cheese? What cheese?”).
If you are currently a college freshman with a quirky-jerky roommate who is driving you nuts, just remember two things: 1) Adversity builds character. If it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger. 2) In a few years your noisy, smelly, cheese-pilfering roommate quite likely will be asking you for a job. At that time feel free to reply by making a rude bodily noise.
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