I love the New York Times Circuits section every Thursday. It's the only section of the Times that I read regularly. (I also like the Tuesday "Tunnel Vision" column about the NYC subway.) Anyway, today's story about incoming college freshmen corresponding with their new roommates over e-mail brought back some old memories, fond and not so fond.
It was ten years ago this month that I first dealt with new roommate issues, as an incoming freshman at Georgetown University. (Man, ten years -- it really makes me feel old, even at 28.) The GU housing department sent me a letter with my new roommate's information on it, as well as where we'd be living (Darnall Hall, room 117. Some things you never forget.). I clearly remember the phone call I got one August afternoon from my new roommate, one Mark Reedy of Atlanta, GA. I stood in my kitchen as we talked briefly about who we were, then spent most of the call discussing what we'd be bringing. He had a TV and a stereo, I had a computer. He also planned to bring his five-foot-long pet python, with the cliched name of Monty. On the phone, he seemed like a decent guy. We were both messy and lazy, so we figured we'd get along well.
A few weeks later, we met in person on move-in day. Again, at first meeting, my initial impression was the same as before. Of course, those of you who know me well will recall that Mark and I did not get along well at all for most of the year. My idea of messy was not making my bed and leaving everything in a pile on my desk. His idea of messy was to leave his dirty laundry in the middle of the floor for weeks at a time. The 1993 Georgetown yearbook even has a picture of our room in it, showing in full, lurid color just how nasty we kept this room. I thought I was lazy, sleeping late and rushing to my morning classes. He would sleep all day and miss most of his classes. However, the mess and the hours were the least of the problems we had. I can't go into detail about the issues we went through all year, so suffice it to say we just didn't get along. I think matters were at their worst when on nights when he would be out late partying, I'd hope that he was dead somewhere so I could live in peace. Moving out wasn't really an option; by the time things deteriorated to the point where I considered moving, the year was almost over, so I just gutted it out. My living situation improved greatly the following year, when I shared a room and later an apartment with Jonathan. While I knew a few people who got along well with their initial roommates (and continued to live together after freshman year), most of my friends fared much better when they were able to choose their roommates. For a follow-up, I could discuss all the mishegoss of my junior year, when I chose to live with three friends in an off-campus house, but later had several new housemates chosen for me through external events, but I don't have the time now, and no one would believe me anyway.
Instead, here's a list of the places I lived when I was at Georgetown, just for the hell of it:
Freshman year (1992-93): Darnall Hall, room 117. Built in the 1960s, renovated two years after I lived there. Half the people who lived on my floor were cool guys, the rest were lacrosse players and business school students who partied all the time. I was happy to get out of there.
Fall semester sophomore year (1993): Copley Hall, room 401. Built in the 1930s (I think), renovated the year after I lived there. I had a great time there because of all the fantastic people on the floor, but the rooms were crappy. Over Christmas break the shower in my room exploded and turned the room into a sauna for three days. Because of this event, Jonathan and I moved to ...
Spring semester sophomore year (1994): Village A, Apartment A205 (I think that was the number). We moved into the only available spare room on campus and lived with a junior and an exchange student. I LOVED having an on-campus apartment as a sophomore; it was a big status thing to have an apartment at that age. And it had a roof deck with a view of the Potomac and Virginia.
Junior year (1994-95): 3720 R Street. Off-campus house. I lived with some of my best friends in one of the crappiest houses in Georgetown (actually Burleith). The stories from this house would take far too long to tell here.
Senior year (1995-96): Village A, Apartment E206. Three friends and I took another roof deck apartment with a river view. We didn't have a high enough "draft" pick to get a top-floor apartment, but we had the best time living here. Definitely the best living experience of my four years at Georgetown.