The University of California San Diego has a system regarding on-campus housing for returning sophomores. Toward the end of the spring quarter, all freshman students seeking on-campus housing for the following year are put into a lottery. Each student in the lottery is given a sign-up time — that’s when it’s your time to sign up, and you must log on to the university’s housing website and find an open room to live in, whether in the dorm or in an apartment home in the university. There were only two choices: a double that you share with a roommate or a single that you have on your own for $500 a quarter more.
Having had my own room for pretty much my whole life, including my freshman year, I desperately wanted to have one again. Then I was given a late sign-up time, and single rooms were scarce. Sign-ups started at 8 a.m.; my sign-up time was 11. I watched the clock tick down, and when it came time I logged on and frantically looked for a single bedroom in both the dorms and apartment homes. Nothing. I gave up and started looking for any room that was available. I found a room in an apartment home that was central on campus, so I chose it with little regard as to who would be my roommate. I got along with almost everyone I met during my freshman year, so I wasn’t too worried.
My roommate was named Stephen. He was in the same boat as I, also accustomed to having his own room. I called him to introduce myself and to determine who would provide what — TV, toaster oven, etc. Not two minutes into it he drops this gem: “Do you like Asian people?” There are more subtle ways to find out if a person is racist, but I was guessing that he liked the direct approach. I didn’t know how to answer. Just say, “Yes”? Oh, maybe he was joking? So I said, “Sure, I fuck Asian girls all the time. They’re great!” I was soon to learn that Stephen was a devout Christian, and telling him that I hate all things Asian would have been a better response to him than what I did say.
As a devout Christian, Stephen didn’t drink or party — fine with me, but what was not fine with was the preaching. He assumed that since I partook in normal college activities such as drinking, partying, and premarital sex, that I was evil and godless. He would tell me when and why and how my activities would lead me on an express train to hell, and in return I would tell him to shut the f*^# up.
He was dedicated to annoying me. Every time my girlfriend arrived from out of town, Mr. Can’t Get a Clue always seemed to be there. I would tell him in advance that I was going to have a girl over — still he showed up. One time a girl and I had “already started,” and he came into the room without knocking, parked himself at his desk, and sat there.
If there was one aspect of Christianity that Stephen did not seem to subscribe to it was this: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” This guy was dirty. On his side of the room, clothes all over the carpet. Dirty dishes would find a permanent home not only in the sink but on his desk.
Almost every time he cooked he would prepare kimchi [“a traditional Korean fermented dish made of vegetables with varied seasonings,” as Wikipedia puts it], and he would not open a window. Then, just to make sure the smell would permeate, he would leave the kimchi he hadn’t eaten out on the counter. The kitchen smelled like the back of a Korean restaurant for days. I used to like Korean food, but my palate for it is now killed.
The bathroom was not safe either. Somehow he managed to shed all over the shower and bathroom sink, and he would not clean it up. Every time I took a shower after him the tub looked as if someone had just shaved a black cat.
Stephen quickly claimed the top spot on my shit list. Then I found out that he was spoiled, to boot. Despite that fact that his parents lived in El Centro, and despite the fact that their son was 19 going on 20, his parents would make the two-hour trip every weekend to drop off food, do his laundry, fix up his side of the room, and then cook him a meal before heading back that same night. As an independent person working for and paying my own tuition, washing my own clothes, and living a nine-hour drive away from what I called home in order to live completely independently, this infuriated me.
I realize now that my distaste for him was mutual. He resented my girlfriend visiting or the fact that I talked to girls at all. He slept early, I slept late, and after the first month I made sure to make as much noise as possible before I went to bed. I would tend to not shut my alarm off when I went out of town, so every once in a while Stephen would get a blast of noise at seven in the morning on a Saturday. In our complex we only had one bathroom, and if someone was showering you had to wait until the person got out of the bathroom if you had to, you know, urinate. A couple of times when I was in the shower and I heard him outside the door, I made sure to shampoo three or four more times. June could not come fast enough for either of us.
After nine long months the school year was over, and finally Stephen and I moved out. Of course his parents came to clean every nook and cranny and to pack for him. Because he finished his exams three days earlier than I, he left while I was in the library studying, so we never said goodbye. Probably for the best.
Tell us the story of your roommate from hell and we will publish it and pay you ($100 for 500-2000 words).
E-mail story to
Or mail to:
San Diego Reader/Roommate
San Diego, CA 92186