September 25, 2012

O-Issue 2012: Roommates

You may have put all the care in the world into your housing application, deliberating endlessly over whether the roommate of your dreams is a neat-freak or a fellow slob, a go-getter or a shut-in. But we get all sorts here at the University of Chicago, so whether you end up with an instant BFF or a lifelong foe, here are a few practices and pointers to get you through the next nine months.

Speak early, speak often

There’s an unspoken expiration date on the stock conversation starters; don’t expect it to go over well if you wait until November to ask your roommate (or anybody you interact with regularly) from where they hail. There are plenty of logistical discussions to get to—room temperature! sleeping schedules! bathroom supplies!—but nobody wants their roommate relationship to be all business. Being friendly with the person who sleeps eight feet away from you makes everything else about cohabitation easier, and it just might save you a nasty conflict later in the year.

Compromise: nobody

loses (sleep)

Does your roommate sleep through their daily 6 a.m. alarm, then hit snooze, then snooze again? Sound like a Snorlax with asthma at night? Turn the thermostat down to 50 the moment after you fall asleep? Although you can ask them to get a less offensive alarm or to “please, stop” tinkering with the air conditioning, you can’t force them to get nasal surgery. Pick your battles, and get intimate with your new best friends: a sleeping mask and earplugs, available at nearby Walgreen’s for a pittance. Privacy issues are almost inevitable in any roommate relationship. Whether it’s sweet, whispered nothings until dawn with a high school sweetheart or rambunctious Skyping with friends, the onus is on you to lay down the law. Let them know what you aren’t okay with, but always suggest alternatives: offer your headphones, or a pillow to make hallway Skyping a feasible alternative. Don’t forget the Golden Rule either; try to anticipate and circumvent your roommate’s complaints, and be willing to make concessions for the sake of the peace.

Kindergarten manners

The business maxim “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” most certainly does not apply to sharing a room. Whether or not your co-tenant has had an unopened economy-sized pack of chocolate on their desk for months, stealing a break of that Kit Kat bar shouldn’t be your prerogative, even if you’re starving and the dining hall’s serving leftover tilapia that was already dry yesterday. It doesn’t hurt to ask first, and if you make it a practice to extend common courtesy, you can expect your roommate to do the same.

The dreaded (or highly

anticipated?) sexile

You can try to plan ahead and reserve some alone time in advance, but you can’t always account for the spontaneous. Agree on a system beforehand—the classic sock on the door, perhaps?—and be willing to suffer the temporary inconvenience of crashing in a friend’s room. Get the requisite friendly barbs in afterwards, but don’t make too big a deal out of it. If (and when?) your turn comes around, you’ll want them to return the favor.

Time to bail

As you’ll soon discover, your RAs and RHs are savants at helping everybody get along, so they may just have a few helpful tips for when the going gets bad. If even they can’t mediate a ceasefire between soon-to-be-ex-roommates, you can always abandon both ship and room. Contact the Office of Undergraduate Housing (6030 South Ellis Avenue, 773-702-7366) to get the ball rolling, but be aware that there’s a three week housing freeze to start fall quarter. After that, switching depends on your location, preferences, and the vacancies that open up. Switching rooms mid-year can be tough, but better that than spending nine months lusting after that second-year single. Having a roommate (or just your roommate) isn’t for everyone, so don’t let yourself get stuck in a bad situation.