September 23, 2013

O-Issue 2013: Roommates

Whether the roommate of your dreams is a neat freak or a fellow slob, a go-getter or a shut-in, it’s all about how you deal with each other. So whether you end up being instant BFFs or each other’s horror stories, here are a few reminders 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 from where they hail (pro-tip: it’s on your door signs). There are plenty of discussions that have to be had—Room temperature! Sleeping schedules! Bathroom supplies! Homework habits!—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 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 Walgreens 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 OK 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 oft-quoted “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 when 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. Yes, this happens at UChicago. You can try to plan ahead and reserve some alone time in advance, but you can’t always account for the spontaneous. Be tactful—a heads-up text should do the job, but you can let the whole world know with socks on the door. Get the requisite friendly barbs in afterwards, but don’t make too big a deal out of it (the first couple times). If 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 have a few more tips if the going gets bad. If 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 dreaming of that second-year single. Having a roommate (or your roommate) isn’t for everyone, so don’t let yourself get stuck in a bad situation.