Whether you're in summer school or living with eight of your closest friends and their high school friends and their high school friends' college friends in a duplex at the beach, summer is a time when roommate friction often flares. As the temperature rises, our threshold for annoyance drops. This was scientifically proven by Sir Theodociuos Kelvin in 1892.
Luckily, I happen to be an expert in the complex field of roommate relations. I have had twenty roommates in my life (yes, you read that correctly—twenty, as in 20). I have not only learned the profound joy and exquisite pain of living with a roommate, I have written a book on the subject. For realsies. It's called Roomies: Sharing Your Home with Friends, Strangers, and Total Freaks, and it has pictures so you don't even really have to read it. They even made a German edition whose title translates roughly into something about a pony farm.
One thing I've learned from my experience, and which I share in the book, is that, when conflict arises, there are two routes a roommate can take: the mature route, and the passive-aggressive route. In the following situations, I invite you to do what you must in order to get out alive:
The Scenario: You’re doing your business when you realize Roomie’s left you one square of toilet paper.
Mature: Shake it off or dumpster dive for clean scraps. Then kindly ask your roommate to get a jumbo pack when he’s out.
Passive-Aggressive: Slip him an Ex-lax, make sure there’s nothin’ but cardboard on the roll, and see how he likes coming up short in his time of need. He won’t let you run out again.
The Scenario: Where the hockey sticks is that SnackPack you just bought? There were three pudding cups left! Your roomies have been grazing on your food again.
Mature: Ask your roommates if anyone mistakenly took your own food for theirs. Sometimes Kraft Singles can be confused with French double-cream brie. Hopefully, the moocher will fess up and offer to replace it.
Passive-Aggressive: This one’s a classic: Stick Post-it notes with your name—or better yet, just “Me”—on every last food item that belongs to you. (If the grazing has been exceptionally heinous, stencil your initials onto individual eggs or tick with a permanent marker the level of your orange juice in the carton.)
The Scenario: Your new roomie has a way of silently appearing at your bedroom door unannounced, like a freaky undead child in a scary movie.
Mature: Close your door to indicate you want privacy. Tell your roommate what you’re doing—sleeping, studying, doing the HND—so she knows you’re “checking out.” Next time Roomie fails to knock, act startled and say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you knock.”
Passive-Aggressive: Put up yellow “Police Line: Do Not Cross” tape across your doorway. If asked, claim it’s part of a new decorating trend—CSI Chic. Alternatively, perch a pile of books (or bucket of hammers) on the door jamb, where they will fall on the intruding roommate’s head.* Apologize for being a pack rat.
*Don't really do this.
Scenario: Being the relaxed, well-adjusted, and generous person you are, you’ve given your roomie free reign over your entire closet. When it comes time to return the favor, however, she suddenly becomes worried you’ll lose, stain, or stretch everything in hers.
Mature: Remind her—nicely—of all the things you’ve let her borrow. If she still makes a stink, learn how to say “no” yourself.
Passive-Aggressive: Play the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” loudly and on repeat. The further from the holiday season, the more effective the message.
The Scenario: Your roommate has started treating the common area as an extension of his closet. His crap is everywhere, and you can’t even sit on the couch without disturbing piles of his laundry.
Mature: Put his stuff in his bedroom.
Passive-Aggressive: Put his stuff in the trash chute.
How do you deal with annoying roommates? Do you sometimes "lose" their mail, too?