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Roomate Woes

            While I have never been particularly fond of situations by which I must share personal space with other males, during tech school it was a necessary evil and universally acknowledged that we were suffering in common bond under the oppressive yoke of the man. As such, while I lamented the presence of these poor buffoons who had the audacity to be quartered with me, I gave them a relatively easy time of it.

At Medina Joe Valante was good enough to be on an opposite schedule, a proponent of my turning the room into a smoking speakeasy, and frequently absent on the weekend. Due to this good behavior, he escaped my wrath aside from having to endure my hellacious snoring which he likened to be seven shades more unpleasant than Satan’s own jet fighter. Although I neglected to admit it to him, it was partially to due to my sleeping strategy. As the rooms had to be kept in inspection order and I loathed making the damn bed every day as it was on the top bunk, I kept the set up pristine by simply sleeping on my back atop the covers; the optimum position for powerfully loud snores. He often walked about tiredly banging into things and experienced a sudden improvement of health once he moved on.

At Sheppard I was forced in with some younger kid whose name escapes me. Thee the rooms were considerably nice and bigger, and he also had the benefit of being on the opposite shift as me. While my nighttime practices did not change, he had the foresight to sleep with earphones blasting music that only Knaus would like, making me wonder if Paul’s tastes developed from the same situation. In any case, my time with him was fairly short as he moved on to active duty and his berth was never refilled. Once again, my friendship with a few of the right folks helped to ensure the vacancy went unnoticed. I grew used to having my own space again for the first time since basic. It was a trend I expected to continue.

With much ado of nothing, we quietly graduated tech school and received our orders to our permanent duty stations. As we got our envelopes, Bray, Chism, Wasson, Bell, McKinney, and I expressed the fervent wish that we never see each other again unless it was to dance on someone’s grave. Going to school for 9 hours a day every day for 9 months somehow bred considerable tension amongst the ranks. It all came to a head one afternoon when Chism and McKinney all but came to blows in a spectacular shouting match at the schoolhouse. Such outbursts are disallowed and some sort of punishment mandatory.

The MTM who handed it out was known as “the Rock” for his swift and jaunty wit and must have been watching the antics of Jack Tripper on ‘Three’s Company’ when he rendered his decision. He decided to unite them in misery and declared that aside from bathroom, showers, and sleeping, the two would remain bound together by a rope of a scant 18 inches of which each end would be held by each. Sara wailed and moaned at the injustice of it all and took it out on the stoic McKinney by tanking his run time, taking bathroom breaks long enough to preclude him from doing the same, and bending his ear to all manner of feminine hygiene issues. While the punishment was to last 30 days, the two to them tied together was spotted by someone of higher rank who saw the legal implications of creating a male/ female bondage situation and immediately absolved them. Ironically, both drew the same duty station and would be continuing the hate/ hate relationship for 3 more years.

Despite our earlier proclamations, Bray, Bell and I were all very happy to have drawn Langley as our new station. Since Langley was the headquarters of the prestigious Air Combat Command, it was considered a showcase base and had the best of everything. It was also said to have a ‘one room, one airman’ policy as well as a terrific program for allowing folks to move off base and live like real people. We were collectively delighted, and even more so when we learned old Wasson would be heading to Eglin on his own, having grown tired of his teetotaling and ethical behavior. I filled the space between Sheppard and Langley with a glorious 2 week leave back home, where Knaus made a fantastic effort to keep me entertained the whole of the time.

I arrived at Langley on a rainy day and was greeted by a schmuck at the airport. Each new airman is given a sponsor to help orient them when coming to base. I was only able to make a very brief contact with mine that basically secured me a ride to base from the airport. Before he hung up on me, I was unable to either get a description of him or give him mine, leaving me wondering how he was going to pick me out of the crowd. I remedied this by traveling in my dress blues; uncomfortable hot polyester, but at least made me stick out. When I arrived and after waiting for some time, a lanky man came sauntering over and asked my name and introduced himself. Rather than get me situated at the dorms right away, he dumped me off at the base hotel and promised to return in the morning.

The following morning, apparently bored of the duty already, he sent a proxy in the form of Ken Brown, who was significantly more helpful. We went to the assigned dorm for the squadron, the 1st CRS (Component Repair Squadron), Simpson Hall and met with the dorm manager. With little conversation despite my best attempts to get the lay of the land, I was handed a key. Ken and I lugged my crap up and I opened the door to find a living quarters that was apparently occupied. Assuming an oversight, I insisted we go back down to inform the manager of his grievous mistake. He failed to see the error in his ways and revealed that although the ‘one room, one airman’ policy was considered to be a great idea by most, it wasn’t truly in practice yet and thus far as spectacular a failure as the ‘Smoke Free in ‘93’ campaign and it’s successor, ‘Smoke Free in ‘03’. Airman Sell inherited himself a big resentful problem; me.

Anyone who has known me can attest to the fact that I can be somewhat difficult to live with. I am quirky, exhibit bizarre habits, fanatical about whatever obsession has struck my fancy, and vengeful over perceived slights such as being home. Now in the past, Knaus also exhibited these traits only more so which kept things in check. Aaron and I had been in an alliance for so long that it took two years for the effects to materialize and even then the existence of friendship served as a mitigating factor. This poor idiot had no idea what he was in for. Nor did I.

When I first met Jim and found out he was from the hills of West Virginia, I thought I had it made as this hillbilly had chump written all over him. While seemingly incompetent in many areas from his television habits to his 6 month confounding project to build speaker boxes, I was convinced at the end that he was a Machiavellian mastermind. It took me some time to understand what I was up against after months of my best efforts failing to achieve even a minor reaction. That and the fact that after 100 chess games, I failed to beat him even a single time.

I immediately imposed a couple of my OCD traits I consider inviolable. The first of these is my requirement to have a seat that shall always be mine wherein the main entrance is to my back and in full view of the TV. Jim didn’t have an assigned seat as such and was frequently asked to move as I went into repeats of my long version explanation of how I can only be comfortable in said position. Once started, the explanation would continue until complete, even if he had graciously moved the second I opened my mouth. Second, I trumped whatever it was he usually watched on Sunday nights with my mandatory Fox Sunday Night Lineup, which he hated and expressed as much each and every time. This too was paired with a long and dreary explanation no one much wanted to hear but once, much less on a weekly basis. These were really just things to make me comfortable; the real effort to make him uncomfortable pending until I understood what bothered him.

We worked different shifts; him the day shift and me the overnight one. The good part about that was that I had the room to myself when coming home from work at 7:00 AM. It also gave me the means to irritate him. Rather than go to sleep when I got home, I’d usually stay up until about noon or so and just hang out. Rather than retiring to my bed, I would instead stretch over the full length of the couch (his) and sleep there. This gave him no where to sit when he got home from work at 4:00, aside from at an uncomfortable desk chair. Too polite to wake me, he’d sit quietly in the darkness until I finally got around to rising at 6 or 7.

He countered this move with a clever stroke of brilliance. After a few weeks of this, he took to bringing his lunch back to the room rather than eat at the chow hall or with his friends. He never explained why he did this, but oh, I knew. If I was still awake, I would be forced to endure his company and lose the entirety of the couch, forcing me back to my bed. When I took to going to bed earlier at 10:30, he continued the practice and would sit there eating in the desk chair with whatever was the noisiest food the chow hall had to offer that day. We settled into a routine of mutual discomfort with neither party acknowledging even the slightest level of being affected.

It was time to up the ante with a two pronged attack with the objective of making the majority of his time in the room unpleasant. On weekday evenings I filled the room with the sounds of loud phone calls. I discovered a cheap telephone dating service and joined just as I did in Buffalo. Most evenings were then filled with phone call after phone call and my loud conversation blotting out the sound of the TV. He actually began to groan ever so slightly each time it rang. As I told each of the women it was OK to call at any time and kept my work hours vague, many of them came in well after he was asleep and I was gone. I’d arrive home in the morning to sticky notes of calls from women I probably never intended to talk to.

On weekends my attack continued though my insistence on playing host. Most Friday and Saturday nights were spent first either going for dinner or cooking some sort of meat on a hibachi outside the door, followed by a trip to Blockbuster where we would rent 2 or 3 movies and watch them in my room. Usually it was Bryan Bray, John McCauley, Tim Kyle, Jason Bell, and I. There was usually no where to sit or sleep for old Jim if he happened to come back from whatever it was he tended to do. Oftentimes he’d come in, look around, sigh, and leave. Many times we’d go as late as 4:00 AM, wherein he’d come back and leave several times over, silent but agitated at seeing the festivities stretch on. At times my eyes would deceive me and Jason’s visage would appear over Jim’s, the two united in ethereal brotherhood of suffering under my reign of terror.

He stepped it up a bit himself. Where he had always been in the habit of torturing me with Jerry Springer as I got ready for work and left each evening, he upped the ante by starting to invite some of his dingbat friends in to come watch with him. I was forced to shave, shower and get dressed to an audience of hootenannies brazenly championing their favorite inbred skank fighting their step-mom/ sister-in-law what done tried to steal their man. Any of the cretins occupying the couch easily could have been said sluggard with the simple addition of a tornado target moustache and sly mullet. I left many a night early for work.

All in all he became more social as the year wore on endlessly and I began to wonder if I took the right tack by trying to drive him out with the onerous presence of my abrasive friends; none of whom could enjoy comparison to a Mooney or a Thies in rudeness or ability to offend. In the past he had simply annoyed me by working endlessly on his speaker box project, pulling his sheets of plywood out from behind the lockers and taking measurement after measurement. The prospect of creating a 2’ X 2’ X 1’ box had him stymied, leaving him sitting there punching the calculator like some old timey accountant and revising the spider web of pencil marks on his plywood. The exercise drove me batty and I was sorely tempted to quickly measure things out when he wasn’t there. Whether it was the thickness of the wood that was confounding him, or if he was engaging in this annoying activity simply to irritate me I’ll never know. It was still better than enduring his nightly Springer party.

As Christmas time approached I was able to finally hit a nerve. As per past custom, I purchased well over 1000 colored Christmas lights; the kind that blinked. They ran over every wall, the window, around the posts and frame of the bunk beds, zigzagged over the shelves, around the TV, all about the sink and shaving area, and finally across the back of the couch. I turned them on every time I came into the room and resisted ever turning them off by giving some story or another. While I, like the dread pirate Roberts, had built up exposure immunity to the poison they broadcast, everyone else was affected. The constant blinking was pervasive; making TV watching, reading, and even shaving an exercise in concentration. Those foolish enough to put their arm on the back of the couch would burn themselves on the string back there. Jim caught snippets of sleep in my absence as the torturous blinking from those wrapped but inches from his face penetrated the thin skin of his eyelids. He held out stoically for longer than I expected and finally broke a few weeks after New Years once he realized my intention was to keep it up until the next holiday season. His armor was chinked and I pressed forward.

Sometime in the spring I learned he was not passing me all my messages from midnight callers as he used to. I felt this gave me cause to respond along the same lines and began making things up to tell his callers. My best effort involved a very comely civilian woman named Jessica who began coming around and called for Jim often. On one occasion when I was particularly annoyed, I took a moment to express my admiration of her dating a man with an artificial buttock. She expressed confusion and I pressed the advantage.

“Yeah, I think it’s pretty gross myself, but they did a good job on it”

“Come on, are you serious? He doesn’t have a fake ass!”

“I wouldn’t have thought so either, but he takes it off to take a shower and leaves it just sitting on the bed. It even has fake hair!”

At the very least, I introduced doubt and asked her not to out me as having told her. Sometime later I was present to overhear a phone conversation between them where she apparently accused him of keeping it a secret. He of course was baffled and I finally had to leave all together, unable to keep in the howls of laughter. I suppose he proved the matter one way or another, though things between them fizzled not long after. It was probably the cleverest bit of cock blocking I ever accomplished, had that been my intention.

By late spring I finally wore though to his last nerve, and thank heaven as he had certainly worn though to mine. The dorms were beginning to empty out a bit and when he learned of a room destined for vacancy, he went down and campaigned heavily with the dorm manager to become the new occupant. As I understand it, the dorm manager was aware of our situation, though was powerless to intervene as there was no real statute that prevented me from being annoying as hell so long as formal complaints were not made. My hats off to Jim for avoiding that path.

I happily helped him move his gear down one floor despite my irritation that he took the phone with him, even though he had another and I couldn’t afford a new one until the next payday. This actually began a trend with room mates that culminated with Bryan taking the shower curtain two years later. In any case, my campaign was won and I basked in the secluded silence of my very own room.

The dorm manager was wise enough to not try assigning anyone new to my domain, knowing the clean up work would not be worth it. A friend of mine, Tim Kyle, who elected to stay in the dorms his whole term of service once used the Thies method to rid himself of a prospective second occupant. Hearing keys at the door one day, he flung the door open to see a startled new airman standing there with his duffel. The lad reached his hand out in greeting to Tim, who looked him up and down, simply said “nope” and slammed the door as hard as he could in the fellow’s face. There were no more attempts after that.


19 Responses

  1. Thanks for going easy on these guys you lives such a brief time with, and not your friends of a much longer period!

    I can personally attest that Joe’s assessment of your snoring is actuate. Luckily i always had at least two doors to muffle the chainsaw.

    How did Knaus keep you entertained during leave?

    The skills you learned under Knaus an honed with Jason and myself served you well. While i was not as deliberate in my irritating activities of you, choosing most of the time to ignore everything, I considered it a large slap in your face when I intruded on the impromptu birthday party with Paula, was very pleasant, and then left without helping you.

    Fake ass? That screams of something Dan would do. I she believed that you did him a favor.

    Why did he take the shower curtain? A final parting shot against you. Just your mention of this made me pray your next roommate would have one of his own lest you take a shower without one just to vex him.

    Nice job Tim.

    BTW, Dan is in Buffalo right now.

  2. Shoot, got to call him today. Got a message from him but we were in Jersey for the long weekend.

    Knaus was a fantastic host of all things Buffalo every time I came back. I believe he made himself available every single evening to go out and do whatever, and probably burned a lot of vacation time to go hiking and whatnot during the days. I have to say it was impressivly generous and well appreciated!

    Yes, I believe he took the curtain to spite me; the splitt the time was not exactly amicable. The real kick is that I perceived myself to be the royally screwed party, so the curtain was just an extra kick. Fortunately I was able to drag my smelly ass to the dollar store and procure another.

    Yes, the Paula incident was masterful but was also what got to subscribed to 17 magazine. I disagree on your irritating activities though! Having the gamer geeks over every single night was driving me batty. I also always felt that when you got the TV remote first you would find the most boring sport of the longest duration to put on. As I was unable to bear it long enough to challenge for a change when it was over, you always had the opportunity to follow it up with something similar in nature, thus maintaining control of the TV all day.

  3. Your English is terrible. I can’t tell what you are referring to with the 17 magazine subscriptions? I was luckily never involved in any magazine subscriptions, I only got the pantyhose of the month from Dan once.

    Ah the gamers that took over the dining room, and ruined your night. Only to come out for a smoke break and bum cigarettes off you, especially clove ones. I felt no pity. I had ot live with smokers for years, and one smoker in the house means it is a smoking house. Even my failed attempts to make it non-smoking when you were not there or asleep.

  4. No, the title of the magazine is “17 Magazine” and it is apparently for girls around that age. Don’t you remember that it came to Erin Thies? I remember you calling and arguing when they tried to keep billing you.

    My English is spot on; I should know, I have a degree.

    As for throwing stones, in your first comment you wrote, “I she believed that you did him a favor.” I have no idea what that means.

    In retrospect, I understand where you are coming from regarding the smoking. Now that I have quit for 2 years I finally understand what a powerfully pungent odor it is

  5. I don’t remember anything about that.

    If your English was spot on, then you would have used quotes around “17 Magazine” so it was clear.

    “I she” is from the Latin “ee’ shay” meaning “screw you”.

    Too late to now, but yes, it was vile, especially when the dining room doors where closed and you opened the French doors to emerge from a cloud of smoke, like some cheezy special effect.

    Since you have seen the light with smoking, have you seen the light with watching TV int he dark? Does your wife let you do that now? How about you mother f*cking bread maker that left a mountain of monstrous crumbs, which lead to the cockroach counter.

  6. Your memory has been called into question often enough that I think I can be given the benefit of the doubt on this one. Granted I have put forth gross exaggerations, but always admit them, though this is not the case here.

    Proper English does not dictate that quotations be used. It should, however, be underlined which is not possible in this forum.

    Your Latin is nearly as good as my Tadjik.

    I have gotten the final authority on watching TV in the dark from my wife’s cousin who is an occular surgeon, Dr. Final verdict – it does absolutly no harm. Thus I continue in the habit with my perfect 20/16 vision while you languish with your laser burned defective corneas.

    I now have a new bread maker yet have never used it, but plan too soon! I will be vindicated in this as my stance was always that the cockroaches were more a product of the slum environment in which we lived than my fine and delicious baking.

  7. Your exaggerations have crossed over into out right lies!

    For lack of underlining you should have quoted. You ability to swap out circuit boards for airplanes has replaced your common sense!

    Though I congratulate you on quitting smoking (have you re-grown hair yet?) I have serious doubts about your resource of final authority. I will expect to see a copy of said doctor medical license.

    Normal sized cockroaches yet, i will grant you that, but not a parade of humongous sized cockroaches.

  8. Yes, he has crossed into fantasy land now. However had you been paying attention you would have noted that this alleged individual is an “occular” surgeon, not an “ocular” surgeon. This is definitely a non-preferred spelling if not entirely wrong. If Mike was so close to this doctor then he would not make such an obvious Thies-like error. I was going to claim that this individual was selected from a phone book but since they are not in Buffalo I will concede the likelihood of their existence.
    I must refer all to the original article, Roach Punching.

  9. Please, must we do this? Very well, but know I always do reasearch before making these claims:

    1. At least Louis seems to have done a Google search, which I feel amply verifies the existance of said Dr S and her specialty.

    2. Spelling is not a factor in this argument. My natural spelling is horrendous and I rely heavily on software to do this for me, which this forum doesn’t have.

    3. If you do a google image search in said doctor, a picture of her comes up.

    4. If you need further proof of the association, I can send you pictures of her in my living room holding my son.

    5. If you know me at all, you would know that given that this debate has lasted all these years, it was one of the very first things I asked her upon meeting her about 6 years ago – for some reason the debate never came up in the mean time since.

    6. Your null hypothesis that watching TV in the dark damages your eyes has as its only basis an old wives tale.

    Who is in fantasy now? Me with the medical opinion of a well respected specialist and surgeon, or those who go with what grandma told them. Ha!

    As for the magazine, I think Dan can verify this as I recall admitting it to him at Molly’s Pub one evening around Christmas in the Princeton era when he and I went pub crawling on Main St.

    I have decided to forego my hair regrowth as my wife tells me she likes bald to make me feel better. Since I was only going through the exercise of self improvement to attract a mate, and did so at the stage I had achieved at the time, I saw no real reason to go forward if she was happy as is.

  10. 1. I still do not believe you.

    2. If you used a modern browser, like Firefox, you would have a spell checker all the time, but may choose not to use the many red underlines.

    3. I can’t be bothered to waste valuable time on your lies!

    4. How do I know that is your son? If could be some random child, or a picture that cam with a frame.

    5. I have no doubt, that if you ever did know a real ocular surgeon you would ask her immediately. The reason there has been no debate is because you did not share your lie with us until now.

    6. Absolutely incorrect sir! It is based on my fear of what you were doing on your couch when watching in the dark. I was all for it when we lived at Comstock, of course anything to aggravate Jason. I wonder if he will be the next surprise poster.

  11. Philistine! Ah, I’m probably going to have to explain what that means now as well. Great. I think you are just afraid of angering your Yahoo dark masters by using a far superior search engine!

    You should have been far more concerned with what I was doing on your couch when you weren’t there.

    Actually, I think we have taken pains to ensure he doesn’t show up. I’ve done many searches on his name and never got a hit on this blog. If he shows up it will be just like Comstock; a period of agony until we finally move with no forwarding.

  12. I would like at least a single post of “sign”.

  13. I am intriqued and baffled. What is this again?

  14. What the f*ck are you talking about?

  15. I have no clue, I think he is baffled by your statement
    “I would like at least a single post of ‘sign'”. Cryptic to be sure.
    PS I am in Buffalo for the Taste of Buffalo. The first thing I tasted was my mom’s Pizza Casserole.

  16. Damn you! The post of *sigh* is what I would expect Jason to do. Much like he would sign loudly at Comstock.

  17. Sigh, Sign, close enough – NOT!
    The second meal I had yesterday consisted of several Mighty Taco products. Delicious.

  18. You are a son of a bitch!

  19. I almost kept the wrappers and sent them to you but decided that would be over-the-top. Besides the beef juices dripping off of it might offend your West Coast sensibilities, or cause your dogs to attack it upon delivery. Or both. I ate a bean and cheese taco (aka “protein paste”) in your honor.

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