Flatmates: Greatest hits

“Everything but the kitchen sink”

Unlike many of the horror stories I’ve heard, I have always been lucky with people I’ve lived with. Which is a good thing, because I’m not an easy person to live with, so the last thing I need is another crazy person messing up my flow. Regardless of the periods in my life, whether living with parents, or college roommates, or coworkers, I have always run into the same situations.

When there is an unopened box of cookies in the fridge, the entire household will circle it for days waiting for whoever bought it to open it. Everyone that opens the fridge will pick up the pack, hold it up to the light to check if it is still sealed, then sigh and put it back down. The tension builds, until the day someone opens it, then there will be a mad dash and the next time you check, it will be all gone except for one or two cookies.

The same thing happens with juice. You can leave juice in the fridge for months and as long as it isn’t launched, it might as well be invisible. But once you open that bottle of juice, the next time you come to the fridge thirsty, pick up that bottle and shake it, you’ll hear the last few drops tinkling around the bottom like tears.

I imagine the last person pouring out all of the juice into a glass, then using a teaspoon or a pipette to measure back just enough so they can claim, “I didn’t finish it, there was still some left after I drank.” Three drops is not some. Three drops wouldn’t wet a cup.

You head to work one day and your housemate is on vacation. It is a hectic day and the whole day, at your desk, in meetings, you know he is at home doing nothing. Probably playing videogames making his way from the fridge to the couch and back again, all day.

Maybe the night before, you both went out for dinner and brought home some leftovers. And the leftovers are sitting in the fridge, right next to some bread being assaulted by him.
You’re driving home at the end of that day, starving. You can visualise the sandwich you’ll make as soon as you get home. Maybe some of the leftovers will still be left. You have made a full meal in your mind out of the leftovers. You can taste the rice, the paella, the crab cakes..

But you also know they might not be there.
Sure, you could just call him and ask, “Yo, is there any food left? Should I stop by the supermarket and buy more?” But you don’t, because what you’ll be thinking and might end up saying is, “You lazy bastard, did you just spend the whole day on the couch eating all my food?”
Even though it is not your food because both of you bought it, at that moment, none of that matters. You’ve been at work all day, and he has been home chilling. You’re in traffic with a headache and he has crumbs on his mouth and oil on the remote.
You’re salivating, your hands are trembling on the steering wheel. If you get home and find the fridge empty, there are going to be crime scene investigators in that house trying to recreate the murder scene.
“From the muddy footprints, the perp appears to have come into the apartment and made a beeline for the fridge. We are unsure of what happened next but the door of the fridge has been ripped off. There are signs of a struggle in front of the TV and what looks to be either blood or ketchup on the Playstation.”

There is a variation of this, where someone would leave a minuscule amount of leftovers in the fridge. My brother will eat a bag of groundnuts and leave two kernels wrapped up for later. Why, what happened? Did he suddenly get tired after eating the entire bag and find himself unable to power through the last two? Is he going to come home tomorrow and say, “Hey, who ate the groundnuts I left?” And I will say, “Sorry, it was me. But it’s okay, I only ate half. I left you one nut.”
There is a fine line between leftovers and garbage.

If someone eats a meal and leaves one dirty plate in the sink, I get irritated because I think, how hard is it to wash one plate? But if they use two plates, I am no longer irritated. My mind rationalises that two plates is significantly more effort than one. I could understand how a person could be too tired to wash two plates and when you factor in cutlery and cups, now we are talking about a significant undertaking.
Between two and fifteen is my safe zone, I’ll roll up my sleeves, and do the dishes while whistling. Past that is a critical mass, a dish tipping point. This is the point beyond which the amount of dishes in the sink can no longer be done by a normal human being.

Picture this, you come back home after a weekend away. You get back late on Sunday night and you have to be in class early the next morning. You drop all your luggage at the door and stagger to the kitchen. You pick up a saucer (not even a full plate) and eat a small midnight snack.
You take the saucer to the sink and you are confronted by the sight of 70 dishes piled high. You didn’t even know you had these many plates at home. It is as if your roommates went down the road and took a collection of all the dirty plates from every house on the block, then invited people over for a stacking competition to see who could build the tallest tower of unwashed dishes.
This is more than four cycles of a dishwasher, you’ll need a robot butler to do this much work, or you’ll have to wait long enough for the plates to grow mould, become sentient and walk out on their own.

The tower would collapse if you touched it, so your only option is put your saucer on the floor by the sink. None of the dishes are technically yours because you haven’t been around all weekend, but once you add that saucer to it, you become an accomplice. You don’t want to get into one of those responsibility denial arguments: “I only used one plate, I’ll wash that one. How many did you use?” “Me? I only used a fork.”

So you wash your saucer in the bathtub, wipe the place down for fingerprints, and pretend you haven’t seen the tower. By Wednesday, no one has touched it and everyone is avoiding the kitchen. You’re coming home and heading straight to your room, eating gala and hot pockets in your bed, and wrapping them in newspaper so you don’t have to use plates.

Welcome to adult independence.


16 thoughts on “Flatmates: Greatest hits

  1. Lol, washing plates…..worst chore ever. At least in ur house,they don’t prick the side of the juice box with a needle and suck out all the juice while the pack is still sealed. You guys should also try lifting an untouched cake,making a hole under the cake and eating from the hole. That way the cake looks untouched from the top…till you lift it or try to cut into it. All that’s left is the cake’s shell. Love ur posts by the way
    Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device from MTN

  2. I can so relate, and as I’ve been both victim and accomplice, I shall hold my peace. I’ve learnt to choose my flatmates with the same thoroughness as the FBI employs in screening its potential employees.

  3. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, that thing about the dishes is so spot on! Many a day abi week i would be eating fast food in my room so as to avoid the stack of dishes in the kitchen left by dirty roommates. Kitchen etiquette is a serious matter…but now that i’m back in casa de mom and dad, i have none. I will proudly be the first person to open any snack or juice but will also boldly write my name on anything purchased with my own money. i’m such a horrible person these days lol.

  4. I shall now sidestep the whole horrific issue that is living with other human beings (yes, I’d rather live with other-type-beings, rodents and critters included) and point out something interesting I noted:

    “…so the last thing I need is another crazy person messing up my flow. Regardless of the periods in my life…”

    I always knew there was a lil too much oestrogen involved in your writing. And I now see why anyone… someone (hint hint) would call you a drama Queen.

    *waves white flag frantically while running away very very fast*

  5. This reminds me of the frequent house-meetings I would call, regular dressing downs, whose turn is it to buy electricity, that thing that is growling in the fridge, whose is it, please get rid of it and so on. It is great comedy though. And this post is hilarious.

    • That is rough. I had a friend who was the “matron” of her apartment. She would leave post-it notes on everything. On the light switches, “Please turn off the lights when you’re not using it.” On the microwave, “Cover your food before warming.” On the fridge, in the bathroom, on the front door… everywhere had a note.
      The only thing worse that face to face dressing down is a constant barrage of dressing via post-it notes.
      The thing is, if you expect potential roommates to admit before they move in that they are slobs who tend to leave the fridge door open, etc. Then you should also warn them, “I am a nitpicking freak armed with colour-coded sticky notes and I’m not afraid to use them.”
      But usually, both people pretend to be pleasant.

  6. ha. bad roommates. SIGH! I just got rid of 2 in my life. About the dirty plates, the part that I don’t comprehend is the dish washer being just beneath the sink!!! I once timed how long it took to get a dish in the dish washer and it was only 9 freaking seconds!!! Only 9 seconds (depending on how many plates), yet, my roomies will rather leave dirty plates in the sink. Let’s just say now that they are gone, I can breathe!

    • *evil laughter*
      Have you considered seeing someone for your OCD, Mrs I-counted-the-seconds? Your poor roommates, they must have fled in horror as you counted their retreating steps.

      Don’t worry, you’re among friends here. 😛

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