Megan, Cari & Olivia
About a week before fall term started, I found out from the Housing Office that I would be living in a converted study room in the basement with 3 other girls. Um, what? I didn't know any of the other 3 girls. We met as I moved my stuff in that first day. Samantha, meanwhile, was stuck on a freshman hall across campus.
For some strange reason that no one on campus could explain, this basement study room had a large bathroom with four separate shower stalls. To make it a room for us, they took out all of the study carrels and put in furniture - beds, closets, dressers & desks, all lined up in neat rows. Of course, we promptly rearranged everything.
One of the nearby freshman halls adopted us, and their RA nicknamed our room the Chalet. I think she was trying to be ironic, considering our room was at the lowest elevation on campus.
Returning students spent months popping in the door, thinking it was still a study room. We had serious air conditioning problems those first few weeks. The maintenance staff came by nearly every day to take care of something new. It took some getting used to, but we managed to make the best of it.
The no-window thing turned out to be a giant blessing in disguise. I could nap for hours in the pitch-black dark.
Megan was a senior who wanted a single room on-campus. Instead, she got 3 sophomore roommates. She was an art major and spent most of her time in her studio, working on projects. She was kind of a strange egg at times, seemingly quiet and tuning us out - but genuinely nice. I learned everything I know about straightening a black woman's hair from her, watching her spend hours washing and drying and flat-ironing her hair once a week.
Cari was a very tall girl, with long blonde hair. She came from an all-girls school, and still wore her plaid skirt to class on special occasions. Cari had a huge music collection, and more importantly, a television. So now we could have our "90210" nights! She was incredibly fun to hang out with, but she needed her alone time. Living with 3 other girls, the room was rarely empty, but sometimes I would come home from class to see her sitting on her bed, with her headphones on and music blasting. She'd wave, but the headphones didn't come off.
I don't recall what the problem was one week, but I had been down in the dumps about something and my Chris Isaak CD had been playing for 3 days in row. Every time I came into the room, I turned it on. Finally, on the third day, Cari very nicely but firmly asked me if I could play something else - ANYTHING else. She was kind enough to let me mope for a bit, and she let me know it was time to MOVE ON, ALREADY.
Every so often, Cari would ask me to trim her long hair, so she wouldn't have to pay for a haircut. I'm not sure why she asked me, but it did make me realize I did not have a future in a beauty salon.
The four of us loved to take road trips off-campus with the windows down and the radio blasting a favorite tune. We usually ate dinner together, and kept each other company on a walk to the Student Center. Without any hallmates nearby, or an RA to sneak past, our basement room felt like real freedom. We were determined to enjoy it. Some of our guy friends would come over to hang out once a week and play cards or watch a movie. We called it our Tuesday night drinking club. Oh, we were so daring back then!
I've left Olivia for the end. Olivia was the odd one in the bunch. Moody would be the best word to describe her. She was either a little too eager, or completely miserable. She had a really crazy laugh that reminded me of a donkey braying. Sometimes she was so depressed, she turned into a little black hole in the room that sucked out all the energy. The mood swings came on suddenly, and without warning. It made it difficult to live with her, and eventually we just settled for having minimal contact with her. Well, as minimal as you could when you were all in the same room.
The final straw though, was when she started jogging at 5:30 a.m. None of us got up before 8 a.m., so having an alarm go off at that hour, combined with turning on a light, showering and getting dressed - well, it was rude. Asking her to jog later was like provoking an angry boar. She had to jog then, and no other time would work for her. She refused to get up without the alarm, the light, or the shower. So after a few weeks of this, the 3 of us had a meeting and decided Olivia had to go. She could talk to the Housing Office and find another place to live, but she couldn't live with us anymore.
Years later, as I watched the first season of MTV's Real World, I felt like I had already done that show in the Chalet. We were strangers in a new place, and having three roommates instead of the usual one magnified all of our attitudes and quirks. Virtually no privacy made it even tougher. If we had any other living situation, dealing with Olivia might have turned out very different. But at the time, we saw no other solution.
We told her the news at a McDonald's off-campus, and she ended up crying and running off to the parking lot. I went out there to talk her down and get her back into the car so we could go home. Over Christmas break, she transferred to a state school in her hometown. Maybe because I was the one who talked to her in the parking lot that night, she decided I wasn't part of the meanies who kicked her out, but for months I got letters and phone calls from her. It was all just idle chit-chat, keeping me posted on her new life. She seemed happier, or else she was determined to show me she was better off at her new school.
Samantha, who had been living across campus, replaced Olivia after the Christmas break. I'll save that story for tomorrow.