Tuesday, October 22, 2019

From the Archives - How To Be a Demon Roommate from Hell


When I was a student at UC Santa Barbara, I routinely wrote little essays and stories that I’d photocopy and mail to family and friends … kind of like this blog, but obviously long before the Internet was available to the masses.

One of my features was a multi-part guide on “How To Be a UCSB Student.” Most of that is collapsed into one post, here. Not included was “Part Four: Being a Demon Roommate from Hell.” At long last, I bring that installment to albertnet.

How to Be a Demon Roommate From Hell – January 25, 1989

Being a Demon Roommate from Hell (DRH) is no easy feat. I would call myself a poor specimen. Fortunately, I have the benefit of living with what I would deem the quintessential DRH. While an interview has been impossible, a careful case study has given me sufficient information for this handy how-to guide.

Part One: The Kitchen

Driving your roommate(s) insane through kitchen tactics is simply a matter of hygiene, or lack thereof. Here, cockroaches can aid you in your task by capitalizing on your messes, thus creating a symbiosis between man and insect (though our roaches are so large, they could almost be classified as rodents.) Leave these critters tasty morsels on a regular basis, and they will reward you with repulsive displays of fecundity.

Make a point of never washing dishes. You can either leave them lying about, filthy, or make a sporting attempt to hide them somewhere in the kitchen. The latter technique offers added benefit, because in addition to the anger it invokes in your victim, dishes can often get lost for days at a time, which is like a buffet for your roach population.

Cook something really smelly on a regular basis. Subsisting entirely on rice, lentils, and fish is an excellent technique. Cook the rice and lentils first thing in the morning to fumigate the house. (As luck would have it, the cold morning air outside prohibits adequate ventilation.) Cook the fish at lunchtime and at dinnertime, like clockwork. The sheer monotony of this is oppressive all by itself, but you score additional points for wasting energy (and thus your roommates’ money!) by heating the oven twice a day, instead of saving and reheating leftovers. Rub it in by cooking with the oven door ajar. Even if you could find justification for this practice, it’s best not to explain yourself.

Never take the garbage out. Instead, leave it for your roommates. If they are stubborn, they might take you on in a game of chicken, meaning the trash can stay by the door for days at a time. Don’t give up: if your roommates have any decency they are doomed to lose at this game. Once they’ve finally removed the garbage, leave it to them to start a new bag. Leave your new garbage lying around on the counters, or bury it halfheartedly in crumpled paper towels.

Part Two: The Bathroom

You can never have enough soap in circulation if you are a DRH. Have at least four bars of the orange, slimy variety lying around. (Ideally, it should lose its shape almost entirely, as if trying to become a liquid.) Keep two bars near the sink, making sure to let them ooze messily all over the porcelain. Disregard the soap dish completely. The other two bars should go on the rim or the floor of the bathtub, where they won’t be missed.

If you are a talented, well endowed DRH, you have dandruff. Not the kind wherein tiny flakes of hair fall just from your scalp, but Gnarly Body Dandruff (GBD). This involves a combination of dead skin and half-inch, jet-black curly body hairs that shed copiously . Together, they have the uncanny ability to clog drains. Apply liberally to all parts of the tub, sink, and toilet.

If your roommate is a qualified victim, he likes to dry off quickly after a shower. Therefore, you can really get under his skin by foiling his attempts to dry his towel. If he hangs it on the curtain rod with the window open, close the window. Then hang the towel on the hand towel ring, or better yet, wad it up into a little ball. If your victim is tenacious, you may need to repeat this procedure several times a day.

Never, ever replace the toilet paper roll. The point here isn’t just to save money, but to try to leave your roommates paperless in an emergency situation. Again, if they are stubborn, you may need to lay in a secret supply of TP to ensure victory in this war of attrition.

Part Three: The Living Room

There is plenty of room for creative expression here. The only rule of thumb is to trash the living room as completely as possible given the range of your possessions. When you throw your books on the floor, always shoot for maximum dispersal. Make every horizontal surface your personal desk and cover it with worthless papers. If your roommates move these, you can score bonus points by pretending these papers are important and becoming visibly upset.

Laundry is an excellent means for polluting the living room; you can enhance its impact by never washing it. Be particularly liberal with your undergarments, especially “tighty-whitey” briefs (though yours aren’t exactly white).

Part Four: Your Roommate’s Stuff

Chances are, your roommates own some pretty nice things; all UCSB students do. Ask to borrow them often. Or even better, just use them as though they were yours. If you have a roommate with his own room, make yourself at home there. If your roommate is using one of his possessions, you can bother him simply by coveting it: “Gee, that HP 15C calculator sure is nice. That would be perfect for a computer science major like myself. Gosh, it hardly seems fair that you, a liberal arts major, should have one of those, when I have nothing.”

Part Five: Odd Quirks and Personal Habits

The beauty of odd quirks and personal habits is that, since they’re not outwardly hostile, your roommates can’t call you on them or ever expect to change them. They will silently suffer through them, experiencing a general feeling of helplessness.

Here again, specific techniques are up to the DRH. However, there are some old standbys which are always effective. Grunt: “Unng,” “Brouuagh.” In the morning, you can create a nonstop cacophony of grunts: “Graup, oooooguuaww, brouuagh, b-g-g-g-g-uuua, ungh.” Snorting, hacking up phlegm, and spitting into the sink are all excellent techniques. Say “Duh” frequently; while this may have no effect the first ten thousand times, it will eventually begin to drive your roommates insane. When one of them finally approaches you about it—“Dude, you actually say ‘duh,’ I can’t believe it!”—deny this emphatically.

Sleep at strange times. If you’re napping at noon, your roommates might not even see you, and may accidentally wake you up. Perfect! Now you can yell at them, grunt, and refuse to accept any apology offered. Another favorable outcome of this technique is that your roommates must be silent as long as you’re in bed, in addition to having to stumble around in the dark. Go to bed at nine so your victims can’t play their stereo.

Part Six: Exercises and “Yoga”

Just like a real exercise regimen, pretending to know how to exercise will require time and practice. The only equipment required is a pair of Kelly green sweats, which must be worn every day, without laundering. (Any color will actually do, but green has been proven especially offensive to a person of average tastes.)

Swing your arms around wildly, and pump them up and down frantically. Do curls with no weights, watching your bulging muscles continuously. Another very effective fake exercise is the Jackrabbit Jump: holding your arms out at ninety degrees to the body, with your eyes fixed on the wall, jump straight up in the air, collapsing into a kneeling posture after landing.

The offensive breathing accompanying your “exercise” can be accomplished in one of two ways: either hold your breath throughout each activity, loudly bursting forth clouds of carbon dioxide at the end, or simulate hard breathing with every movement like Richard Simmons (who may have learned this from a DRH, if he happened to have been cursed with one).

You can do these exercises while cooking or reading the newspaper, or even while following your roommate around the apartment trying to talk to him. This gives him the uncanny and highly disturbing sense of being chased around in his own home. Always keep your main goal in mind: to make your roommate(s) want to yell, “Look, those aren’t real exercises! Why don’t you go for a run or something?”

Fake yoga consists of very slow, thoughtful, but essentially random movements, ideally involving outstretched limbs, performed in the corridor or anywhere else indiscreet. Fake transcendental meditation is also a very effective annoyance. Pretend to have sent your mind on a grand tour of the universe. The real beauty of this one is that the more inaccurate your simulation is, the more annoying it is.

Part Seven: Things to Say

Verbal atrocity is an incredibly powerful form of (entirely legal!) roommate abuse. Once again, this medium allows much room for creativity, but I’ll offer some effective examples. You might say, “Oh, I met the sweetest girl today. She wasn’t like the other girls on this campus. She was just so charming and gave me the biggest smile. I’d like to introduce her to an active sex life.” (Give this same speech, verbatim, on a regular basis; alternate it with corresponding tales of woe after being denied.) Other possibilities: “Gee, I can’t believe what you feed your body. Don’t you know that white flour disrupts your blood’s delicate pH balance and can cause hypertension? And look here, this onion salt contains sodium silicoaluminate. That can cause Alzheimer’s disease.” Or, “How can you read that magazine? Don’t you know it’s hopelessly middle class? I’m X-class: I’ve completely transcended the class system.” And there’s this old standby, of course: “You’ll never earn money or respect with a liberal arts degree.”

Give your roommates frequent advice about dating. Never mind that you haven’t had a date since they’ve known you; this will work in your favor, as unearned authority is profoundly exasperating to any reasonable person. Expound on the importance of eye contact and good come-ons. Offer to take your roommate to a public place to practice his skills. (If he insists that he doesn’t want to “pick up” any girls, profess disbelief. Tell him, “Hey, you don’t fool me … everyone wants to score!”) Whenever possible, try to set him up with a girl of your choosing. If she has a boyfriend, all the better in creating an embarrassing situation!

Part Eight: General Protocol

When your roommate says, “Good morning,” grab him by the collar and growl, “Speak for yourself, buddy. I feel like hell.” Respond to regular greetings with a simple grunt. When he says, “See you later, have a good one,” clam up. Don’t say a word. Save your sociable tendencies for when he’s busy, perhaps when he’s trying to read a boring history textbook.

In the process of executing various DRH techniques, you will surely be tempting your roommates to object verbally to your behavior. For example, when a roommate’s diplomatic instincts finally break down and he tells you you’re being a slob, fly into a blind rage and begin an impassioned defense. Remember, louder is better! Logic is no substitute for volume and repetition! Try to incorporate into your rantings and ravings as much random dirt on this roommate as you can dig up. Let it all out! In some instances, your roommate could prove to be a vicious, razor-tongued bastard, and he may shred you verbally. In this case, smash your fist into the refrigerator repeatedly and then hold a grudge for at least a week.


My original essay ended there … with the instruction to punch out the refrigerator. I suppose you could argue this wasn’t a particularly deep essay, and it must be said I wasn’t a particularly deep person at age 19. Looking back now, the essay seems incomplete, and I can’t help but to tell the rest of the story.

Part Nine: Parting Ways

It goes without saying that, at the end of your lease, your roommates will go find a new apartment without you. When you discover that they’re both moving out, frame their behavior as the lowest, most vicious and cruel treachery you’ve ever encountered. Speak of your shared housing experience as though it were a high point in all of your lives, and act incredulous that your roommates should want to destroy that—to discard this precious friendship like a used Kleenex.

Part Ten: Epilogue

Don’t ever mention to your roommates that you suffer from actual manic depression. Let that dawn on them years later.

For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

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