I spent my freshman year of college at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. My first semester, I was involved with a classic “roommate from hell” situation. I had been assigned to him via the random roommate option offered by the school. I didn’t have any close friends going to UT, and I had that deep hope that maybe I’d end up with one of those best friends for life that so many people talked about for months on end, prior to moving in. Because of that, I was looking forward to meeting my random roommate.
However, I was nervous about it as well, because for every great and inspiring success story about being randomly assigned to the person who would later become some guy’s best man at his wedding, I heard a horrifying tale of personality clashes to the extreme. So in the weeks leading up to the move-in and eventual meeting of the roommate, I obsessed over what I would say. The introduction. The ice-breaker.
I didn’t know what I was gonna say. Hell, what COULD I say? I didn’t know anything about him. I honestly thought about introducing myself this way:
“Hi! Depending on how this conversation goes, I may or may not be Riley Fox.”
But where to go from there? Obviously, the easiest thing would be to find some kind of common ground:
“So, uh…do you like normal things? I know I do. Hey, you know what sure is swell? Living! Boy, do I looooooove living. Hey, it’s nice to meet you—I’M NOT GAY AND PLEASE DON’T KILL MY FAMILY!”
When we did meet, we ended up talking about music, movies, TV shows, etc. The general stuff that NORMAL PEOPLE TALK ABOUT. Okay. Good. At least he’s not a psycho-murderer.
But he was a mega-drug-alcohol-fratboy-party-animal.
I will never forget the first time he got busted for drug possession at the school (oh, yes, there were several other times). I was in class, and when I got back to the dorm room, he was sitting at his desk looking somewhat downtrodden. I set my bag down next to my desk and sat in the nearby chair.
“Hey, what’s up, man?”
“Dude, I’m in some shit.”
“What’s going on?”
“The RA caught me and Matt drinking in here, and reported it to the hall director. They’re on their way up here now, and they’re gonna search the whole room.”
For those unaware, UT is a dry campus, meaning alcohol is banned (despite the fact that there were liquor shops literally a five-minute walk from my dorm building). I knew I personally had nothing to worry about because I hadn’t done anything wrong. But then my roommate threw a curve ball.
“There’s something I should probably tell you.”
“Before I came here, when I lived in Atlanta, I got into some pretty deep shit with drug possession charges. They’re coming to search the room. I’ve got some shit, and if they find it, I’m likely to go away for a while.”
This is probably not something you want to tell your new roommate two months into the semester, when the dorm hall director, the RA, and a cop are en route to your residence. I was speechless, and just when I thought that that was it, he continued:
“Dude, do you think you could just tell them that it’s yours? Please?”
“Man, I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.”
The next semester, I lucked out. There was an exchange student from France living on my floor, and after the fall semester, he had to move back to France. This had no bearing on me until I found out that he had lived in a single room by himself, and now that the room was open, someone could move into it. My roommate found out about it and told the RA that I would be interested. When the RA came to me, I was ecstatic. I figured that after my experience with my roommate, spending the spring in my own private room would be just what I needed. I filled out the necessary paperwork and got all the required approvals, and within the first week of the spring semester I was ready to move in. I got the key for the new room, unlocked the lock, and opened the door…
…and the French guy still had a shitload of stuff left in the room.
I immediately got the RA and showed him the room that seemed only half-vacated. There was a fold-out chair, a stereo system and CD player, a bicycle, a pair of computer speakers, a couple pairs of shoes, and several other less significant items. The RA had assured me that the French guy was not coming back—he lived in France, after all—so he figured that I could keep what I want and toss the rest, and as he left I noticed him looking at the computer speakers. I even talked to the hall director, and he said the same thing. So I gave the RA the pair of computer speakers he wanted, and kept everything else.
Around spring break, I was strapped for cash and desperate. One day, I turned and looked at the bicycle the French guy had left behind. I hadn’t ridden it once. I hadn’t even taken it outside of the room. Clearly, I wasn’t planning on using it—I’m more of a walker anyway—so I figured, “Well, hell, I could sell this to somebody.”
I was apprehensive at first. I knew it technically wasn’t MY bicycle, but: I wasn’t going to use it, it was too big for my car, and the French guy whom it belonged to was not coming back according to two very trustworthy sources.
Twenty minutes later, I was posting flyers around my dorm building advertising the bicycle that was now for sale.
Two days later, I received a phone call. A guy down the hall wanted to buy the bike. He was my first offer, and I was extremely desperate for whatever I could get, so I sold it to him.
At the end of the semester, I began packing all of my belongings in my car for the final drive home. Many of the French guy’s things were still in my room. Most of it I didn’t want or need, so I just left it under the bed where it all was when I found it. (However, the fold-out chair and CD player/stereo system was in my car. He wasn’t coming back and I wasn’t leaving that stuff.)
The day before I planned on leaving UT for the summer, I was sitting in my dorm room watching a TV show on my computer, when I heard a knock at the door. I opened it up.
It was him.
THE FRENCH GUY.
“I’m here to get my stuff.”
I’m really fucked.
I was at a complete loss for words, yet my mind was racing a mile a minute. I had sold off this guy’s bicycle without his knowledge or approval, and now he’s here to take it back with him to France. I was cornered, and had no chance of escape. Finally, I managed to conjure up the wherewithal to speak the only thing that could come to mind:
“So, uh…do you like normal things?”
Until next time,