I had just moved to a new town and didn’t have a lot of money so I decided to rent a room. The place I chose was a room in a four bedroom house owned by a middle-aged single mother of two. I’d had roommate problems before so I made sure to discuss a few of the most common issues with her before moving in – things like cleaning, the etiquette of using each others food or other property etc. She seemed like a sensible lady with well-behaved children so in I moved.
The second morning after I moved in was when the problems started. She very angrily informed me that I had been very loud the night before and that if that continued she would throw me out. Confused, I said that I had done nothing the night before but go on the internet, talk to a friend on the phone, and then go to sleep. Apparently, she had problems with migraines and insomnia and needed total silence between the hours of 9 PM and 7 AM. I told her I understood and would try harder to keep my volume down.
The next night I went out to dinner and a movie with some friends and came home around midnight to a door that wouldn’t open. She had deadbolted it from the inside so I couldn’t get the door open with my keys. Figuring that she had just forgotten about her new roommate, I banged on the door until she came to open it. I was immediately yelled at for coming home so late and she asked me what it was that I didn’t understand about her need for total silence. She explained that the sound of the door opening and closing was too loud and that she would be deadbolting the door at 9 PM from then on. If I wasn’t inside by then and woke her up to let me in, she would kick me out. I effectively had a 9 PM curfew at the age of 22!
Two days later I was yet again angrily yelled at in the morning. Apparently, I had kept her from falling asleep again. The culprit? The sound of me getting a glass of water and flushing the toilet at around 10:30 PM. Yes, even flushing the toilet was too loud. She recommended that I change my eating and drinking schedule to avoid needing to use the toilet past 9 PM and that, in fact, it was best if I was in bed with the lights off by that time to avoid any unnecessary movement.
She also managed to make my life hell during the day. She had an obsessively strict cleaning regiment that she expected the entire household to take part in – including me. I love having a clean house, but this lady would demand that I do the list of assigned chores on the exact day they were listed or she’d kick me out. Of course they also had to be finished before curfew fell. On top of that, if the chores weren’t done to her satisfaction she’d make me do them again. For example, one time I was mopping the kitchen and hardwood floors while she was sitting in the living room half-watching me. When I had finished she yelled at me to start over from the beginning because I had not put enough cleaning agent in the bucket of water,thus making the cleaning not good enough. Apparently she waited to tell me this at the end of the task so that I would “learn my lesson”.
On top of the curfew and the excessive cleaning requirements, she was just about the rudest person I’d ever met. Apparently she had never heard the phrase “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. She had criticisms about my choice of food, clothes, job – everything! And of course, she had no problems with yelling at me and threatening to throw me out every week.
Looking back, it was pretty obvious why her house was so clean when I first visited, and her kids so well-behaved. Unfortunately for her, I was not one of her children and could not stand the rules and the yelling, so I moved out within a couple of months. After that I gladly took roommates that were a bit messy over the fear of living under similar tyranny ever again.
Image by Quentin Blake