My roommate Matt likes to remind me that he made this apartment the way it is today.
“You know I made this apartment what it is today,” he’ll tell me, waving his hand towards the epic and alphabetized vinyl record collection or the well-stocked knife drawer in the kitchen like Napoleon flaunting his Arc de Triomphe.
Of course he speaks the truth. Currently in his fourth year of residence in the same apartment, Matt occupies the exalted status of house elder. Karl moved-in a year after Matt and is referred to—half endearingly, half mockingly—as “Dad.” The pair collectively reigns over most aspects of life in this apartment.
Matt specializes in music selection, dishwashing, and most culinary matters. Having acquired much of the furniture that populates the apartment, including the room I now occupy, he’s also the unofficial decorator-in-residence. Meanwhile, our landlord deals exclusively with Karl, who also oversees our garbage disposal, bicycle maintenance, and utility matters.
All of this was extremely intimidating when I first moved-in. Unsure of my role or how I could force myself into an entrenched social dynamic, I decided to play dumb. What can I say? It came naturally.
I asked lots of questions. They were obvious, uninteresting, and ostensibly incredibly annoying queries for my roommates, but the method worked perfectly. It seemed like I learned something new and/or useful every 30 seconds. Where do the pots go? (Next to the pans.) When is the trash collected? (Sundays and Wednesdays.) Do extra sponges exist? (Under the sink.)
As I learned more and more minutiae, I slowly imposed myself on the apartment’s daily activities. I volunteered for small tasks—beer runs, dish duties, box cutting, cooking—thus earning the respect of my new roommates. By actively taking a stake in the apartment, I showed the established figures my desire to make our cohabitation pleasurable. There’s no sense or benefit in being a rotten roommate.
Nowadays, Matt talks less about his massive influence on the perfection of the apartment. Instead, he often remarks, “You know, I wasn’t sure about you Joe, but now I’m glad you live here.” This could be on account of my dishwashing acumen and my delicious corn chowder recipe; or he might actually enjoy having me around. Either way is fine with me.