Sunday, September 11, 2011

What's in a vacuum cleaner?

“I lived with you … and your definition of ‘table settings’ was a six-pack of beer, a gallon of ranch dressing, the top of a pizza box and a roll of paper towels!  We had two forks, and we didn’t wash those everyday!”—My friend Ben, about a former roommate of his… NOT me.

This past week I’d gotten a note from the “head” roommate, so dubbed because she writes the amalgamate check to the landlord, serves as liaison to aforementioned landlord, and all the utilities are in her name.  She said we needed to talk about my roommate agreement, and I knew pretty much what it was she was specifically referring to.  I was a little bit upset.  Actually, I was more upset about the passive-aggressive means she took to address the situation.  We never actually talked per se; she left her copy of it out circling the issues in question and writing a footnote about what it was that was upsetting her.  I felt that was pretty disrespectful to just not talk directly to me about it.  But that’s not the point… the issues are.  All but one were petty, and were actually pretty defensible for me.  The one that was really bothering her regarded the carpet.

The roommate agreement stated that I would keep in mind that the carpet was new and would treat it with respect.  I’ve been living here for just a hair over a month now, and had at that point not yet vacuumed my room.  She had tried to suggest that I do it earlier that day in a subtle way, and I did catch her drift, but I got engrossed with other things and it clean slipped my mind.  And I still had something of a mess on the floor.  There was a little bit of dirty laundry, one pizza box (I’ve actually been really good about throwing out anything involving food like cans, bottles, containers, wrappers, etc.), and mostly my bed sheets.  The blankets were the big eye-catcher.  In my defense, I hate having to make my bed, not because it’s so annoying to do, but because literally ALL the sheets and blankets you tuck under the mattress are sized for my old mattress, which is approximately half as thick as my current one.  So if I make my bed, getting in at night will be like getting into a short-sheeted bunk.  Add some tossing and turning and most of the blankets are on the floor each and every morning, including the sheet that’s supposed to hug the mattress and stay under me while I sleep.  And I don’t want to bother putting upthe money to buy all new blankets for a mattress that’s at least eight inches thick.  So making my bed is pretty pointless: just put on a pillowcase, get my much bigger comforter, and off to dreamland I’ll go.  But having nowhere else to put them, I pretty much left them on the floor.

All this rendered the floor unable to be vacuumed.  Which put the roommate in a snit, apparently.  Normally I would tell her it’s none of her business, but she went out of her way to make this part of the roommate agreement, so I could tell this was a hill she was willing to die on, whereas it really wasn’t for me.  And as I said, I was more upset that she left a note rather than actually talk to me.  Seriously, that dang note didn’t even mention the fact that the landlord was expected to pay us an inspection this month as part of renewing his insurance on his rental properties.  If she’d even just mentioned that, it’d have been done before she could have finished her sentence.  But no… a note.

Baaaaack to the focus of this: the floor, the contract, and the meaning of words.  See, the contract said, “Respect the carpet.”  What the contract didn’t take into consideration is that for the past eight years, I’ve lived life with a style that was a hybrid of “grad student” and “bachelor pad”, mainly because two of those years were with grad students as roommates and six with the landlord as my roommate, he also a bachelor.  Living as such, phrases like that mean something else to me.  For the past eight years, if the rental agreement had said, “Respect the carpet”, it would have meant: a) don’t torch it, b) don’t pull it up, and c) use Resolve and a paper towel if you spill.  That’s it.  Vacuuming was an “oh crap, we’ve got company coming in 20 minutes!” kind of thing.  Seriously, I went at least a year or two between the penultimate occurrence of vacuuming at my last place, and the final time when I was getting ready to move out.  It was a veritable dust bunny ranch.  It just wasn’t something done with any regularity

It would seem however, that the phrase “respect the carpet” means something entirely different to my new roommates.  It seems that vacuuming is supposed to be a weekly occurrence.  And maybe using this “Carpet Fresh” stuff on the odd occasion is recommended.  Pizza boxes are supposed to go out the next morning instead of being converted into writing surfaces or lap tables, and trash bags should be inside a plastic or metal can of sorts while they’re being filled up.

Okay, in all fairness, I didn’t expect to continue living like I had or even being allowed to.  I moved all the way across the continent to be closer to the woman I intend to marry and start a family with.  To continue to live with a bachelor mindset would simply destroy the marriage we plan to have.  So I knew that I was going to have to change a lot regarding my lifestyle.  Boxes will no longer be stacked to convert into the TV stand, the bathroom will need to be maintained a little more attentively, and “for now” will mean less than a week when it comes to temporarily placing something someplace. 

Strangely enough, I kinda expected much of this to happen automatically.  From the minute I moved in, certain changes happened instantly.  Probably because I was conscious about them and trying to make sure I took care of them.  But there’s stuff below the obvious (at least what wasn’t obvious to me).  Just to state for the record, vacuuming was NOT one of the “below the obvious” things.  The frequency with which it was expected to be done probably was, though, even though vacuuming ^was^ something my parents made me do on a weekly basis

Overall, I’m thinking of the time I’m in Everett as something of a purgatory.  I’m where all the sinful habits of bachelorhood must be purged away before I can ascend, both metaphorically and geographically, to the paradise of a marriage with a wonderful woman.  I know, “paradise of a marriage” is probably a contradiction in terms, but don’t spoil the metaphor.  Thanks.

So, on the horizon, more nagging and constant reminders that I’m far from a perfect roommate.  But better to drive a temporary roommate crazy with old habits that I’m trying to quell than the woman who’d have to put up with them for the rest of her life if I didn’t curb them now.  And looking at the floor now, I see it needs a going over again, because time has passed since I did it last, and it needs to be maintained.

Right after I get all my blankets off the floor and make the bed again.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What's in a road trip summary?

Now that I'm in Washington, I thought I'd talk a little about the trip.  We'll see how much.  On a pseudo-poetic whim, I’ve decided to sum up my little excursion across the country with this ersatz acrostic.

A is for Alexander and Aiden, the two nephews I finally got to meet.
B is for Boise, the only stop I made in Idaho.
C is for Coca-Cola, which I drank a lot of while behind the wheel.
D is for the dolly upon which my car was towed.
E is for Erica, the very reason for the move.
F is for Flying J, which has surprisingly good pizza for a truck stop chain.
G is for the Great Salt Lake in Utah, which I got to visit.
H is for Hamilton, Michigan, still my home though I’m so many miles away.
I is for Iowa, the first state on this trip that I’d previously never been in before.
J is for Jerome County in Idaho and Joliet, Illinois: the former, where the longest road construction backups were for me; the latter, where the construction actually forced me off the interstate at one point.
K is for Kennecott, the copper mining facility we went to visit.
L is for Laramie, Wyoming, the first city with serious downgrade warnings.
M is for Mark, the brother with whom I reconnected.
N is for Nebraska, the only state I didn’t see a sign welcoming me into, because I was driving into the sunset and through a work zone at the time.
O is for Oregon, which had the most beautiful mountain scenery.
P is for Penske, the company that rented me the truck.
Q is for quesadillas, which I had for dinner my second night.
R is for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame series of homemade CD’s I listened to in the truck for most of the trip.
S is for Sandra, my sister-in-law whom I finally met.
T is for TomTom and TracFone, the two technological presents that made this trip a lot easier.
U for Umatilla, both the only stop I made in Oregon, and the reservation with the deadliest stretch of road the entire trip.
V is for the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame series CD’s, the other homemade disc set I listened to while driving.
W is for the wounds that reconciliation have finally healed.
X is for the Xanadu Restaurant, where I ate my first breakfast in the state of Washington.
Y is for Yakima, which was the projected hit point for day five (or seven depending on how you looked at it), and where I should have stopped that day, since I found myself driving into the sunset after that point.
Z is for zero, the number of regrets I have for having done this.

And the Top Ten significant numbers of this trip:

10. States I drove in.
9.  Days of the truck rental lease
8.  Days I actually used the truck
7.  The time I usually woke up each morning.
6. Motel chain I spent two of my three motel nights in.
5. Maximum number of states driven in within a single day (Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska).
4. Relatives in Magna, Utah visited.
3. Time zones moved across
2. Times we readjusted the wheel straps to make sure my car was secure on the towing dolly.
1. Woman who made all this worthwhile.

Hammy and cheesy, yes, but hold the wry.