(Warning: non-food story alert!)
The beautiful relationship that was my roommate situation is coming to an end.
And not a moment too soon.
If you read this blog, you know that I really can't stand my roommate but have been hesitant to kick him out because he takes care of my dog, Lula. I probably should say "takes care" in huge, balloon-sized quotes because his idea of watching the dog is opening the door to the outside and letting her run around the yard unsupervised. When he does supervise, he sits outside or paces while talking on the phone (which he does incessantly) and hardly looks up to see what Lula is doing -- or shouldn't be doing.
My neighbors, who are responsible for the landscaping in our backyard, have repeatedly asked him to watch the dogs more closely and to stay with them when he lets them out. This falls on deaf ears. Remember, this is the guy who takes a piss in the back garden when I'm in the bathroom and he really needs to go. He's also the guy who sleeps in my bed while I'm away and doesn't try to hide the evidence: an extra pillow, a magazine on my bed table, and my food, eaten and thrown away in the trash can in my bedroom. He's also the guy who orders a pizza at midnight and passes out before the pizza arrives, leaving the pizza guy out in the cold, literally. He's the guy who drank all my booze, and didn't admit it until I caught him. He's the one who throws stinky food trash out in the bathroom because he was too lazy to buy (or borrow) trash bags. He's the guy who sucked down two 40s of malt liquor watching TV on a Monday night. He's the guy so hated by my neighbors that they have thrown big dinners in the backyard --dinners I cooked for -- and didn't invite him. He's the guy who so vexed me with his petty thievery that I bought a lockable Gladiator cabinet to not only store my booze, but my valuables and large knives as well, and made it obvious that he wasn't getting a copy of the key. He's the one who told me not to "micromanage his %#$!ing diet" when I pointed out that Hot Pockets -yes, even the "Lean ones" - aren't good food for losing weight. Or good food. He's the guy who has so annoyed my next door neighbor that she told her upstairs neighbor, a Chicago police officer, to watch the backyard to make sure my roommate didn't vandalize her things in retaliation for her calling him a moron. He's the pathetic super-stud wannabee guy who studies Tucker Max (sorry, I refuse to link to it...you'll have to Google it on your own) like a study guide. And worst of all, he's the one who inspired me to tell my doctor that if I wind up dead by unnatural causes, he's probably the perp.
He's lazy, he's unthoughtful, and he ruins a good dinner party. That's why I haven't had one since August, when he so angered my guests that they came to verbal fisticuffs with him.
So why now, why after all the problems, annoyances, and inconveniences am I kicking him out? Because as long as the only person he was inconveniencing was me, I could tolerate it. But when his slovenliness began impacting my relationships with my neighbors, I had to give him the boot. I can control who lives in my place, but I can't control my neighbors. And as long as I'm living in my place, which I hope to continue to do for the next few years, I want to keep good relations with the neighbors. After all, they feed me, entertain me, dazzle me with the perennials they plant, ply me with great wine and are great company on a warm night on the back patio. By contrast, my roommate does nothing but annoy me and drive me from my own home.
His offense? Letting my sister's dog, the charming but devilish Diego, wander into the garden, crush the flowers, dig holes in the garden, poop in the garden, and rile up Lula so that she, in turn, did the same. The roommate let Diego do this on an almost daily basis while my neighbor watched from her kitchen and was forced, on occasion, to come out and scream at the dogs while he yakked away on the phone, oblivious.
Last night the dogs escaped out the front gate, left open by another neighbor, and ran screaming after a couple pit bulls out on their evening walk. My neighbor saw this and ran after them, yelling Lula's name. After the pit bull's owner yelled at my neighbor, the roommate finally caught up with the action, still on his phone. My neighbor turned to my roommate and let him have it, calling him a moron and a few other choice words. I wish I had been there.
I wasn't there -- I was up in the 'burbs visiting my friends Overboard and Mr. Hockey, who just had a baby three weeks ago. Watching them try to figure out what the baby was trying to tell them with his cries was a pleasant and fleeting distraction from the awkwardness at home. But I did hear the phone ring. Roommate -- I didn't answer it in time, but he did leave a message. I checked my voicemail anyway. My neighbor left a long and rambling message about her landlord, how he was going to have to take drastic action if I didn't do anything about the dogs ruining the garden, how the roommate had let the dog run out on the street, how maybe they would put the fence back up if that was the only way to stop the craziness with the dogs and that her landlord was going to 'really go off' on me. Hmmm. Not quite what I was expecting, but workable. Before I called her back I tried to think through solutions.
Here's what I came up with:
1. Remove roommate from home
2. Send Diego to Boston to live with his grandmother
3. Get a dog walker for Lula
My net outlay for this new lifestyle would be in excess of $800 -- loss of tenant paying rent and bills and dog care. But was my roommate worth $800 a month to me (or nearly $9600 per year)? No, not anymore. I'll forgo dinner out, new shoes, a new computer, whatever, to have my life and my home back.
By the time I arrived home I had made all arrangements, and was even able to reach Diego's mom, who is spending the summer in Shanghai. My roommate was leaving. Only he didn't yet know. Luckily he made it easy for me. He was still yapping away on the phone when I walked through the door. As usual, he didn't acknowledge me. I took the dogs out, talked with my neighbor, and went back upstairs. Finally off the phone, he approached me and said, "Starting tomorrow, I'm going to be working offsite rather than from home. When I moved in you didn't have dogs. One dog was fine, but I can't handle two dogs. Now I have responsibilities I didn't ask for, and I just can't do it." OK, fair enough. But how about some notice? If I hadn't been planning to throw him out, this would have been a very bad thing.
And then the excuses started. "The neighbor yelled at me. Told me I was a moron and and idiot and a retard and that I let the dogs poop in the garden. She screamed at me because the dogs got out into the street. Well I'm always REALLY careful and I made sure the gate was closed. But someone must have opened it and so the dogs bolted, and I'm not as fast as the dogs."
To that I said, "You know, that really sounds like an excuse to me."
He looked puzzled. "What do you mean, an excuse?"
I must have looked at him as if he were the biggest idiot to have roamed the earth. "You are saying that it wasn't you, it was other people who are to blame. That's making an excuse."
I cut him off before he could say much more. He did manage to get in some digs about how Diego barked too much and "wakes up 12 or 15 people in the immediate vicinity when he barks," which I wish were true - it may have spared the pizza guy the thirty minutes he spent waiting outside. I think the roommate was using the barking as evidence that the dog was not easy to manage. It just came out sounding sad.
As a way of preempting any further talk or excuse-making, I told him straight out that maybe he better find another place to live. He looked surprised, but then told me, in his most legally of legal manner, that he would need at least until the end of July-- JULY! -- to find a place. Stupid me, I agreed. Oh well, I guess I could still use the cash.
After our conversation was finished, prompted by a phone call from Diego's mom in China, I went upstairs to tell my hipster neighbors Mr. Sideburns, The Thespian and the Campbell Soup Kid about the news. They high-fived me with genuine joy. I had no idea, but they hated him too. He had left the doors open to the home numerous times, including leaving the back door open all night long. In our neighborhood, which is pleasant but not without major problems and frequent petty thefts, leaving a door open for an extended period is just not smart. Upstairs neighbor Mr. Sideburns keeps his bike down there, and genuinely feared that it would be ripped off. Mr. Sideburn's roommate, The Thespian, had heard the entire altercation between my neighbor and my roommate, and said that it was well-deserved. He confirmed that my neighbor had not, in fact, called my roommate a 'retard' -- the roommate made that up. It was from them that I heard about the pizza guy fiasco and how he totally neglected the dogs when they went outside. Yes, I had done the right thing.
And now I have one more month to live with him. I hope he will find somewhere else to stay. And hey, if you need a place in Chicago with a great dog and you love to clean, have I got a deal for you! You just can't be an unemployed alcoholic with a victim complex.
6/22 update: When I opened the door to my house yesterday, I was hit by a wall of ammonia and the most rank of rank smells -- yup, the dogs has pooped and peed everywhere, and the air conditioner was not on. The upholstery on a chair was torn up, Diego's bed was in shreds and the room had the appearance of a murder scene, sans sang. The heat of the room magnified the stink. Apparently the roommate left the house -- "to work offsite" (yeah, 'offsite'. when you are unemployed it is simply self-mollifying to tell yourself that you actually have a 'site' to begin with....) and stayed away all day. Yup, that was it. Done. I was not going to have an unpredictable, passive agressive person living with me anymore.
I called him and told him that he was done. That he had until the end of this month to get out. "That's only nine days!" he exclaimed. Yep. Since he was no longer going to help out with the dogs, he was no longer welcome to stay. The guy worked from home. What was so difficult about letting the dogs out during the day? One day I came home from work and found him watching '24' -- he had been watching all day long and had not done much to clean himself up. Why couldn't he have put it on pause and let the dogs out for a little? He could have used the air himself.
He tried to argue with me about it. "You have no lease," I told him. "You need to go." He raised his voice. I held the phone away from his ear. "There's no arguing," I said, "I'm done with you."
He didn't come home last night. Which relieved me. If I never see him again it will be too soon.
I was cleaning up a bit this morning and opened up the garbage and found the bin liner had fallen down. As I picked it up I heard the familiar sound of glass bottles hitting....sure enough, the night prior (we take out our trash regularly - his soft drink consumption, beer guzzling, and pizza habits cause all kinds of trash buildups) he had downed two 40s of malt liquor (who knew each one was only $1.89?) and -- no doubt as a passive-agressive act of vengeance -- the last bottle of wine I had left out in a shared space, some plonk given to me by our consultants as a parting gift. It wasn't the value of the wine, but the meaning of the statement.
I pulled it out of the trash and put it on the counter. I left a note: "NOT YOURS", along with another note that said, "DO NOT REMOVE ANYTHING THAT IS NOT YOUR PROPERTY." Yeah, I know I'm asking for a fight. But I did make sure to lock up everything of value before I left this morning. And my upstairs neighbors are holding on to other items of value that couldn't fit in the Gladiator box.
I then called my landlord and asked him to change the locks.