The students are back. You notice it in first in the banks. Posters with a ‘cool’ typeface go up in their windows. Among the hard-pressed landlord community, hands are rubbed in anticipation of some quick bucks.
For first year students, this may be the first time they will have lived for any length of time with strangers, and away from their parents. Encountering the real world, they will be faced with the uncomfortable truth that there is nowt as queer as folk. The problem is that folk don’t display their strangeness at the start, preferring instead to keep it under wraps until the unsuspecting new arrival is nicely settled in.
House-sharing has been very kind to me. Mostly. Chief among the exceptions was Let’s Call Him Eugene. Eugene seemed at first to be a perfectly functioning individual. But c’mere till I tell ya…
One fresh spring day, I arrived home from work to find the phone bill on the mat. I opened the envelope. There appeared to be a sheaf of papers inside. Either Eircom was sending me a draft of their latest novel to review, or this was a very big bill. £1367.06 big to be precise.
I scanned the summary sheet for the subtotals. Local and National calls £23.45; International £8.94; Calls to Mobiles £39.78; Calls to Premium Services £1294.89. My Holmes-like powers of deduction told me that the Premium Calls were a vital clue.
The bill was itemised and on pages 4 to 20 one number kept on cropping up again and again. It began with Fifteen-Fifty. Who’s entering all these competitions? I wondered as I rang Eircom. The call-centre man was adamant.
– Surely there’s been some mistake
– All those calls were definitely made from your phone. Do you want me to ring one of those numbers to see what it’s about?
– Go on so…
I was put on hold for what seemed to be an unnecessarily long time. Eventually he came back on the line:
– Some girl called Amanda on a sex chat line he said, slightly out of breath.
– Is she still there?
I asked hoping to get a few more clues. The man from Eircom hung up. Over the following few hours I had the unpleasant task of confronting my housemates to find out who had been ahem… using a hands free kit. Eugene owned up immediately.
– I was a bit messed up there for a while he said.
Like Amanda, Eircom were very accommodating. They reached a separate arrangement with Eugene so that he could pay the bill off in instalments. Which worked for him as he had already been in the habit of making regular deposits.
With any luck, for students moving out of home for the first time, you won’t end up living with someone as … cough…. hands-on as Eugene. Inevitably though, you will meet at least one weird housemate. Here are some character types you may live with in the coming years.
Despite their name, the Loomer does not have any association with weaving. Their chief characteristic is to stand in the same room as you for a long time without speaking. Often you will not hear them come in. Do not be alarmed. They simply have no idea what to say to you. They may restrict their chat to a perfunctory comment on what you are doing. “Having a few beans?” they say. There’s no point in trying to expand the conversation beyond this – just reply in kind. “That’s right, beans…”
Later on in life you may meet the loomer again and be somewhat surprised to find that they think you were the soundest person they ever met.
All My News.
At the start of the relationship, All My News is easy to like because they make you feel good by confiding in you. Unfortunately it turns out that they are completely self obsessed. Every conversation turns into a therapy session where they share their most intimate – often medical – details. All My News’s news is generally bad and pretty soon you are the back-up storage for a litany of their problems, ailments, grievances and paranoiac opinions. You are, effectively, an external hard-luck-drive. This can make going to bed a tortuous procedure. You stick your head around the door of the sitting-room to say goodnight. Four hours later, you are exhausted having rocked a weeping All My News to sleep.
Note: this is most likely a girly scenario. Generally, males don’t confide or empathise until well into their sixties.
When Harry Met Sally
This is a girl who, on the surface seems quite demure and coy. She may even make prudish comments about the morals of people she sees on TV. You feel self conscious swearing around her. That is, until her boyfriend comes over for the first time. They disappear to her room and WHMS turns into a raving sex monster shouting all kinds of obscenities in flagrante delicto. Every step of their noisy coupling is audible throughout the house. If you have friends visiting during this most traumatic of times, you will be able to demonstrate your knowledge of the procedure by making an educated guess at how long it lasts.
We’ve all put leftovers in the fridge that we have no intention of eating. It’s as if a microchip placed in our brains by our mothers prevents us from throwing out ‘perfectly good food’. But at least the food is usually somewhat recognisable. The Freaky Foodie will put something in a jar that can only be described as a specimen. It would not look out of place in a Tim Burton film. It may once have been a fish. Long after the Freaky Foodie has moved out of the house, their ‘fossil’ remains in the fridge. No one will touch it for fear it is cursed.
Given the propensity of the Gods to meddle in the affairs of man, just for the craic, it is pre-ordained that an obsessive compulsive clean-freak will end up sharing a house with the most slovenly, messy individual ever to be spoiled by a mother. Relations will deteriorate almost immediately as the clean-freak is confronted with levels of filth they had previously only seen on a documentary: cigarette butts in a slice of toast under the sofa, spaghetti hoops in the tea-pot, a buttered knife wrapped in an underpants behind the TV. The clean freak may start off by cleaning everything, then passive aggressively clean around the slob and finally stop cleaning altogether in the hope of jolting the sloven into activity. That’s when the house goes to complete shanty-town ruin. It doesn’t matter, the messy divil will carry on blissfully unaware. Years later the tidy person – who by now has developed a twitch – will almost keel over to find that the filthmonger they used to live with is now a surgeon.
But, first year students, anxiously awaiting your flatmate fate, don’t despair. You may be lucky enough to avoid some of these spanners. And for an even luckier few, there is one last personality type that some of you will meet.
This is the person who may end up being one of the best friends you will make in your adult life. You may not even like them immediately. But at some stage – perhaps brought together by mutual dislike of a Loomer, an All My News or a Slob – you will gel. The friendship is cemented by a shared guilty love for Come Dine With Me or a passionate argument on the five best overhead kicks of all time. For a crucial period of your life you are effectively platonic spouses – gossiping, food-shopping, washing-up together. You play wingman/woman for each other on those tremendous, spontaneous nights out, which start with some innocent cans on the sofa watching Two And A Half Men and end up sixteen hours later leaving a party asking passers by “What town is this?”
Put simply, the Complete Legend is someone who starts out as a Housemate – and ends up as a mate.