The Three WORST Flatmates
Existentalist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre famously concluded that hell is other people. As my degree stretches into its fifth year, I am convinced that Sartre’s relentlessly bleak view of humanity was developed after an episode of time travel in which he spent half a decade flatting in Dunedin. The hell of other people is intensified a million times over when you’re forced to cohabit with several of them in housing that your average Brazilian favela resident would probably consider a downgrade.
After extensive exposure to many variations on the awful flatmate theme, I have finally settled on the three worst flatmate species of all time. The process of creating this list was a taxing one, which reminded me of the hideous emotional rollercoaster ride that is an STI check/pap smear at Family Planning. Fortunately, though, the act of completing the list and realising that I no longer live with any of these people triggered the familiar warm rush of dopamine and relief that always comes with the news that I’ve successfully evaded pregnancy and venereal disease for another year. Happy days.
The Eating Disordered FlatmateIf you genuinely believe that your flatmates’ nutritional habits don’t affect you, congratulations. You have clearly never endured the bizarre dietary fixations, passive aggression and general psychoses of the eating-disordered flatmate. In second year, I lived with a largeish girl, who was odd but tolerable, until just after Easter. Who knows what dire event befell her on the family’s Waikato farm that mid-semester break (my bet is that she arose at 4am one day to help her dad with the milking, and in the low light he mistook her bulk for a cow and attempted to hook her up to the milking machine), but by the time she returned to Dunedin she was pure EDF.
Things happened quickly. Her desktop background, once a photo of her at her sister’s wedding looking like a sundried tomato savoury muffin, vacuum-packed into pink satin, became a giant number 70 — her “UGW”, or Ultimate Goal Weight. When we went to the supermarket as a flat she would head straight for the Ready Meals aisle and purchase only seven Weight Watchers Tomato Soups, one for each day of the week, then sprint past the confectionery at Usain Bolt-like speeds. She declared that she was “allergic to chocolate” and subsequently started to produce chocolate-y baked goods obsessively at all hours, which she would then force-feed to the rest of the flat in an attempt to fatten us up, presumably to capitalise on the “best house in the worst street” principle. Yet if I consumed anything more carbolicious than a carrot stick she would glare at me, snakelike, as if I were stealing antiretrovirals from African AIDS orphans instead of enjoying a delicious piece of Burgen wholemeal toast.
The puzzling thing was that despite these efforts she wasn’t really losing weight. All became clear one fateful July night. I was sitting in the lounge with the three non-EDF flatmates, whispering an anecdote of how the previous night she burst into my room with a mixing bowl of chocolate ganache and forced me to lick the spatula, when she burst into the lounge — forehead glistening, pupils dilated, eyes glazed over, wrist dripping blood. She looked exactly like a junkie who’d missed the vein and hit an artery instead, except fatter. Turns out she had been secretly binging at night, eating entire blocks of own brand supermarket cheese. That night, things reached an epic crescendo. Alone in her room with her beloved Budget Tasty 1kg, her fingers became so slippery with cheese-sweat that her iron grip on the cheese slicer slipped and she lacerated her hand. We had to take her to A & E, where she received five stitches.
It was the best day of the year.
The Poor Personal Hygiene FlatmateFor an entire year I was cursed with a sweaty, overweight, Holden-belt-buckle-wearing PPHF who hailed from Southland but smelled like Africa — Lynx Africa, that is. Without ever having applied Lynx Africa. Which is the most damning condemnation of a person’s smell I can think of. Top notes of Kapiti Kikorangi blue cheese intermingled with a musky base of stale Zinger Burger, occasionally giving way to a sudden horrific mid-note of New Delhi slum. In darker moments I wondered if I should dismember his body, distil his weapons-grade stinktonium, bottle it and auction it off to whichever North African dictatorship would pay the highest price to finally take down NATO with the dirtiest of dirty bombs.
The rest of the flatmates would spend hours speculating as to the precise source of the stench. It was widely agreed that while his diet of Ultimate Burgers from Willowbank, chain-smoking, and failure to do anything with his life other than play WoW in his room were clearly contributing factors, they couldn’t fully explain the odour that clung to him like, well, a bad smell. We tried to drop hints. Once, I had to drive him to the doctor. I opened every window in the car for fear of meeting an end worthy of Schindler’s List. That was the weekend it snowed. He seemed not to notice. I wondered if his BO was creating a sort of localised Greenhouse Effect.
Finally, the irresistible offer of a free Family Size jar of Best Foods got him talking. It emerged that he showered only three times per week. Soap, shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste were concepts as foreign to him as a world outside of Dunedin and Invercargill.
I didn’t understand then. I don’t understand now. Why WOULDN’T you shower? Showers are really, really nice. Not only do they wash spilled Old Mout from your clavicles and dried cum from your hair, they wake you up, relax you, and offer at least a couple of minutes of guaranteed Not Being Cold Time every day. Surely even the bogan-est of Invers bogans is capable of appreciating the comforting scent of Palmolive Milk and Honey body wash, or the mouth-tingling, plaque-destroying freshness of Colgate Triple Action? In this wonderful age of consumer-centric innovations courtesy of Colgate-Palmolive Incorporated, the PPHF is viler than ever.
The Power-Drunk FlatmateRounding out the holy trifecta of foul flatmates is the most common hellish cohabitant - the PDF. This uniquely vile species usually grew up on a sheep or dairy farm, and is therefore accustomed to being a stingy, joyless, whining cunt. The PDF monitors those naughty indulgences like Heating and Hot Water and Meeting WHO Minimum Living Standards with grim Gestapo-like efficiency. Also like the Gestapo, the PDF cultivates a system of informants within the flat, attempting to weed out anyone who might be hiding a Jewish family or a small oil heater behind a bookcase. It is speculated that the process of freezing and thawing that the flatmates must undergo as they attend centrally-heated university then return home to their deep-freeze of a flat each day is in fact a sadistic Joseph Mengele-like experiment on the part of the PDF. The ultimate aim of the PDF is to find a Final Solution to the Power Problem, possibly involving moving into a concentration camp-style flat where everyone sleeps in a bunkroom and toils over a coal oven in shifts.
A $3 increase in the power bill from July to August will spark calls for Flat Meetings in which the PDF will state calmly yet sadistically that from now on heat pump usage will be restricted to hungover Sundays, personal heaters are not to be used in bedrooms, and a $2 charge will apply to anyone with the nerve to even consider using the dryer, despite the fact that the other rules have made the house so cold that freshly washed clothing would develop a thick crust of mould, vegetation and sentient life before it even came close to airdrying.
I vividly recall arriving home from uni last year to discover that every available surface was covered with pastel-coloured Post-It notes, courtesy of the resident PDF. On my light switch: “Turn Me Off When You Leave Room.” On the front door: “Shut Me When You Go.” On my bar heater: “$1 per hour.” On the dryer: “$2 per session. THIS MEANS YOU MADDY.” $1 per hour? $2 per session? What the fuck was this, a Tajikistani brothel? I guess the thing to remember in these situations is that Hitler, perhaps the most power-drunk man in history, committed suicide in an underground bunker and Churchill, who you know would’ve cranked the heat pump right up to 30 degrees, won the war and died a national hero. But sadly, thoughts like that warm only the heart.