In this column I’ve mentioned several obnoxious habits that roommates have, but one thing that irks me the most when living with others is heightened sound. Sometimes you just want to sit—or sleep—in peace and quiet, but you can’t because your roommate just got promoted and is having a party. Or she got laid off and she‘s psyched, or she got a great score on her final when you have yet to complete your exams (and in fact have another one the next morning at 8 a.m.). One of the hardest things to do when you’re just going about your day-to-day life is to take others into consideration, and that’s really what being a good roommate is all about. Sure, it’s awesome if you vacuum a lot or have a weird penchant for doing the dishes, but if you’re doing those things while I’m sleeping at seven in the morning then they’re not that awesome anymore. They’re actually annoying and make me hate you.
Noise pollution is something I’ve dealt with a lot through the years, and I have to say I’m rather impressed by those who are able to shake off their roommates’ loud habits. Not that I have many friends who would say, “Yeah, my roommate plays his electric guitar until 5 a.m., but I’ve gotten used to it,” but I have heard this from a few people. And every time I do I’m like, “Ugh didn’t you want to just pick up that electric guitar and smash it on the ground into millions of little pieces?!” because for me, sound can straight-up ruin my day. If I wake up to a loud, unnecessary noise from, say, a garbage truck, it can kill my enthusiasm for getting out of bed. But if I wake up to an unnecessary noise from a roommate, then I’m really pissed.
The reason noise bothers me so much is two-fold: First, I’m sensitive to sound. I deliberately try to do the dishes so there’s not a lot of banging, and it’s not because I do the dishes at an early hour or because I’m trying not to break anything. It’s simply because I hate the loud noise. Beyond that, noise bothers me because it’s something that your roommates can control, but only if they actually want to control it. While I believe that part of the reason some people are so loud is because they’re not sensitive to sound, I also think it’s because they just don’t give a shit.
Take, for instance, my former roommate Brenda (whose name has been changed for this article). Brenda’s ideal day would start around 6:45 a.m. when she did the dishes “just for fun.” Even though I never had proof, it sounded to me like Brenda would do the dishes from the bottom up, so there was always a cascading noise of toppling dishes coming from the kitchen. Then she would grind some coffee or, when she was on a health kick, blend a bunch of fruit for a smoothie. At that point she would crank up AM radio and shuffle between the kitchen, her bedroom, and the bathroom for about 40 minutes, slamming the door each time she went into the bathroom and sending an echo of cacophonous sound down the hall. Sometimes, she would cook. And all the times she cooked, she needed to find a pan that just happened to be buried under a stack of other pans. To sum up my feelings succinctly, Brenda drove me batshit crazy.