Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my Twenties. This is probably because my thirtieth birthday is approaching FAST. Like, in just under two months. Anyways, the other day I was telling a friend a story about the house I lived in when I was going to University (see previous entry re: bedroom ceiling collapsing) and I realized something about my 20’s:
I LIVED IN TOTAL UTTER CHAOS.
Is it really that surprising that I was a bit of a headcase?
For the first 3. 5 years that I lived in Toronto (minus the 6 months I spent living in “The Basement Apartment from Hell” -another blog post altogether) I lived in Student Housing. I could have moved into a sterile dorm room that probably would have had ceilings that DIDN’T COLLAPSE (although I’m sure if I lived there they would have found a way to collapse. Just like how “Basement Apartment from Hell” managed to flood in the middle of January). Instead, I let my Left-Leaning-West-Coast-Granola-Crunching upbringing & my love for Victorian homes get the best of me. I decided my new home would be my school’s “Co-operative Alternative Residences”. The name alone conjures up images of tie-dye, reusable coffee mugs strung off of M.E.C backpacks, Birkenstocks & lots of borderline communist activity. If you were thinking this too, you’d be right.
Back in the 60’s and 70’s during the height of flower power, the “Co-Op” purchased a dozen or so large Victorian homes in the neighborhood adjacent to the University. These houses were then converted into Student Residences. I lived in one of these Victorian homes on a beautiful tree lined street. We shared the neighborhood with other students, yuppies & a whole slew of Frat Houses (this how I learned that it is never a good idea to walk down Madison Ave looking remotely attractive on a warm day). My room was pretty. It had yellow walls, big bay windows & a fireplace. The rent was cheap.
The downside to all this? I lived in a house with 9 other people and some small livestock (I’ll get to that later).
Living in the other 9 bedrooms were a rotating cast of “colorful characters” which included,
-a guy who subsisted on a hot-dog only diet
-someone with “Seinfeld-B.O” (as in the “B” was independent of the “O”. When the “B” left the room, the “O” would linger)
-a certified hermit who only became less hermit-like when I started sleeping with him during my last 6 months of living there (I saw his reclusive nature as a challenge).
– “LoPants” my roomie who had a permanent plumbers crack and would say stuff like “So, I just masturbated” whenever she came into the kitchen (She was such an over-sharer. Someone should have told her about blogging.)
-a guy who would always answer his door alone, shirtless, sweaty, and out of breath like I had just interupted his “Gentleman Time” (I should have tried to set up him up with LoPants)
There were 3 bathrooms.
My friend C. who lived in the house next door had it worse. His cast of characters included but was not limited to:
-a 40 year old virgin who played the trombone (When I saw THIS years later, I almost peed myself laughing)
-a guy who in 3.5 years, I only ever saw wearing pijamas pants and a bathrobe.
-a proffessional pandhandler
-a German sheppard
There was only one bathroom….for 14 people.
I never slept with anyone from that house mostly because I feared that if I did I might actually have to use that bathroom.
(The house down the street was even worse. They had to evict someone because the dude went all Howard Hughes-ey, stopped paying his rent, barricaded himself in his room behind a fortress of canned soup and started saving his toe-nail clippings in jars. I only know this because I slept with one of his room-mates.)
I had a hard time convincing people that I didn’t live in some weird Dharma-Initiative-style Communist state …because well, I kind of did. There were lots of rules. There were job charts. Everything was bought in bulk. Our basement was full of massive bales of the cheapest and scratchiest no-name toilet paper known to man. We were forced to use inneffective cleaning products made from natural ingredients (kind of a problem when you have 14 people sharing a bathroom). There were commitees for everything (ie. I sat on the Vermin removal committee). It wasn’t uncommon to see a “If its brown flush it down, if its yellow let it mellow” sign in a shared washroom. There was a frightening communal compost heap in our backyard that reminded me of the Garbage pile from Fraggle Rock. I’m sure when we were all sleeping (or passed out drunk) it mumbled Markist theory.
I’d lived there for 2 years when elections came up for “Co-op Manager”. I was already the elected Manager of my own house (dishing out anti-recycling fines & cleaning infractions like a good little comrade) and it was my roomate who pushed me to climb the ranks so to speak. She said it would “improve my leadership skills” (It didn’t. I was a terrible leader). I won the election by a landside…because no one else ran against me (this should have been a sign). My ancestors left Russia to escape all this shit and here I was embracing this hot commie mess with open arms.
At first I liked the power of being the only person with a master key to the supply closet (I was the sole controller of scratchy toilet paper! muahahahaha). But, then all this power just got annoying like when people actually wanted stuff. Drunk people who were locked out of their rooms who needed someone to let them in at 4am. People who needed more toilet paper. Cleaning violations. Farm animals (I’ll get to that later). People calling me asking if they could trade 3 bottles of hippie brand Dutch Cleanser for more toilet paper. THERE WAS NEVER ENOUGH TOILET PAPER. EVER. I would usually spend my Saturday afternoons trying to bribe someone with a drivers liscense (usually with the promise of more toilet paper) to drive me to the wholesale toilet paper depot (it exists. It’s on Dupont Street) in the decrepid Co-op supply van (I always felt like it was on the verge of self-destructing & bursting into flames) where I would load 65 packages of scratchy toilet paper into the back of the van, usually with tears in my eyes because I knew that it wouldn’t be enough. We actually needed 80 packages.
Like all good communist states things started to unravel. The people want what the people want! I couldn’t keep up with the demand. I lost control. People started to run out of toilet paper at the most inopertune moments. I became known as the worst Co-op Manager of all time (next to the guy who was caught stealing used matresses). Eventually, in one of the most embarassing moments of my life, a coup was organized and I was impeached.
This was all happening around the same time that I decided to STOP drinking. Which, now in hindsight almost seems like a bad idea.
Even with my shit-show stint as Co-Op Manager over, I still had to manage the affairs of the house in which I lived. Most of my time was spent handling the RABBIT problem.
Yes, I said RABBIT.
My housemate who lived below me kept rabbits in her bedroom. They were “free range” – meaning they weren’t kept in cages. The floor of her bedroom was covered with wood chips and blankets, that the rabbits would use to “relieve themselves”. She also used to wash the rabbit blankets (crap pads) in the communal washing machine. When I wasn’t chairing a meeting about how the first floor of our house smelled like a filthy petting zoo, I was dealing with people who had complaints that their clean laundry smelled like “farm”.
At the time I had a part time job at a make-up counter that required us to wear blazers. I’d usually get makeup all over my jacket so I’d wash it before every shift. One day while at work, I had this epiphany. I stuck my hands into the pockets of my freshly washed blazer and felt something weird. I pulled them out, held them out in front of my face and said,
“FUCKING WOOD CHIPS!!!!”
At that moment, I knew I had to move.
I answered an ad on the Tribe message board posted by someone looking for a roomate to share a luxury condo on Bay St.
On moving day, I went upstairs to my former hermit booty call & slipped a note under halfway under his door that said:
“I’m moving out. Call me sometime”
I waited a moment. I heard shuffling noises. I stood back and I watched as the note slowly slid the rest of the way under the door.
It was the end of an era. I never looked back.
(today’s photo was found here)
What’s your best crazy living situation story?