I was once roommates with a Nazi… and I’m going to be honest here… Nazi is one of the more pleasant pronouns by which to describe this guy.
To set the stage we will wind back a few years to my first day of university. I was a bright eyed freshmen at Drexel University, College of Engineering. My parents had dropped me off at my dorm and we had unloaded all of my belongings in a heap on my bed. The room was small, with two beds and two desks crammed into it. There was a public kitchen on the floor, and strangely we had a humongous private bathroom which was half the size of the living space. I glanced at the unclaimed bed and I wondered who I would be living with.
After an hour of unpacking, my roommate was still a no show. I gave up waiting and went exploring, taking in everything this new environment had to offer. I talked to fellow freshmen, to the RA’s (student counselors) and to the upperclassmen who were all busy like me, settling in and exploring. I returned to my room a while later to find a blond haired blue eyed boy sitting on the second bed. “Hi! I’m Yehoshua!” I exclaimed in excitement.
The boy squinted and eyed me up and down. Then, I kid you not, the first thing out of his mouth was a burly… “You Jewish?…….”
This was the moment that the sound “uh oh” began rattling around the inside of my head like an enraged bee. Determined to make a friend I gave an enthusiastic “Yep!” Then in an anxious rush, I started to hurl a bunch of friendly questions at him in the ever shrinking hope that this guy was not a weirdo. “So, what’s your name? Where are you from? What are we studying?..”
After a pregnant pause he informed me his name is Mark (name changed for anonymity), and then he barfed out a long German name that I don’t remember and informed me proudly that this name belonged to his grandfather. He waited and looked at me closely.
Now along with the “uh oh” sound, a marching army of ants waving red flags joined the party in my head and together made quite a ruckus. “oh..cool…” I said wearing a polite expression of confusion.
Clearly now offended, he cocked his head and said “Do you know who that is?”
I gave him a tight smile and replied “Nope!…”
“Oh.. I thought you would have known” he leered at me “because he was a General, and he killed a bunch of you….” he waved in my general direction…. His grandfather was a Nazi.
So THAT was the introduction to the person who I was supposed to be spending the next year sleeping three feet away from.. hurray! Regrettably I had no grounds for requesting a different roommate or to move elsewhere because to his credit, he never said anything overtly antisemitic or threatening apart from once. That occurred this same day. After unpacking his laptop he glanced at me and told me that he would “hurt me” if I ever used his computer, because apparently he has “private information there.” In and of itself this was not enough to make the school do anything. So yeah.. I was just going to have to deal with it on my own.
Unfortunately, the process of discovering just how crazy my roommate would end up being didn’t end there. For starters… he woke up every morning at a bright and early 5 am. Now normally I’m ok with people getting out of bed before me. I can sleep through pretty much anything. However this guy.. THIS guy needed special equipment to get out of bed in the morning. No, he was not handicapped. He had a special alarm system which flashed lights on and off and blasted an ear piercing and incessant ring. Our next door neighbors could hear it. And if that was not enough, the alarm had a plate which attached to his bed and would literally shake it. Guess what? With this fancy alarm system, it took him at least 10 minutes to wake up enough to turn it off! You better believe it, I was up the MOMENT it screeched into life.
Coping with all of this I knew was going to be a challenge, however it would take a few weeks yet to realize the true horror of the situation I was in. From the moment he arrived, the room was spotless. He was so insistent about cleanliness that at one point during the first semester he started shouting incoherently when he came home and found me studying at my desk. He came right for me.. grabbed the desk, and flipped the whole thing over. He pointed at the ground and shouted “HOW CAN YOU LIVE LIKE THIS!!!” There were 3 stray cheerios lying on the floor under my desk.
Contrary to what you might think, this did not at all prepare me for how unbelievably messy he was. Yes that’s correct. This guy would swap between being OCD clean and OCD filthy. I would come home one day and find the room absolutely spotless and then a week later I would walk in and find an unholy hoard of trash strewn about. He would leave his dirty dishes in the SHOWER… yeah.. I could not take showers during his messy phases and had to go to neighbors’ apartments just to bathe.
This was only the beginning of his repertoire of weird stuff . He loved talking about his body. He would lovingly describe it to me and tell me all about the workouts he did. I was not the least bit interested in this. One of the weirder experiences of my college life was coming home exhausted after classes only to find my roommate with 3 other guys wearing black hooded robes, standing in the middle of a circle of candles, chanting in hushed voices. He screamed, pushed me out of the room, slammed the door, and shouted that I can “come back in a few hours after my frat brothers leave.”
With all this craziness going on, he also complained frequently to the administrator of my floor that I studied in the room too much, and he could not get to sleep because of it. My personal policy is to never study after 10:00pm. This is quite unusual for most college students.. Yet he still managed to complain that I kept him from sleeping.
Finally, the last straw came when during one of his messy phases, I came home to find garbage covering the floor and my roommate standing over my bed. He had brought in a portable stove top, placed it onto my bed, and was frying bacon….on my bed… he was FRYING BACON ON MY BED!….. grease was sputtering everywhere, on my sheets, pillows, and blankets!
All through this, my sister was a great comfort. I had complained to her liberally about my terrible unwanted companion and she came up with a brilliant and devious plan. This is how it all went down.
A week or so went by and my roommate entered one of his neat phases. In the meantime I had acquired everything I would need to accomplish our plan….. hard candy. While my roommate was away I went into the bathroom and unscrewed the face of the shower head. I quickly nestled all the rock candy I could into the void in the shower head and fitted the faceplate back on.
The genius of this is that while the shower is running, everything appears normal. However, a few minutes after the shower stops, it becomes apparent that something is wrong. You see, the hot running water melts the rock candy, and once you cool off from the shower, the sugar solidifies, and you become incredibly sticky.
By chance I ended up doing this at the perfect moment. My roommate’s next shower happened to be while he was in a rush to get to work. After the shower and my roommate was half dressed it became evident to him that his shower was… let’s say… ineffective. However due to the rush he was in, he left immediately. Four hours later he burst into the room and headed straight for the shower. Luckily, I had had time to refill the shower head with fresh hard candy.
He emerged from the rolling steam of the bathroom seeming relieved and refreshed. Then he started to cool down and the sugar began doing its work. Realizing he was still sticky, he jumped back into the shower a second time to similar effect. He stomped around in frustration then suddenly stopped and glared at me. I looked up innocently from my chemistry notebook and I gave him my sweetest toothy smile. With his face shifting between frustration, rage and pain he clutched his head in his hands and started screaming. In a violent burst of energy, he slammed open the door to our room and ran through it without a backwards glance. And you know what?
I never saw him again.
The next day all his possessions were gone, and I got to enjoy the room all to myself for the whole second semester.
So, what did I learn from all of this? Don’t get unlucky with assigned roommates, and don’t wait to fight back when someone is walking all over you.
And remember, you can catch more Nazis with hard candy than with vinegar,