... at least irritation in the apartment is a big frustration in life. (I don't know how that compares, exactly, to failure in the home.) This has not been the best week of my life in a lot of aspects (by which I mean I haven't riden any rollercoasters lately, eaten fresh margarita pizza, or wandered around a large European city's downtown.) but nothing really got to me until my roommates started being irritated.
Everyone's been irritated lately, actually. Me, I blame a combination of midterms, regular roommateness, the lousy weather and the whole false community/real community thing that my freshman RA explained to me. Let me expound on the last one (because the others are easy to find): she said that it's easy to be nice to people for a little bit, for the honeymoon period, if you will--you can just be civil to each other for a short amount of time. Eventually, though, it wears off and you get more and more frustrated with the little things that bug us. Then it comes to a point of crisis/imputous and depending on how you handle that point you either break it up or become real community. I think this cycle explains a lot, but the point of crisis has never been so pulpable.
Here's my theory of roommate relations. Everyone has things that irritate them, especially as per cleanliness and noise levels. For example, at home my room is a holy terror, especially my desk, which seldom anything like a usable writing surface. But at college I sleep better if my desk and floor are clear. I don't know why--it's probably becuase I have so little space, so my side of the room is like my world. Things like room cleaning, though, are neutral in roommate relations, unless you share a room and your roommate really takes issue with your side, but that's a little crazy.
But what if the difference isn't over room cleaning? What if it's about dish-doing or countertop-wiping or coat-up-hanging? That's where it gets ugly. In our apartment, I suspect (but I'll find out for sure on Sunday when we've planned to discuss all this) that the one who hates dishes in the sink is the one who puts the crumbs on the counter that the one who doesn't wipe out the sink hates which the one who leaves her books on the table hates. It's like the circle of irritation. That's why I have a two-point system that I've always employed with roommates.
1) First day you meet find out what's their pet peeves. One frustrating thing about this situation is that I did this, but then, it's hard for people to think off the bat that they hate when people put their food on top of the fridge. But if you know, then you can avoid it because you know how much it bugs them. Jamie Z. hated dishes in the sink and we all knew that, so we tried to always keep it in the dishwasher.
2) Fix what you care about. I learned this lesson while living with roommates who seldom did the dishes; worse, they would let them "soak" in the sink for three, four, five days at a time. I was sick of being the person who yelled at others. Then I read that quote about marriage, about how both sides can't give 50%, they have to give more like 80% because we all overestimate what we're doing. So I started doing the dishes. It was such a relatively easy process. It was soothing to get my hands all warm and soapy, I felt like I was providing service to my roommates and I didn't have to worry about mountains of dishes in lakes of dishwater. This is a rather liberating philosophy. Unfortunately, my current roommates don't seem to share it. I'll have to bring it up on Sunday.
Which leads me to what may be point three that this apartment may teach me--communication. (This may just be an expansion of point one.) For example, I kept putting the cups that I found by the side of the sink in the dishwasher, until this morning, when I discovered two tersely-worded labels on them reading "In Use by _____." Oh. Those are water glasses. I didn't know that's why they were there; I just assumed someone was by-passing the no-dishes-in-the-sink rule by leaving things on the counter. I honestly didn't know.
So I'm really looking forward to Sunday and getting this all done with. If we could all be together earlier, I'd eagerly push it up a few days. With an extremely high-stress and last-minute Divine Comedy show, conference paper deadlines and my student's biggest and most frightening assignment, not to mention my own poor health this week, I'd feel a lot better if I felt better at home.