Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The trouble with housemates is that you live with them, so you really better get along. The process of housemate selection is historically fraught for everyone involved. Typically it should be more rigorous than your underwear choice and less rigorous than the (utterly vital) selection of your television viewing. The key is to hover somewhere in the middle, avoiding addicts, country music fans and homicidal maniacs, while clinging to those who own fridges. Of course no one has a perfect record (though if I had fulfilled my dream of staging a Bring It On style cheerleading tryout panel I suspect I may have had a better chance).
Don’t get me wrong, Jim and Mick are great, the panel method wasn’t necessary for them. They’ve accepted the random photos of my nephews in the lounge room, telling visitors they’ve fathered one each, and they both know all the incorrect names I’ve inexplicably given the local food outlets, so when I say…
“Let’s get breakfast at that place I call Inferno, that’s not actually called in Inferno.”
… they know what I mean (and no, as I sit here and stare vacantly, I still for the life of me can’t think of what the ‘place I call Inferno, that’s not actually called Inferno’ is actually called). I have accepted that Jim has a weird height fetish that makes him occasionally stand on furniture, we’ve accepted that Mick calls us Big Gay and Harlot, and they’re thoughtful enough to offer warnings when necessary if they suspect I am indulging in some nude time upstairs.
I am not a nudist, but I have been caught out by a housemate before. Back when I lived with Peta, a rather complicated comedy of errors one morning (involving impeccable timing) left me trapped naked and towel-less in the bathroom while she was collapsed in a drunken heap in the corridor blocking my escape.
Peta herself has had some housemate selection issues, which leads me into 3 vital rules that seem applicable to everyone. These aren’t the obvious ones about hygiene or sharing, these are the ones that people often have to learn the hard way.
1. Don’t go looking for a soul mate
When I was moving out, Peta met with a series of replacement applicants. They were all perfectly acceptable, but there was no obvious winner. Then came Dan. She offered it to him on the spot. When he left I quizzed her on his job, previous residence and last name. She didn’t know these, but she had all the information she needed – he was a rugby player. Guess who Peta has a weakness for? 10 points if you said ‘thick-necked men’. Guess how that ended? A further 10 points if you said ‘without a wedding’.
2. Don’t live with someone who is dating someone who is insane
Leah thought she was on to a good thing when she moved in with her old friend James who she’d lived with once before. Unfortunately James had a girlfriend who was as crazy as a loon. And the Loon got herself a house key cut. James and the Loon’s fights were so epic they actually involved the use of diagrams – they used graphic drawings to illustrate what they thought of each other. That household lasted a month and a half.
3. Don’t move in with someone who might be a serial killer
This can be tricky – how does one spot a potential serial killer while searching desperately for accommodation so you can stop commuting for an hour every morning at 2am to your shift job? I was ripe for a horror movie homage.
Of course I had no proof that Bob was homicidal (though so mysterious was he that I briefly theorized he might have been in the witness protection program). All I had was the gradual eerie sensation of slowly realizing I was living in a home that was decorated with framed pieces of wrapping paper, while being assured that there was a 3rd person living in the town house… he was just away on business… all the time. Then there were the barrels in the basement. That sounds like a bad joke, but it’s not. I checked them – they were empty.
I once failed to wash a tea spoon so he left it, still dirty, resting on my handbag. I once walked in my room too loudly, so he requested henceforth I remove my shoes at the bottom of the stairs.
Finally, overwhelmed with dread I decided to ease my mind by doing a highly secretive, politely restrained, yet utterly necessary search of his room to assure myself that Bob was normal. Aside from discovering that Bob had an ensuite (which I didn’t know existed) filled with a supermarket worth of cleaning products, all I found in his wardrobe was 3 crisply ironed shirts, a large collection of neatly stacked DVD’s of a show called Prisoner and a single disc of All Saints. Somehow the All Saints disc is what tipped me into paranoia. Aussie drama is great and all, but surely only psychopaths feel the need to watch it repeatedly.
It’s hard to believe Bob and I haven’t kept in touch.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
I’m not sure if I’ve made this clear yet, but I am not a summer person. I don’t yearn for long hot days or sun drenched frolicking. As an owner of a Kidman complexion (minus facial immobility, plus freckles, minus alabaster, plus albino) I have learnt to accept that my borderline fluorescent state is a sign that Fate has a sense of humour – why else would she have set me down in Australia? It only seems natural that in between burning, sweating and chafing I spend a lot of time counting down to winter.
That’s the explanation I tried to give to several kindly residents of Europe who expressed concern that I didn’t realize it would be cold in their continent in December. When I got sick of spelling out that reason, I simply informed them the weather had come as a complete surprise to me seeing as I run my life based on the Mayan calendar… then asked them how they felt about the fact that the world was ending in 2012.
Travel offers almost as many life lessons as movies (almost, it is hard to compete with the medium that gave us the word ‘shmashmortion’ as a perfectly acceptable euphemism for ‘abortion’). One of those lessons is undoubtedly…
Be careful what you wish for
Though I longed for snow, I didn’t know quite what I was getting myself in for. The snow that closed down trains and airports wasn’t too bad, the snow that coated the countryside was gorgeous, and the snow that fell as I sipped mulled wine at the Christmas markets in an old German town was perfect. The problem was that in my pure, unbridled cold weather joy I took to expressing my delight aggressively in all the white power and managed to score myself what can only be described as a genuine snow-kicking injury. While it has been a good long while since anyone might have described me as athletic, it’s never easy to explain that you screwed up your knee skipping and cavorting in snow like the child you have long (allegedly) ceased to be.
Some other travel lessons include…
Pay careful attention when booking accommodation
If you don’t you might accidentally find yourself checking into a Christian hostel in Amsterdam, where you are told upon arrival that Jesus loves you and group prayer begins at 10.
Also, if you don’t, you might find yourself bedding down for the night in an old converted hospital that is less hostel, more halfway house, as evidenced by the vaguely homeless looking man wandering the corridors in his underwear.
Think long and hard before spending the night in a caravan
Especially if it’s the perfect size for 2 people and there are 4 of you. This is also a bad time to discover you might be slightly claustrophobic.
Accept compliments, they will often be thin on the ground
A charming Columbian girl I was sharing a dorm with one night explained that she was working on perfecting her 3rd language (French).
Me: Wow, 3 languages, that’s phenomenal. I spend enough time struggling with English.
Columbian Girl: Your English is really quite good.
Me: (after considering my response options) Thank you, my parents were really insistent that I make an effort with it.
Embrace cultural experiences
When in Belgium, there’s nothing wrong with eating a chocolate Belgian waffle each morning for breakfast. That’s just showing a little thing I like to call ‘respect’. Needless to say my eating tour of Europe was very respectful.
Customs officials are universally humourless
Don’t try, you won’t be funny.