My freshman year of college at Lipscomb University, I lived next door to a guy who chose his own nickname.
He was short and skinny with lots of freckles and blond hair that he spiked up with product. He believed that he had lots of game.
I didn’t think too much about our proximity at first. He seemed nice enough.
My roommate and I chose beds and settled into our room on the second floor of High Rise. David put some tin signs with John Deere, Remington, and Coca-Cola on them. They helped masked the sanitarium white of the cinderblock walls. We each had a closet and a desk, and we shared a mini-fridge and futon. Our parents retreated to Nashville’s suburbs. Life was sweet.
I took fourteen hours that first semester. My earliest class started at 9:00am—Introduction to Psychology. I’d get up at 8:45, put on a hat and my clothes from the day before, and slide into my desk right before Dr. Turner cleared his throat.
Steve’s earliest class began at 8:00am. He needed an hour to get ready, so without fail, he’d wake up, turn up the music on his computer, then walk down the hall to the shower. His roommate was never around. Otherwise, we never would have had a problem. As it was, the 10″ subwoofer hooked up to Steve’s computer made the tin signs on our wall vibrate like a hoopty with a system and some serious amps.
BBBBRRRRRrrrrrr. BBBBRRRRRrrrrrr. I’d sit in bed listening to Boyz 2 Men or ‘N Sync or A Cappella and get more and more irritated. After all, I wasn’t supposed to wake up for another hour and a half.
We took the tin signs down, but that didn’t help much. More extreme measures were necessary.
Steve would leave his door unlocked, so I let myself in and turned down the volume, assuming that he’d get the picture.
No such luck.
For a couple more weeks, the bass sounded like two lost whale lovers sounding to each other in the fathomless deep. I was starting to feel just a touch of resentment.
Now I need my sleep. As I’ve gotten a little bit older, I can catch the crankiness before I aim it at anybody. I know to keep my mouth shut and make the best of it. However, when I was 19, I had less self-control and more passivity.
One morning while Steve was in the shower, I went into his room, shut off the music, and unplugged his computer.
Surely he would get a clue. Surely he would notice the silence in his room and a light bulb would click on in his brain, “Oh! People are trying to sleep. Perhaps I should be more considerate, and if I must have late 90s pop with my Fruit Loops, the least I can do is turn down my Mariah Carey.”
No such luck.
The aural terrorism continued.
I may have, as a general rule, disliked and even avoided confrontation, but every man reaches the breaking point. It was time to make something happen.
I waited until I knew Steve was back in his room from his shower, then I knocked on his door. The music was so loud he couldn’t hear me. I turned the knob and walked in.
“We need to talk.”
He furrowed his brow.
“Okay,” he said.
I decided to use tact and logic: “You turn up your music really loud as soon as you get up, then you go straight to the shower. You’re not even listening to it. My first class isn’t till 9. I don’t get up till 8:45. Your music wakes me up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Would you please find a way to keep it down so that I can sleep?”
I am still amazed at his response.
He replied, “You have to get up anyway.”
Was he joking?
I stared at him. He stared back at me. Nope, he wasn’t joking.
Perhaps all of us are egocentric. Our selfishness is as large as greed and as small as the volume of KC & Jo Jo’s “All My Life” at 7:07am. Those of us who have brothers and sisters and received socialization at school, on sports teams, and in youth groups could sometimes face concrete evidence of our selfishness by taking offering an apology and accepting some measure of responsibility. We agreed to try harder to be more considerate in the future.
Steve was unfazed. Apparently, thumping bass was his birthright.
He ceded this birthright when I gave up on diplomacy and threatened violence.
I have to respect his blind allegiance to himself though.
That kind of self-centeredness becomes a caricature like big, floppy ears or a lumpy nose. It’s so absurd that it’s almost endearing. Almost.
I’m glad I didn’t stuff him out the window. I guess no college experience is complete without some inconsiderate or kooky roommates. Steve was only the beginning.