Sunday, September 29, 2013

Training My Roomate

My current roommate Lily, has been my longest standing roommate. She is an easy-going artist-in-training at the local college, a sub-par athlete, a cook, and a giggler. What she isn’t, is a “neat freak” like me.

After putting up with the lackadaisical placement of her backpack, dishes in the sink, handprints on the walls and door handles, and arbitrary use of toilet paper, I felt confident enough to finally take action. Therefore, I decided to train her. For her own good, as well as mine.

After some study, I found that there are two main methods of training generally accepted: positive reinforcement, and negative association. Here is how I tried both of those methods and how they, ultimately, failed.


Recently, I found out that lights that come off/on when you clap are a real thing. I have two problems with this.

The first, and least important one is that clapping already serves another purpose in our society. Imagine playing Monopoly with your family and the owner of Park Place finally gets Boardwalk as well. Certainly, that is a feat worthy of applause. Suddenly the house seems haunted as the lights start flashing violently on and off. Meanwhile, the unfortunate owner of Marvin Gardens swipes 3 $500 bills from the bank to save their skins.

Not that I speak from experience.

The Great Level Rescue

I have no great love of weddings. I don’t think I’m the only one. Half of the people I’ve met who plan weddings spend half their time wondering if eloping wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Nonetheless, when my cousin Audrey decided to get married, I had little choice but to attend and just be happy I wasn’t stuck in the ridiculously pink beribboned dresses that the bridesmaids had to put up with. There are advantages to not being an entirely popular person.

The wedding was held in an old almost barn-like building. My cousin has slightly hipster tendencies so the wooden walls and floors with old fashioned glazed windows made it the perfect setting for her. Even though I thought it had a slight manure smell.

That Defective Cat

My roommate, Lily, has confessed to me that, as a child she had the habit of bringing home animals. Robins with broken wings, field mice, cockroaches, and even (when she lived briefly in Florida) a baby alligator. Knowing this, I should have been content that she only had a cat when I moved into the apartment.

Still, there was something wrong with the feline known as That Cat.  I have never seen a cat less able to maintain control of it’s limbs. Last week That Cat displayed the multiple ways in which it is defective while it was sitting on the top of our entertainment center, watching as Lily worked on one of her paintings-- looking just as skeptical about her work as I felt:

The Discovery

My family first got the idea that I might have some kind of mental disorder when I was about six years old. We were visiting my cousins-- actually the cousin whose wedding I was destined to one day ruin.

But more on that later.

I had been showing signs, even then, of being “selectively social” so my parents had given me very strict instructions to go out to the back yard and play nicely.

My four cousins’ back yard was a disaster zone. A perfect storm of disorder. Already famously neat and possessive of my things, the discombobulating array of debris shattered my sensibilities. Yet I had been told --and had promised--to play nicely so I could not take the terrible revenge my six-year-old brain conjured up.

Instead, I immediately set about to achieve the more humble goal of correcting the problem. Starting on the outskirts of the back yard, I started gathering up the bits of toys and tools scattered about and putting them in their rightful places.  A sense of great satisfaction filled me as tools, rusted by the  weather, found their way back to the sanctuary of my Uncle’s tool-shed. Toys, long since deemed ‘missing’, were set neatly in the spots that seemed most fitting for them.