Sunday, December 11, 2011

Living Quarters (Mini) Horror

Continuing from last week’s theme, I find myself realizing that the second place I was going to relate to you has never made it into a book. Probably because it’s not really that unique. Anyone who’s had roommates will likely say, oh, that’s nothing! So I probably should skip it altogether, but I tell you what—instead, I’ll use it as an invitation to have you tell me your favorite living quarters horror story.

Actually, the Place That Hasn’t Made It Into A Book might do so at some point because it was weird in a fairly normal way…which can be deceptively insidious. I rented a room (inside the house this time) from a family—a husband, wife, and two high-school-aged daughters. The room was cute, the rent was cheap, and the family seemed nice.

It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize that the girls resented me being there—one of them eventually confessed that this was true but assured me that it wasn’t me—they just didn’t like strangers in their home and were mad at their mother for bringing in a renter.

So yeah. Awkward.

And even though I had been told that I could have full use of the kitchen, it also became clear that the mom was very proprietary about her kitchen. Any time I used it I was chastised for not cleaning up adequately. I was tidy, don’t get me wrong. I just hadn’t grown up in a household where you dried the sink after you cleaned your dishes, or folded the dishtowel before hanging it inside the drying ring. It was always something, to the point where I rarely used the kitchen. One evening, however, after daring to make some popcorn, the mom called me down from my room. “Wendelin, I need to see you immediately.” So down the stairs I ran and what was so urgent? A single kernel of corn. It was under the toaster oven and I have no idea how it got there, but she did the “big reveal” and what could I say? I apologized, cleaned it up, and that was the last time I used the kitchen.

Which was the intended goal, I’m sure.

What really put this place over the top was that one afternoon I was home studying (I was in graduate school at the time) and coming from the room beneath me I could hear a loud thumping. And then screaming! And then loud, obscene swearing and more cries and thumping!

So I tore downstairs and I flung open the door to the room, sure that someone was in the middle of getting murdered, only what I found was the mom and a man I’d never seen before wielding big foam bats.

“May I help you?” the mom asks as I’m standing there with my jaw dropped.

“I thought someone was getting murdered!”

“Oh, no. I’m conducting an aggression therapy session. Now, if you don’t mind….?”

I lasted there four months, and yeah, she kept my cleaning deposit.

Next week’s place will be a little more extreme…and it definitely wound up in a book. And the week following will be downright creepy (and probably much too long) and you Sammy fans will definitely recognize what book it wound up in.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to hearing living quarter horrors from you!


Leslie said...

Man, I've never lived anywhere bad! Even when my apartment swamped for a few days, I still liked it there!

I had some nightmare roommates, but at least the environment was happy! (The bad roommates were always, always, balanced by good ones. We would wait until the bad ones left then make fun of them/stage interventions for them.)

None of my roommate stories are that exciting, though. Especially since I've lived at home for 2.5 years now, which is never a horror, even when I'm currently in the playroom because my bedroom got torn up last week. I hope other people have really good stories! Otherwise I'll have to break out the "My roommate was so crazy I could've told her I got cancer from walking on the sidewalk and she'd believe me" stories.

Shaina said...

OK, my "bad homes" have all been... interesting in their own way, so I can't say which is the worst. I'll just tell you about one of my favorites. My husband and I lived in a 150 year old stone carriage house attic above the gift shop of the historic Daniel Boone Home in Defiance, Missouri. Yes, that's a real place. Defiance.

My husband was the security guard for the historic site, and I was a tour guide (dressed in my homemade early-1800s costume, of course). So, by default I also worked in the gift shop. The university that owns the site fixed us up a little slanted ceiling-ed apartment above the gift shop. We could only stand upright in the middle of the place. It had a bedroom, a kitchenlivingroom, and a bathroom. The entrance was a very rickety old wood staircase up the outside of the building. I still remember watching the delivery guy carry our new couch up those stairs. Poor guy.
There was not much insulation in the place, so we could hear even the quietest conversation downstairs...not to mention everything that went on in the restrooms down there. On my days off, the ladies working downstairs would often call up to me through the air vent to ask me questions. One time I spilled my water into the air vent, and it rained down into the gift shop, causing general panic downstairs.

Speaking of water, every time we had a classic Missouri-style thunderstorm, we had to hurry and move our couch away from the window because water just poured in through the sides of the window. And in the winter, I piled every blanket I owned on our bed to cut the icy draft from all the...cracks.

The hot water in the shower only lasted long enough for me to wash my hair OR shave. Not both.

Our oven was a little toaster oven. Our pantry was a few shelves on the wall. We had mice. We managed to keep them out of our apartment most of the time with traps, but at night every now and then we could hear them scrabbling around under the floor in the gift shop.

Oh, the things you'll put up with for FREE rent.

In spite of all that, I actually have mostly fond memories of that place. Not that I'd want to go back there or anything...

Optimistic4ever said...

Well, the last time I lived in an apartment, I was four, but I do remember having this nightmare when I lived there.

I am a vegetarian, and the way my mom made it sound, it was evil to eat meat. So when I was four, I had a strange dream.

In the dream, I was about an year old (yes, I was a baby), and I was sleeping on the recliner chair. Suddenly, the doorbell rang. My grandfather opened the door to some guy selling seafood. He politely told him to go away and then shut the door. Five minutes later, the same guy rand again asking if we wanted seafood. This time when we declined the offer, he went all ninja/ax murderer psychopath on us. Me, being the one year old I was, had no choice but to bite his arm to make him go away. I never saw him again.

So yeah that was my dream. It's kind of (extremely idiotic) but it's the best I've got.

Can't wait for next week!


Optimistic4ever said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

oh my gosh thats crazy!! umm can you say psycho? i'm in 10th grade so i don't have any room mate stories, but i DO have 3 three older sisters (5, 8 and 10 years older than me). my sister lisa (5 years older than me) is very....temperamental, would be the nice word. and she also REALLLLLLLY dislikes me. (beyond normal sister rivalry). so over this past summer (keep in mind she's 20!!) one morning, it was 10:30 and i was in our family room watching a saturday talk show and lisa came in from her hour long jog. i can hear her stomp through the breezeway, rip open the door, and slam it back. i causally call out to her in the kitchen saying "morning, lisa!" and what response do i get? "F*** off!!!" i ask her, what was that for? and she starts SCREAMING, i mean, absolutely tears in her eyes, scratchy-throat-coming-on-SHOUTING about her friends did that, her work is this, she has to be there now, and "WHO THE HELL COULDN'T JUST PUT A NEW F****** TRASHBAG IN THE F***** TRASHCAN? LAZY A*******!!!!" and then stampedes up the stairs and into the shower. it was the biggest meltdown i've ever seen, including the 30 toddlers i helped babysit with my 4-member girl scout troop one time. and lisa is 20 years old!!
thats my craziest story so far, haha!
gosh it was pretty scary too. good thing the knives are in a drawer and not in the open!!!!

bookworm said...

OMG julie........ that's such a wild story....... but highly entertaining! :D
wendelin, can you spell CONTROLLING?

everyone, great sharing! me, uh, not too much exciting stuff.......... still in high school.... no siblings..... :)

AbaGayleb said...

I'm still too young to live on my own, but this house has GOT to be the worse. Just a few weeks ago, my brother was told to paint our popcorn ceiling, and after he did, it started falling off. This kept going on until we finally decided to just take it off. It was an easy job, don't get me wrong, but the work to clean it up? That was the part everyone hated. We had to get on our hands and knees and use a vacuum to suck the ceiling dust from the cracks in the wood floor. It was terrible. It took about two hours to do that. THEN we had to wipe walls, dust, move furniture, etc. Also, when we just moved in the house (2 years ago), we cut down 5 trees out of 24 (!!!) in the back yard (By ourselves). Then we got a few more cut down. In the front yard, we had this ugly wanna-be garden filled with bushes, dead, old flowers, and tons of trees. We, of course, cut the trees down, got the stumps removed, and shoveled all the wood chips into a big wagon, and put that in the dump yard. This was all in 40 degree weather, too. We changed the inside a lot, too. Painted every room. And we may move. We've lived here for 2 years and are JUST finishing the work for it, and starting to enjoy it, and WE MAY MOVE.

That's my story!


Anonymous said...

I seriously love all these stories.
We just moved into a new house, and it's huge, but needs a lot of renovating. We're pretty much getting EVERYTHING redone and adding a new wing to it and fixing the 4th upper floor up a lot.
I was in my new bathroom the other day and tried to get my towel off the handle but the handle just broke off the wall. Nice. My dad had it fixed in a day.
Also, the 2nd week of living there (like in November sometime), at night me and Siera (my older sister) heard these pawing and scratching noises? And we went to our dad (on the 3rd upper floor) and were like, "THERE IS NOISES UPSTAIRS!"So we go to the 4th floor and he's all,"Yeah, thats probably a raccoon in the wall. Francisco (our builder/worker) probably forgot to cover the hole while we were fixing the garage today!"
So, alright, its all good.
But then we was like, "Lets just close the 2 closet doors and bathroom door in your room just in case the raccoon decides to paw its way into your room at night, Steph".
It turns out it wasn't a raccoon. Or it was. A phantom raccoon, maybe. But it disappeared.
Either way it was freaky that night.
Oh, and my friend Maria lives in this huge mansion but its really old. They used to own another mansion there but they had it knocked down when we were babies to build a new room. Rumor some teenager died there and the rumor was confirmed--while the house was being demolished, some idiot teenagers were all, "YEAH HAHAHAHAH LETS GO MESS AROUND THIS DANGEROUS CONSTRUCTION SITE FOR FUN HAHAHAH CUZ WE SO COOOOL".
And they died.
Apparently they fell into the giant gaping hole in the earth where the swimming pool used to be.
Lovely. :)
Now, the house is "haunted" and every time I've slept over there it's fricken creepy. And I'm 17, so this is seriously saying something about our superstitions.
Kay, kay.
I loved this story though.
LOL. WENDELIN VAN DRAANEN, even when you write a short blog post its so entertaining and awesome and funny and great.
I wanna be a writer just like you one day, legitimately. Like, I want to be able to smoothly tell these awesome stories and get people engaged like that and have people relate and like them and flsdjfkdsjkdsjkldfs.
Just like right now, everyone is relating because you're so epically talented.
I feel like my suck-up-ness is getting old, but I really mean all this.

Beach said...

My "worst house" and "worst roommate" places are one in the same. I lived in a co-ed fraternity house in college (only 5 bedrooms, and the rent + utilities was less than $250/month in the late 1990's).

I had an attic bedroom with sloped ceilings, so I had to stoop while I showered so I didn't hit my head on the showerhead. There was no air conditioning in the house, and of course there was a record heat wave. We survived by not entering the bedroom until 11pm, taking cold showers, and putting our misted top sheets in the freezer. In the winter, the radiant floor heating failed to warm my wing of the house, and you could see your breath in my room.

You couldn't use the microwave and the toaster oven without tripping the circuit breaker (which was located in an attached shed with lots of friendly black widow spiders). But far worse were the spider crickets (a.k.a. camel crickets). These hideous beasts have antennae up to a foot in length, can jump over 8 feet high, prefer the dark, and jump *at* you when you inadvertently come across one. They can survive under a cup for over 2 weeks with no water (one roommate thought this was a more humane method of killing them).

I preferred the spider crickets to the freaky housemate we had one year, though -- an international graduate student who was infected with chronic Hepatitis B (but didn't tell us until he'd been there for 2 months) who didn't wash his hands after using the restroom. Instead of entering the living room, he'd stand in the doorway and stare at us, and then say "Oops" when we noticed him. He'd steal our food (which was *not* communal), putting his hand directly into our sugar container. Once, he stoppered the sink and started filling it, then hopped into the shower -- causing massive water damage to his floor and the ceiling below. But the worst was when he would watch TV with us. He apparently had a crush on a certain actress, and he, well, I know you have young readers, so I'll just say that his actions are normally reserved for the privacy of one's own bedroom. He'd leave the back door unlocked so he wouldn't have to bring his key, regardless of whether anyone else was home or wanted to be safe. I was very thankful that we had locks on our own bedrooms.

Beach said...

P.S. I just got a notification from the library that Night of Skulls is ready for me to pick up! Yay! (They e-mailed me telling me they would order it in the next YA order about a week after I put it in the suggestion box, but it took a month for them to do so, and it's been "in transit" for nearly another month since.)

Ashlee said...

Sheesh! That lady needs to get a grip! Me, well...I wouldn't know how to pick the worst. So - let's just not get into that :)

Mel said...

Gosh, I hope I never go through anything that bad!

My worst roommate story so far is from last year when one of my roommate's would bring random guys over at all hours of the night. And give her key card to get into the room to any and all of her friends to get stuff for her. People I didn't know just waltzed right in...

Anywho, that's the worse of it. But we'll see what happens. And goodness, I cannot wait to keep reading your next posts, mostly to find the hints of Sammy in them. And to hear what the real world is kinda like, especially with roommate situations. I've been lucky; my current roomie and I have been living together for 2 and a half years and get along great.

See ya next week!

Optimistic4ever said...

I just remembered another story. Over the summer, I went to a one week camp where there were a bunch of guys and four other girls. In the night, the girls would go to this house to sleep in. We called it the "sketchy house." One of the problems with the house was the glass sliding door that led to the backyard. It wouldn't lock. And behind the backyard was a low fence and all the shops and everything.

On the second night we were there, we were all just telling stories when suddenly, we heard loud exploding noises. They sounded suspiciously like gunshots. We were next to the glass sliding door and we were so scared, we ran into the inner rooms and hid in the closet where the teacher was sleeping.

It turned out to be nothing, but we were all really paranoid and we could hear the sounds of footsteps shuffling across the grass, which terrified us when we tried to sleep.

Anonymous said...

*waits patiently for the new story tonight*
*taps fingernails impatiently on desk*

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Yes, I'm thinking...
Or son's b-day aside?

Loved all the stories people wrote in. So entertaining!

Back to thinking...