By: Te’Devan Kurzweil
During my freshmen year of college at the University of Michigan, i lived in a triple in South Quad that probably should have been a double. I requested living in a triple with the naive idea that more people means more fun and they will be just as open as I am. I was very very wrong about this philosophy. Check out the rest of this horrible series of events, after the jump.
One of them was a seriously depressed person, and described himself as “not having pulse” when I asked him to tell me about himself during our first phone conversation. My other roommate was a nerd, and I have no problem with nerds, but he was an angry stressed out nerd that flipped out on me when i brought back a girl one night. To add to that, he then wrote some absurd note they he using what I assume to be all the curse words he knew. I was ready to knock him out, but decided more prudently to change rooms instead.
The guy next door to me named Dan was all too willing to switch rooms with me. He also lived in a triple and complained that his roommate Anand, an Indian Christian crusader from Ohio, who played violin and piano and whose favorite Jew before me Gershwin (who he always told me was quite a ladies man) was driving him crazy by eating his cookies. He did not say anything about his other very short roommate from Hong Kong who went by his “American name” Jon.
Well, i figured since i did not have any food of my own, and was much more likely to eat their food, I had no need to be concerned about such a minor nuisance.. All I wanted to know is they would not care if I brought a girl over. So first I asked Anand, whose name for the first month i pronounced wrongly as “on-an” before he bothered to correct me and tell me it was pronounced “on-in” (more or less). He was a relatively chill, passive guy that had learned to turn the other cheek and not complain when and if his roommate brings home a girl. The other roommate Jon from Hong Kong (with whom there was quite the language barrier with) said it was fine as well.
Jon was scarcely around, however, very quickly i discovered that Dan left out a very key reason for wanting to change rooms. What was this small detail he so conveniently left out you ask? The fact that Jon, despite being of diminutive size, had some of the worse BO i have ever smelled in my life. It was like rancid farts after everyone in the room has eaten Mcdonald’s. Sarah Palin after rolling around in moose excrement. Dirty gym socks which have started to grow mold, after years of being forgotten in a gym bag in the very back of your closet.
I know you think i am probably exaggerating to be funny, but I am not. Most of the time when he had been in the room I would start coughing, and literally choking on his BO. When I would open our door, the people on the other side of the hall would close their door. When people got in a 10 foot radius of our room, without fail their necks would snap back hard and i would count (1,2,3) and watch their heads come back on cue and laugh my ass off, because sometimes when you’re suffering, you just need to laugh your ass off. I could even smell Jon in the showers with the water running and him being two stalls over. I knew people who would tell me stories of getting out of the elevator with him because they could not handle a 25 second elevator ride. How such a little man (about 4 feet 10 inches) could have such a stench was beyond me.
I tried talking to the RA, but he was no help. I even tried casual conversation about the use of deodorant, which he candidly admitted he did not use, but i did not seem to make any headway. Now, of course i understand some people don’t wear deodorant and i can deal with that, but this was not normal BO…this was room wrecking poisonous gas. Needless to say, It made hard, or damn near impossible to bring any girl, or anyone over for that matter. Heck, i didn’t want to be there, and girls typically have higher hygiene standards than most guys. I understand that three guys living in a small double room is not going to smell like lilac and lavender, and if it did i would find that a bit startling, but this was just too damn much to deal with.
Finally, I realized that if i opened the window and turned the fan facing out, it would suck the smell out, but it would also turn the room into an ice box, seeing as how it was Michigan and the dead of winter sneaks up quickly and lasts seemingly forever. I was actually more okay with freezing than with dealing with the smell, but my skinny Indian roommate Anand did not have my hardy disposition for freezing cold, so this option was only available sometimes. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I confronted him directly with an extra stick of old spice deodorant, and was quite persistent that he try it. He put it up to his nose, but i think it was a bit strong for his taste, and he winced his head. No go.
Jon was a man of very few words as were most of his male friends from Hong Kong. He was rarely around, yet his smell would linger days. I even started to fear that his BO was attaching itself to my clean clothes, which were safely tucked away in my drawer. Truthfully, this was probably just a weird psychological side effect of chemical warfare, but i would not rule out the possibility that it was really happening. He had a guitar which was shared by him and a few other guys. Often we would get phone calls asking if Jon was home. Luckily the answer was usually no, and then they would ask if the guitar was there, as if the guitar was a person itself. I would say yes, and they would quickly come over and pick up their buddy “Guitar”.
Anand and I once had the pleasure of meeting one of Jon’s female friends. Surprisingly, she was the sweetest, and most personable girl. This further emphasized the complexities of this very mysterious, quiet, and pungent individual. In no way shape or form did i dislike Jon, but we did not particularly connect on any level. He had the habit of sometimes getting up early in the morning to do his sit-ups, while groaning and moaning immensely, to the point that both me and Anand were too timid to look over and see what he might actually be doing.I told quite a few friends about my situation. One of them, while visiting from another school, came into our room late at night and squirted lotion all over Jon, before quickly fleeing. Jon jumped out of his bed and asked “what did your friend do to me?”. I felt really bad about it, but because of communication issues, I did not want to try and explain the situation, and merely said that we need to start locking the door, because you never know what crazy people might come into the room. He then became a bit obcessive about locking the door. One time i was right behind him and he still locked the door, and of course this particular time as fate would have it, I had lost my key, which never had mattered before.
Finally, thanks to pop music, the tension was finally broken. One early Sunday morning, I put on my rarely listened to Michael Jackson Dangerous CD from start to finish and nobody said a word. This was our common ground, moment of Zen. Even though Anand and I had a communication barrier with Jon, we all connected to Michael Jackson.
Spring was rapidly approaching, which meant he would sweat more, which i figured would make the smell worse then ever before. Through some act of mercy though, his diet must of changed or he discovered deodorant. The smell all but evaporated and our suffering came to an end. In the process of this unfortunate and absurd living situation I had become really good friends with Anand, and to this day, still count him as one of my closest and oldest friends. I never knew what happened to Jon. I would on rare occasion see him around campus and things were amicable, but he still remained a man of few words. I would like to think that in some way we helped his social life, and he made us realize that even the most intrusive communication barriers can be overcome (provided you own a Michael Jackson CD). He also showed us that antiperspirant isn’t just for athletes, and no matter what your roommate situation might be like, the air isn’t always better in the other room.