See Parts One and Two.
Roommate and I lived together for the rest of college. It was as great as it had been in the dorms, but with the freedom of our own place. Our apartment was tiny and we slept in bunk-beds to make all our furniture fit, but it was the best year of my college experience. After college, we both moved back to our hometowns (there were no jobs anywhere for recently graduated liberal arts students in 2009) and into our parents’ homes. I eventually got a job in the industry-we-don’t-talk-about-here and it was better pay than I expected--this will be important later. The only downside was that it required me to relocate, on a temporary basis, with my entire office each year. It’s hard to explain the whys and hows without going into what I do for a living, which would be breaking the rules of this blog. So just accept that it was reasonable to a) have to relocate for this amount of time and b) consider living with my (female) boss and another (female) staffer for that time period.
Now, hindsight being what it is, living with my boss and coworker was the worst mistake I could have made, even if my boss had been sane and had understood boundaries. But she wasn’t and she didn’t. Not only was I living with my boss in a strange town and therefore spending all my waking time with her (which is not healthy), but she was... The only term that ever comes to mind, for me and for others who have met her, is bat-sh*t crazy (please excuse the foul language... I will try to keep it to a minimum, but this is the one phrase people use to describe this woman) . The magnitude of her insanity cannot be accurately described in the space of this (or many other) blog posts, but here are some examples: she wandered around naked (she’s 65), conducted staff meetings in my bedroom (usually in our pajamas), controlled when I used the car we shared, listened to my personal phone calls through my bedroom door, and just generally inserted herself into all avenues of my life. It was four months of hell.
We were also living with one of the other employees. Let’s call her the Queen of Mount Coffeelava. Now, I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but this woman was dumber than a box of rocks--I began to wonder if she had some sort of mental incapacity or perhaps had early-onset dementia, because no normal person should act this way:
Every single day, without fail, she would reheat her paper cup of coffee in the microwave. This particular microwave had a dial instead of a keypad, so she would simply twist it an indeterminate amount, press start, and walk away. And every day, without fail, the coffee would get so hot that it would explode and scald, so that acrid smoke and boiling coffee would pour out of the microwave (some days, the paper cup would even light on fire!). She would return ten minutes later, stare at the microwave in absolute astonishment, and say, “I don’t understand why it does that.” No matter how many times I explained that the degree you turn the dial directly corresponded to how much time the microwave ran or that 30 seconds should be enough to reheat the coffee, I witnessed an eruption of Mount Coffeelava every day.
These were the women I was trapped in an office and a house with for four months. The job itself was bad, the Queen of Mount Coffeelava’s lack of intelligence drove me out of my ever-loving tree, and Crazy Boss Lady was incredibly difficult to work for, but the living situation was what made me semi-seriously consider harming myself or others. It was like my boss thought she was my mother, but I was a child she wished she had never had. Which, of course, was like a giant hug each and every day. Looking back, I realize I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown by the end of my time there (I spent 20 minutes talking to a seagull I had named Steve). There were many points at which I should have quit and gone home, but I had a borderline-irrational fear of unemployment and by this point I had started to believe it was my fault she was treating me this way.
However, near the end of the relocation, she backed me into the wall of a public hallway and screamed in my face. Later that day, she decided to put me on layoff, but she used the word “termination.” When I asked if that meant I was fired, she actually did fire me. She then tried to offer me my job back and, in the first sane move in four months, I told her I would never work for her again and if there was any doubt about my employment status, I would quit. For about ten minutes, I felt brave. Then the crippling fear and overwhelming inadequacy flooded back.
I returned home to live with my sister (who is not bat-sh*t crazy, a lying thief, or a pot-smoking socialist, so I think I’m doing well...) and spent the summer unemployed while I considered seeking counseling. I was later hired by someone in the same industry who had watched me go through the ordeal with Crazy Boss Lady and respected me for the way I handled it all. Crazy Boss Lady is, by far, the worst roommate I have ever had. And, Lord willing and knock on wood, she will keep that title. I’m not sure I could handle anything worse.
And yes, I have often wondered if there’s a pattern here, since the common denominator in these stories is me. And I’ve actually devoted more-than-a-normal amount of time to figuring out what I’ve done wrong, even months after living with these ridiculous women. Did I make mistakes? Absolutely. Could I have done things differently and changed the situation? Probably. Did I learn something each time I went through a bad living arrangement? Definitely. But does it help me to dwell on how badly I was hurt or the way things went wrong? I doubt it. So I’m going to try living by my father’s advice: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). For me, that means not living with anyone other than family or Roommate, who is basically family anyway.