Old friends’ night out at the Cell on Friday. The Chicago White Sox hosting the Toronto Bluejays. Great seats. Bad game. Consummate boredom. Fester, Kevin and yours truly. Expensively domestic and $9 hot dogs. Afterward real drinking. Tales of Big Richard, our crazy roommate, circa 1993.
It was all my fault. I like to think of myself as a Type A Personality, finicky perhaps about a spotlessly clean kitchen but willing to let more or less anything else slide. Incredibly happy to be back in the U.S. after 18 months as a reporter during the siege of Sarajevo, I heard of a huge cheap apartment in the Logan Square neighborhood, fell in love with it and put down a deposit. Fester was between girlfriends. Kevin was getting a divorce and I was still getting over Slavenka. Da boyzz together again, we had one more room we should have just filled with stuff. We could all afford the extra rent, but we decided to bring in an extra body. A stranger.
Suffice to say, there are few things worse than living with a terrible roommate. Worse is auditioning them. We took on a friend of a friend. Big and shy, he worked nights as butcher. He lived on a diet of nothing but mashed potatoes, mountains of which took up most of the refrigerator in containers, to which he would add ground meat or anchovies and eat while he stayed in his room watching X-Files tapes and German fist-porn. Everything remained reasonably okay between everybody until one early dawn when Richard arrived home to find Fester’s pretty black girlfriend making herself breakfast, at which point he went to his room and returned brandishing a Sig Sauer P38 9mm pistol and she began to scream.
No need to say more. He was basically insane, but smart enough to hire a ‘civil rights’ lawyer and it ended up costing us about $8,000 to get him off the lease and gone. After that the room remained empty.
Finding a compatible roommate can be a long, hard quest. To help ease your burden, I urge you not to rent the movie Shallow Grave. I searched the Internet religiously for roommate-finding apps and websites. Here are some of the best ones I found.
Roomster’s website and its Facebook app make you write lengthy profiles, 10,000 words, or up to 40 pages. They believe it increases your odds of finding a compatible roommate. Users can also locate roommates by keyword searches, where applicants classify themselves so as to define their personality traits, interests and preferred locations. Its basic service is free, allowing you access all the site’s features and sections. But if you wish to actually use the service, you have to pay a $5.95 for each three-day search period for access.
Livewith.us: This one works if you like the idea of using Craigslist to find a roommate, but are simply too busy to go through the process yourself. The Livewith.us website aims to speed up the vetting and application process. Instead of you getting stuck copying and pasting the same ol’ same ol’ info about yourself into email after email, the livewith.us widget does that for you and quickly sends a profile while you’re looking at a Craigslist listing. It’s really simple, secure, thorough and free.
Roommates: My friend Fester still shares apartments. He loves this service, which he calls a platonic Tinder (the dating service). While searching for roommates, tap through hundreds of’ profiles. After users show interest in another, they’re matched up and connected via chat. Their free Roommates iOS and Android app currently covers Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston and Chicago. This site is especially useful if you’re changing cities.
Crashpad: A free website for people who are searching for roommates or own an available room. You can browse through profiles of possibles and probables, including first names and photos. It also includes search tabs to pick out ‘appropriate’ criteria, including location, monthly budget and other more perhaps eccentric requirements (such as pet requests). As I write, this site is currently down. It was up a week ago. This seems to happen more than it should.
Images from Shallow Grave