Saturday, August 16, 2014



Today, my roommate confirmed my suspicions about him: that his way of conducting business is savage, vicious, and belligerent. Do not get me wrong here: when discussing life topics, he seems relatively cordial enough. When I first moved into Mesa housing two years ago, we had frequent enough conversations. We talked about the stress of school, how we coped with it, outside hobbies, etc. He is an international student from Spain who has a good background: his sister and father were affiliated in medical-related fields, and he himself received a scholarship for UCSD’s liberal arts PHD program. He says he speaks seven languages fluently. But there was something about his international upbringing which seemed to admit what seemed to be a sort of “loathing” of American culture: not a deep-seated hatred, mind you, but in our casual conversations, he complained. A lot. When he had a TA’ship with the UCSD writing department, he complained about the international students from Asia and how he could not understand how several students could be so lazy.

He complained about the corruption within UCSD politicos taking money from students, and that he had joined an organization that tried to combat those effects. This all falls within the realm of normalcy for students, but in all my years of dealing with others, I had never faced a person who complained this much. Friends, family, former roommates, chance encounters, etc.  But then again, that falls within my modus operandi of surrounding myself with people who know how to suppress their deepest emotions, rather than projecting their insecurities upon others. Juan’s complaining cemented a sort of hatred of the institutions in place within campus, with “hatred” being the key word, because he generally projected that in his attitude as well. Especially when he got angry. And boy, does he ever.

Having lived for two years with Juan, I kind of gleaned his personality quite early on in the process from these conversations. As mentioned, I like “positive reinforcement” people, because that is how I have moved on through life, succeeded in group and research projects, and in my internship. Everyone needs to be on the same page to succeed, but people need to be propped up. Juan’s complainer attitude with seeds of loathing really turned me off almost from the get-go. But he was my roommate, and as usual, you have to work around the roommate’s limitations—er, I mean, personality. That sort of attitude was definitely incompatible with my beliefs, especially since he felt an urgent need to throw curse words possibly every six or seven words in these rants.  So after the personality-learning process, using my engineering decision matrix, I played it “neutral” in the apartment—being quiet and unassuming, so he would have less of a chance to get irritated. “Room to breathe”, as it were—he often had the whole living room to himself, used the table and microwave I brought over, and I dealt with most of the bill-handling for gas, electricity and internet. I always love a quiet place to study and work, and the reality is, when it comes to sharing apartments, it’s always a blessing when an apartment is quiet.

My roommate, however, was a real stickler when it came to cleaning up. Granted, I am not a clean person by any stretch of the imagination—but I adapted. We developed a schedule through a year of living in Mesa where every week we alternated cleaning different parts of the apartment. I conformed to those rules. But prior to this schedule, my roommate would get extremely irritated, using a very aggressive tone, throwing in curse words every two or three words, and scaring the heebie-jeebies out of possibly every living soul on Earth. Even though I would clean, there were times when he would angrily stumble towards my door, knock hard. Then, he seemed to have reflexive memory to times when I would not clean as much, and reference them in his hot-headed argumentative tone. Of course, with the curse words. Prior to this most recent incident, this had happened about four to five times. His demeanor is all sorts of vicious—he slams doors, tries to get the upper hand of the argument and closing his mind off to proper rebuttals, just being very narrow minded. It must be noted that he gets drunk every now and then, and when I first met him in a graduate student mixer he drank several beers with other students (I’m not a drinker, of course). So just bringing this up there…but it is possible that his drinking is messing with his mind. His personality is rash and impulsive with seeds of loathing when neutral, but when angry…ugh. Let’s just put it this way: if he ever has to deal with party animal type roommates who really blast the noise and hog the living room, imagine how he would act there. I approach the issues from a calm, rational, reasoning-type manner—he already starts off at 200 mph with bull horns for no apparent reason.

And this has kind of happened already, for him: he told me that he after celebrating the success of a fellow student’s PHD defense at 1 AM in downtown San Diego, he came upon several drunken people who were making fun of that student’s race. Juan told me he was fiercely loyal and wanted to take a stand to protect his friend, and after the name calling continued, he decided it was wise to throw a punch. From which he broke his hand, and he called me to take him to the hospital to get a cast on. So there has been a case where his argumentative tone has translated into violence. It’s an upbringing issue. Again, this is why I wanted to work around it, because you cannot change these people after several decades of living. It is how it is. Yeah, there is a method to his madness (protecting friends, cleaning up the house) but his approaches to dealing with those issues are all sorts of wrong. He takes the aggressive approach, when almost everyone I know takes a far more non-combative approach. He presents a study in stark contrasts here.

And of course, with complaints, there are always two sides to every coin. The difference is? In the terms of the Star Wars franchise, I take the moral high ground. My roommate basically takes the lower ground—in other words, he’s Anakin Skywalker at the end of Revenge of the Sith. There were times where he admits his faults with a false chuckle, but just like everyone else (including myself), he has his tendencies. While I am not always prompt in cleaning, as mentioned, he does an absolutely awful job at clearing things from what I call the “neutral” zone. And that includes the sink, where the both of us have to wash our dishes, pots and pans, and utensils. He has a grating tendency to leave the items completely un-cleaned overnight for days at a time. I told him once, and he told me he would work to correct this habit, but he has never done it for several months. Similarly, he rests his dirty plates for long periods of time on top of my microwave. Given that it is my microwave, it would be obvious to say that it belongs to my zone, but he infiltrates it. I haven’t told him about it for a long while in my hopes that he would eventually clean them up, but eventually he reached my threshold of tolerance here—and given how much leeway he has, I’m pretty sure I have a high level of tolerance. While I was on jury duty for a week this July, he even admitted that he had been neglecting his cleaning duties. Of course. That was obvious. I always see bread crumbs on one side of the sink near his toaster, lying for days at a time.

So what he does here all strikes as hypocritical, because I have made a habit of cleaning all my utensils immediately after eating. With me, you will never ever see dishes lying on counter tops or sinks for prolonged periods of time after eating. I wash them immediately and put them in the dish rack. Same with pots, pans, utensils, etc. Usually, the same for stains. We just do not create much of those, but the ones that do crop up (due to spaghetti, etc) are taken care of almost immediately.

That hypocritical attitude stemmed by a desire to focus on farther-off, past events, in the face of what I perceive to be a lack of equity—as mentioned, he uses my table, microwave, and I organize certain bills—is enough to piss possibly every sane person off in the planet. But on top of that, he sugarcoats his belligerent attitude with frequent curse words. It has easily gotten to the point where his central argument is rapidly degraded because the curse words are the only words that eventually stand out. My most recent encounters of Juan have virtually all been in this negative fashion: yelling, cursing, spitting, unfocused, drunk?, narrow-minded, etc. What I knew in my intuition had came into fruition.  The “his way or the highway” attitude has rapidly become tedious, and easily explains why I have kept a very neutral tone around him. Because he is likely intolerable for a prolonged period of time.

That roommate? JC Zabala.

Live and learn.