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Strange Bedfellows

Cabbages and Kings


The science of roommate-choosing has its roots in darkest antiquity. Neanderthal man used the purely pragmatic approach, testing his prespective cavemate's worth by applying repeated delicate blows of the club to the latter's cranium. Although clubs today profess to more advanced methods of social scrutiny, the general idea has remained the same throughout the dim search of Man for Friend.

Achilles would "share my tent with none but the bearded Patroclus," and Castor could not live without "my dearest friend Pollux, my other self." There have been some who flatly denied the fundaments of gregariousness, like Thoreau who "never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude." Yet, once again this week, the annual Experiment compels most clean-living Harvardmen to engage, if only superficially, in the qualitative analysis of their perspective upper-bunkers.

Roommates fall (usually stumble) into two broad categories, desirable and undesirable. The former are merely those of the latter who have become bearable either by their absence or by their roommate's. The species is varied, but general characteristics run through it. These similarities and variations must be classified if the roommate-seeker is to make an intelligent choice.

One constant characteristic running through the species revolves around the hour of arising. The Roommate habitually sets the alarm for 7:30, stumbles out of bed at that improbable hour, silences the clanging, and plunges cloudily back into the sack whence he emerged, leaving his victimized comrade to sleep angelically through his 9 o'clock lecture. Invariably, moreover, he is at the toothpaste, in the shower, on the Seat, or at the sink at the precise moment you would like to use said utility. His timing is infallible.

The breeds of Roommate vary even as broadly as canine types. All, however, never fail to snicker when they catch their comrade at his books, and equally reproach him when he is neglecting them. The Roommate's quality of mercy is often strained.

Geographically, Midwestern roommates are best. They are least conspicuous. Northeasterners are grubby, Westerners are loud, Southerners are two-faced. One must, however, avoid the facile generalization when considering the Roommate.

"Prosperity makes friends," noted Publius. This observation holds true so long as there are quarters to be lent; but when these run out, so does the Roommate's affability.

The aesthete frequently makes a good Roommate. He is a humble sort, not prone to much disconcerting laughter. Also, he will hang Kleetype prints on the wall and keep a large supply of Chianti on hand. But ridicule his beard and the deep well of good nature runs dry.

Athletes, too, are a simple lot. Their curses, stompings, and undershirts all smell of warmth and good-fellowship. Also, their friends can usually procure blonde and chatty dates on a moment's notice.

The studious Roommate is quiet and rarely exhibitive. But his sensitive composure is liable to be shattered by a loud sneeze. Ergo, if you would retain his affection, muffle your sneeze, perhaps in his Thesaurus.

All told, the Roommate is a disturbing but bearable sort, besides which he is Necessary. He may steal your butts, scratch your records, drink your liquor, date your girl, and rattle your tender nerves; but he is Necessary. When choosing yours, be sure to experiment carefully beforehand. After all is said, the Neanderthal method may prove the surest. Chacun a son gout.

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