Tales from the dorm

Journal-World staff members had college roommates, too. Read their memorials -- joyful, odd and just plain gross -- to the people they shared close quarters with.

I had no idea there was so much to bowling.

Steve, my freshman roommate at Wichita State University, had aspirations of landing a spot on the nationally renowned Shocker bowling team.

I remember my jaw dropping -- literally -- when I first saw the Shocker Bowling Handbook, a dictionary-sized epic on the ins and outs of collegiate kegling. He spent hours studying the manual.

And there were the long phone conversations with his father, using terms like "Jersey side" and "track flare." To this day I still don't know what those terms mean, and I still contend there shouldn't be a vernacular to a sport that you can play while drinking pitchers of beer.

Steve was a nice guy who kept to himself and mainly played computer games when he wasn't at the bowling alley. We never had any problems with each other, and he was a good roommate.

But as far as developing a long-lasting friendship, that wasn't going to happen. Not as long as I contended bowling was just about throwing a ball down a lane and wearing funky shoes.

-- Terry Rombeck


The same day I met my college roommate, I came home to a note: "Moved out, nothing against you."

A day later he was back. The new friend he had moved in with turned out to be a drug dealer.

For the first couple of months we didn't hang out much. But it's amazing what shared affinities for food and drink can do for two guys who seem to have little in common.

We'd pour beer in plastic cups and hang out by the dorm's pool table. We'd scrape together eight bucks for a large Gumby's pizza and Pokey stix, then watch TV or play spades.

Neither of us worked, but we always found a way to afford beer and pizza. Our priorities were firmly set.

We always ate dinner together, and I've never laughed harder than when he told the lunch lady the food "looked like throw-up." Once his chicken was undercooked, so he threw it at the guy who served it.

The next couple of years we lived in separate apartments, but we hung out about every night for the rest of our college careers.

Now I see Sparky about once a month. He still likes to tell the story of when we met -- I was so clueless I wore high-tops with cut-off jean shorts -- and that he taught me some fashion sense. This from a guy who tucks his T-shirts into his boxers.

-- Jason Walker

I roomed with a high school friend my freshman year at K-State. She hated it there and told me three days before winter break that she was transferring to KU.

I came back in January to Ford Hall and found a girl from Hong Kong checked in. She was nice, and I invited her to join my friends to eat meals and go to the Rec, but she found some other K-Staters who spoke Cantonese and then vanished.

She left behind a bedspread and a stuffed animal, but she was MIA. Eventually my friends and dorm neighbors accused me of inventing her so that I could have a single room.

I saw her once in April, but she seemed upset that my boyfriend was in the room studying, and then I never set eyes on her again.

-- Christy Little

I had 12 roommates in my four years -- one year at Jayhawker Towers and three years at Park 25 Apartments -- at Kansas University. The roomie total often seemed higher with girlfriends moving in months at a time unbeknownst to parents and landlords, and people crashing at our place for the weekend after partying.

Here are a few highlights (or lowlights):

l We had three guys in a two-bedroom apartment my freshman year at Jayhawker Towers. I shared a room with a friend I had been classmates with since sixth grade. My bulletin board leaned against the wall next to the only window in the room. One night, I was awakened by a splattering sound. I looked up, and my roommate was standing next to the window with a light beaming in from the parking lot. Intoxicated or sleep-walking, he was trying to urinate out the open window. Instead, he hit my bulletin board and soaked a family photo I had tacked on the board. Fortunately, he avoided peeing in the nearby oscillating fan.

l Nearing semester break my sophomore year, two high school friends -- Rich and Marty -- who shared an apartment across town weren't getting along. One evening, Rich called me and asked if he could move into our three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhome at Park 25 for the spring semester. Two of my roommates were leaving at semester break, so I told him it would be OK. An hour later, Marty called and said he wanted to move in. "Do you realize Rich is moving in with us?" we asked. He said, "Oh, really." Anyway, the two moved in, and Marty had the gall to demand a room to himself because he had a king-sized waterbed.

l A former roommate transferred to Kansas State before his junior year and returned to Lawrence for a weekend of partying. After chugging a bottle of wine and downing a bunch of pasta, he became ill and threw up on the floor. He left the next day without remorse. None of my other roommates wanted to clean up the mess. Known for being the duster/vacuumer/floor-scrubber of the apartment, I said, "I am NOT cleaning it up." The puke absorbed in the carpet for a couple of weeks. I finally relented and cleaned the floor when I realized my parents were coming to town.

-- Steve Rottinghaus

We called him Ace, and he was one of three roommates I shared a two-bedroom apartment with in Lawrence during the late 1970s. Although enrolled at Kansas University, Ace was more interested in drinking beer than going to class.

I had a part-time job and often got home about 9 p.m. Ace would be drinking beer. Sometimes he talked about wanting to go to a Kansas City massage parlor. One night I told him that if he promised to go in, I'd drive him to one. The next thing I know I'm on the phone to a female massage parlor employee getting directions.

On the way out of town, I got some gas and bought Ace some more beer so he wouldn't chicken out on me. After getting lost, I finally found the massage parlor and Ace headed inside. I stayed in the car and watched an occasional police car fly by with red lights on. A car parked next to me and struck a utility pole. An old man stumbled out and went into the parlor. I locked the doors and slumped down in my seat.

Then Ace came back and knocked on my window, scaring the hell out of me. He wanted to borrow some money. I loaned him the money, and he returned 20 minutes later.

Ace got what he wanted, and I drove us home. That spring Ace left Lawrence. I haven't seen him since.

-- Mike Belt

My freshman-year roommate, Doug, and I were literally night and day. I was up during the day, when he slept. I slept at night, when he was awake. Neither of us openly complained about the situation, but I'd feel annoyed at having to keep quiet at 3 p.m. on a Saturday. And I'm sure he felt the same at 3 a.m.

Doug brought a Nintendo 64, which made our room THE place for the guys on our floor to hang out, until another guy down the hall bought a Nintendo after Thanksgiving. This was OK for Doug, who was taking 12 credit hours. I had 17 and didn't appreciate the frequent company as much -- not that I never played.

Doug also spent a lot of time in our room with Erica, who lived two floors below us. Doug and Erica started dating the second or third day we'd been in the dorm. I should have foreseen trouble when I came back to our room that night and they were flabbergasted at how late it was. They had been just sitting there talking for hours. For the next month or so, "dating" for them meant hanging out in our dorm room. I think it was October before they went on what I'd call "a date."

Just hanging out was OK. But one evening Doug and Erica were in our room, and the guys on our floor wanted to play Nintendo. Doug said fine, but he and Erica crawled up in Doug's lofted bed. A few minutes later, I looked up to see them making out while four or five of us played video games below them.

Erica started sleeping in our room several nights a week until I said she could only stay there on weekends. I walked in on Doug and Erica doing more than talking on several occasions, and it got to the point I always knocked before entering our room.

Sometimes, I would come back to the room and find just Erica there. One night, I was trying to sleep, but Erica came in to play video games on Doug's computer while he studied in the lounge outside our room. I kicked her out and asked Doug that Erica not be there if he wasn't.

But the best revenge for all the times I came home to find Doug and Erica in our room came in the middle of the year. A couple of the guys on our floor and I were at Circuit City looking at CDs that were on sale. We found a classic from James Brown, and from there the plan was hatched.

The next time I came home and found Doug and Erica messing around in his bed, I left the room. My friends and I pulled our neighbor's 3-foot-tall speakers into the hall, right up against my door. We used extra speaker wire to tie the door handle to a post in the hallway and gathered everyone else.

Then we pressed play, and James Brown belted out "Sex Machine" loud enough to shake the door. We could hear Doug and Erica scramble out of his loft and try to open the door. The speaker wire stretched enough to let them peek out -- and let us see the shock on their faces.

-- Chris Royer

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