by Marilyn Krawitz
Published on: Nov 26, 2005
Type: Opinions

Until this October, I lived with eight roommates. Four were in their twenties. One from Nova Scotia (Canada), another from Germany. A guy from Ottawa (Canada) and one from Toronto (Canada). Plus four charmers from the sewers. (Mice.) Guess which four refused to pay rent?

Our house was nicknamed the ‘casa’, since it is steps from Casa Loma (a Toronto castle), and the word is Spanish for ‘house’. Another appropriate nickname might have been ‘commune’- since we shared one house - one kitchen, living room, garage and hallway. Plus, cleaning duties. Ok, maybe not all of us shared those.

During the year and four months that I lived chez ‘casa’, I learned some useful skills and had many unique experiences. I became an official gourmet chef, thanks to lessons from my female roomies. Burnt-free grill cheese, spicy curry from a can, and brussel sprouts a la processed cheddar are among recipes I’ve proudly mastered. And some of the art of toilet unclogging, the equivalent of Picasso, Michelangelo, or even a second grader’s art class are levels that unfortunately, I haven’t quite reached. Yet. The Nova Scotian taught me this after we were treated to a small flood in the washroom.

‘Casa’ living made me a better negotiator. Us five roommates (not including the four deadbeats who withheld payments) shared the cost of utilities. Therefore, in winter, we split heat costs. One particularly financially challenged ‘casa’-er wanted to wear more layers of clothing than the average Nunivutian to avoid paying heat bills. They simply didn’t want to turn it on. The German and I pleaded for heating; even with our septillion layers we still regularly had more goose bumps than the average American Idol contestant prior to going on stage. Our compromise?
Heat was allowed on during select hours only. Weekday mornings: 7-10 a.m. Weekday evenings: 7 p.m.-midnight. Weekends: differed. The punishment for using heat outside of aforementioned hours: quality time with Mickey, Minnie and their darling offspring.

Men’s (or more specially men in their mid-twenties) obsessions with video games was also something I took notice of. Particularly on nights when the two guys and dozens of their friends sat in the TV room playing until the wee-est wee hours. And grunting loudly. Ms Gaynor’s, Ms Knowles’, Ms Roland’s and Ms William’s mantras often came to mind then as their noise robbed me of sleep- “I will survive.”

Now for some only-in-the-‘casa’ happenings. While Shania loves her parties for two, we loved our parties for two hundred. With most of us being party animals (or literally, an animal), we had quite a large network of friends and acquaintances that attended our tri-yearly bashes.
Also in attendance at each party was the equivalent of an entire province’s alcohol holdings (perhaps a small one in the prairies). An involuntary strip club the ‘casa’ was one night. The Torontonian saw a female roommate naked when he entered her bedroom without knocking. Speaking of knocking, there was a time when I simply couldn’t knock loud enough.

During my first summer there, Toronto’s extreme heat caused my wooden door to expand. Hence, when trying to open the door- I couldn’t. It was stuck. To escape, I knocked on the German’s wall, since she was right next to me. After minutes of that (accompanied by yelling louder than I imagine a banshee would), I gave up. Until my ‘Eureka!’ moment.
I called her on my cell phone. She answered, and after pulling on my door a few times, I was freed from the ‘Marilyn-sized closet’, AKA my bedroom.
With my monthly rent priced about as much a Holt Renfrew pair of jeans (or perhaps three of Gap’s), my bedroom was tiny. Thankfully, Mickey, Minnie, et. al rarely visited there- they simply wouldn’t have fit!
They preferred the living room. I don’t blame them. You should have seen our big screen TV.

Fast forward to now; living-space wise. In my fourteenth floor Bay and Bloor (further downtown in Toronto) apartment, I have two roommates; both human, both pay rent. While it’s definitely a less crazy type of experience, it hasn’t yet provided hilarious situations to merit its own entertaining article. Like this one is- hopefully.

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