Irreconcilable Differences

For many BYU students, the start of a new school year means getting new roommates. This is pretty much a random process, except in the dorms, where they purposely match up people they’re sure will hate each other, like they do on MTV’s “The Real World.”

Way back in 1992, just before I moved into Deseret Towers (motto: “Three in the Morning, Shmee in the Shmorning! Let’s Sing Loudly in the Hallways!”), I answered a questionnaire that addressed issues such as whether I was a “night person” or a “morning person” (Who thinks “morning people” are freaks, raise your hands? I thought so), what kind of music I liked, etc., so that they could put me with someone compatible. This did not occur, of course, but that is no longer relevant, because I have moved past dorm life. In fact, I have forgotten most of my freshman year altogether, except for the most important thing I learned during that time, which was how to shuffle cards.

Anyway, I propose a questionnaire to be used not just by the dorms, but by all BYU-approved landlords in determining which roommates should go where. People who answer “no” to most of these questions can be put together without any problems, whereas all the people who answer “yes” should be put together in one large, warehouse-size apartment, preferably at another university, if not in a different nation entirely.


Do you fail to grasp such basic human concepts as “modesty” and “nobody wants to see me naked”?

Do you have a genetic defect that causes you not to hear the call-waiting beep, resulting in people calling later and saying they tried to call earlier but the phone just rang and rang, all because you were talking to your girlfriend about nothing? (“OK, so I’ll come over. No, that’s fine, I’ll just come over there. Yeah, well, I was thinking I would come over. Should I come over? Yeah, I’ll come over. I’ll come over there. No, you don’t have to. No. No. No. No. No. No. No, I’ll just come over.”)

Have you ever, while addressing another human being, used the word “dude” more than three times in one sentence?

Do you refuse to care about how you smell unless you’re going out, thus allowing yourself to smell like the carcass of a dead leprous goat as long as you’re not leaving the house?

Do you like to get up at 6 a.m., turn on every light in the house, sing loudly in the shower, and never, EVER close your bedroom door so as not to disturb your roommate, who is still sleeping?

Do you like to say things that don’t need to be said? For example, if you are playing a computer game —

Do you play computer games?

— If you are playing a computer game, and something exciting happens, do you feel compelled to yell, “Ka-boom!”?

Also, if you are watching, say, “The X-Files,” and Mulder gets in a fight and then they show him lying on the ground all bloody and bruised, would you find it necessary to say, out loud, “Mulder got beat up, didn’t he?”?

Do you plan to use our couch to make out with a different girl every night for a period of five weeks, at which point you will have scammed on every girl in the complex, thus making you the Most Hated Man in the Ward, and thus closing off our apartment from all possible social ties?

Will I ever have to kick a pile of your dirty underclothing out of my way in order to reach the shower? Because you must understand that I would sooner set fire to it than touch it.

Do you prefer Jay Leno over David Letterman?

Do you have every episode of “South Park” memorized, and do you allow your conversations to reflect that fact? Please be aware that none of us are named “Kenny,” and certainly no one is going around killing us all the time.

Do you think every song on the radio sounds even better with you singing along, especially if you don’t know the actual words?

Are you a Heat Nazi, turning down the thermostat really low in the winter in order to keep utility bills at a minimum and frostbite at a maximum?

Do you like to cook a big meal, dirtying every cooking utensil in the house, and then leave everything — including the half-eaten food — on the counter and stove for several days, until hordes of rats come in from neighboring towns and take over the apartment, driving us out into the streets?

Do you think just because you served your mission in some exotic, backward country like Zimbabwe or Alaska, that this means you should force your roommates to try some of the “local cuisine,” even if the “local cuisine” includes bugs?

Did your growing up on a farm result in you having no knowledge of any subjects other than farming, resulting in you being a person who only talks about farming?

Do you still use the missionary blue planner as your primary means of scheduling events in your life?

Did any of these questions offend you?

OK, I know — I “forgot” some really important question. If you have suggestions for what else should be on this questionnaire — and if you’ve ever had roommates, I’ll bet you do — e-mail them to me at [my address was given]. I’ll collect the best ones and print them in a future column. Working together, I’m sure we can hurt the feelings of every roommate we’ve ever had. Thank you.

Most of these items are hopelessly insular, referring only to BYU life. Those of you who are reading this from somewhere in the real world, you'll have to just take my word for it that this column is very, very funny. Perhaps the funniest you've ever read.

Every item on the list is based either on a roommate I've had, a missionary companion I had, or a roommate that one of my friends has had. A couple choice roommates inspired two or three items each.

I'm not saying that I'm not hard to live with, too, because I think I am. I have trouble living with myself some of the time, so I can imagine how it is for other people. But most of these items refer back to basic common courtesy and consideration for those around you. I like to think I'm a considerate roommate, if nothing else.

This column marks the first time in "Snide Remarks" that I ever specifically asked the readers to send me their funny ideas. They tend to do it anyway, but this time I actually asked. The idea for that came during our weekly "Snide Remarks" meeting, where I bring in a new column and the various editors and dignitaries who have to read it before it gets published all peruse it and make comments. The two students involved in this process both started spouting off their own suggestions, some of which were pretty good, and I realized that there was no way I could do a comprehensive list of annoying roommate traits all by myself. I've had some real losers, but they have not been losers in every way that it is possible to be a loser. So I decided to make this announcement at the end, inviting people to write with their contributions. Several weeks later, I ran a column listing some of the best, most printable submissions.

The Alaska joke in this column was made solely because one of my friend's roommates are all from Alaska, and they pretended to be offended the last time I made fun of their state (back in my Christmas column). I originally had Canada here, but I changed it to Alaska when I learned of their pretend anger.

The Zimbabwe reference -- which, by the way, was based on a specific roommate who really DID go to Zimbabwe on his mission, and who really DID try to make us eat bugs -- did not go over as well as the Alaska one. A BYU student who -- surprise! -- is a native of Zimbabwe called the paper to complain and also sent me the following e-mail:

I was reading your article today and noticed that you referred to my country as backward. Maybe you thought you could get away with such a comment because you didn't think there were any students from Zimbabwe at BYU. [Yeah, the same way I figured there wouldn't be any students from Alaska, either.] You don't know jack about my country so don't call it backward and don't insult our food. I am very proud of my country like I trust you are of yours and I am sure you don't like to hear foreigners, (especially ones who have never been here), bashing the United States. Show a little respect for other people's countries.

This letter just makes me shake my head in sadness. Can't ANYONE take a joke anymore? My major defense is that Zimbabwe IS a little backward in some ways, and that they DO eat bugs there. I'm not saying that's ALL they eat, but they do eat them, at least on occasion. Like I said, I had a roommate who lived there for two years, and he came back trying to make everyone eat bugs, just like he had to.

This particular letter writer wrote again a week later in regards to "How to Be a Gooder Speechist," about sacrament meeting talks. She was complaining about a different column, but her point was the same.