Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on September 2, 2008


typewriter         While a small percentage of you (like George Michael Bluth and McLovin in Superbad) have made plans to live with a friend from high school during your first year at Dartmouth, the majority of you will get to have, at some point in the summer, an extremely awkward conversation about bedding, toasters, televisions, and coffee pots with the random stranger you have been assigned as a roommate.  This preparatory phase is a bit like the negotiations prior to the first Thanksgiving, where since it appeared there was going to have to be some sharing of America’s space, the two parties thought they’d better at least try to make the best of it.  If you’re a student of history, you’ll remember that the Pilgrims agreed to bring the X-Box, and the Indians brought the corn.  Now, I understand the desire to live with someone you know (that whole white-man/red-man experience didn’t turn out too great for one of the parties involved), but let me encourage you, if you have yet to make a decision, to choose option B: live with a random stranger.

        By choosing option B, you open yourself up to one of three possibilities.  These are…

          #1) Through the miracles of the University Housing Office’s magic computer, you get matched up with your new lifelong Best Friend Forever.   She’ll be the Maid of Honor at your wedding; or, He’ll buy your kid a speedboat for his Bar Mitzvah.  And the benefits of owning a speedboat are obvious!  Unfortunately, this scenario is only likely if you live in either a Hollywood Movie or a Target commercial.

         #2) You are assigned a perfectly normal, perfectly bland roommate named Steve from Columbus, Ohio who neither becomes your best friend nor invades your personal space.  You learn how to co-exist peacefully with someone who shares different values, you gain conflict management skills when Steve’s high school girlfriend Valerie comes to visit and throws up on your favorite pair of Diesels, and at the end of the year you make arrangements to live with either McLovin or the new best friend you made in the fencing club.  This is the most probable, and perfectly acceptable, outcome of the random roommate generator.

          #3) You get assigned a Charlie Strupe.

          Charlie Strupe was the dude from Wichita who was there to greet me on day one at good old Winchester U.  To try to explain the essence of Strupe in 500 words, or even in 5000 words, is an impossible task – so I’m not even going to try.  All you need to know is, for the purpose of Lesson #5, that Charlie was a genius who scored a 1570 on his SAT (I once saw him write a ten-page paper in 52 minutes – and it was brilliant), and that Charlie was bat-shit crazy, but this second quality was not completely evident at first.  For the initial two weeks of our cohabitation, I thought that Charlie was my very own version of bland Steve, from Columbus, Ohio.  When I came back from my first visit home over Labor Day Weekend, however, I knew that this was not the case.  While I was gone, Strupe had taken 90% of his possessions back to Wichita and replaced them with an army duffel bag full of clothing and a mysterious, locked trunk.  When I asked him where all his stuff was, he told me that “he was done with fucking materiality.”  Yeah.

        Two weeks later, I came home from a party to find Strupe, with his back to the door, sitting in front of his trunk in camouflage clothing.  At first, I couldn’t see what he was up to, but when he turned around, I saw that he was doing something with what appeared to be…a dead squirrel.  And it actually was.  Evidently, that night Strupe had hidden down in the bushes outside of our dorm in camouflage, and…I shit you not…had captured the squirrel with his bear hands and snapped its neck.  Disgusting, and crazy, right?  Yes.  But wait, that’s not all. Just what do you think Strupe had been hiding in his mysterious, locked trunk for the last two weeks?  That’s right – an amateur taxidermy kit!  Within a week, Charlie Strupe had caught and stuffed three squirrels, which he hung from his side of the dorm room’s ceiling.  For me, the last straw occurred during a thunderstorm, when I woke up in the middle of the night to a lightning flash that had freakily illuminated the squirrels suspended in mid air hanging roughly six feet from my head and appearing to be springing viciously towards me, just waiting to reanimate via the power of witchcraft, bite my face off, and give me rabies.  I spent the next three days sleeping on a couch at the fraternity house, and as soon as the paperwork could be filed, I moved in with Barry – who I went on to live with for the next three-and-a-half years.

         Did I make the right choice in this situation?  Your initial inclination is probably to say YES, but in fact, the answer is NO.  With the perspective of ten years between myself and the Charlie Strupe experience, I give you today’s lesson: if by some chance you get assigned a Crazy, do everything in your power to stick it out for a year.  When I think about it these days, I really wish I would have hung in there with Strupe for a whole nine months – who knows what kind of other crazy things he did in that dorm room for the last seven months of freshman year – and I missed out on a lot of potentially awesome stories.  Look, you’re going to spend the rest of your life living with people you know and like.  I would have lived with Barry the next year anyways, and the loss of those seven months in Centennial Hall would have made no material difference to our friendship.  So take the opportunity to gather as many stories from the Crazy during your freshman year as you possibly can.  You have no idea how often in your lifetime the subject of college roommates will come up at the various dinner parties your spouse will make you attend once you enter the real world, but I can guarantee that it happens a lot.  If you stick it out with the Crazy, you’ll always be prepared.

5 Responses

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  1. m-dizzle said, on September 3, 2008 at 1:23 am

    I hadn’t realized Strupe turned you into a younger, more resilient version of Grandpa Bob.

  2. I HEART GWB and Sarah Palin said, on September 9, 2008 at 2:09 am

    Really? Charlie Strupe had strangled the squirrel with his *bear* hands? 😉

    D and I were lol as we were reading this entry. You are so very talented, Dr. Wizard. And you are oh so very right about the fact that crazy roommate stories make wonderful fodder for future “adult” life.

  3. drwizard said, on September 9, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Ahhh…I see that I used the wrong homonym. Nevertheless, now that you’ve pointed it out, I think I’m gonna leave it “bear” hands – it’s both funny and kind of appropriate!

  4. Barry H said, on September 10, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Who is Grandpa Bob?

  5. intergalactic planetary said, on September 10, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Gimme that. All right, you look like a future pedophile in this picture – number one. Number two – it doesn’t even have a first name. It just says “McLovin!”

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