Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The House with 13 Roommates

Once upon a time, there were 13 friends who decided to share a house together. They each got a room, agreed to share the kitchen, the living room, and the basement, and share in the upkeep of the whole house. They personalized each of their rooms to suit their tastes and their own needs, and they visited each other frequently.

As the years passed, everyone got along quite well. Though there were spats here and there, the roommates talked them out and even though people sometimes didn't get what they wanted, they compromised for the good of the house, the good of the family.

When times got hard, some of the roommates were having a difficult time to pay the rent and the maintenance fees for the house. Wanting to keep the family together, they started bartering their services in exchange for help with their financial contributions. Newfoundland, PEI, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan offered to do the grocery shopping and Quebec agreed to do all the cooking (due to its French flair with the spices). BC offered to repaint the house and fix the roof, while Alberta promised to keep the basement clean and the furnace topped up with oil. Nova Scotia pulled together a band and provided entertainment. New Brunswick promised it would answer all the incoming calls and deal with the city (in both English and French). The Territories, who were used to walking long distances, agreed to keep an eye out on the entire property to ensure that everyone was safe. Ontario, not hurting for money because it had a solid government job, agreed to cover all the expenses as long as it could supervise all the other tasks.

This seemed to work out well for awhile, but then the roommates started nitpicking at each other, criticizing what was being done. BC didn't like the food that was being bought because it was too grain heavy and the fish and meat products weren't ethically sound or sustainable. Nova Scotia was getting tired of performing all the time for free. The Territories felt cut off from the house because they spent more time outside it keeping watch than inside.

The other provinces mocked Alberta because it spent so much time in the basement. They called it an underdweller, said it was "primitive", and it lived in a hole in the ground. Alberta felt everyone was taking it for granted because the furnace never broke down and it was never cold in the house.

One night, during the supper meal, Ontario made one too many complaints about how spicy the meal and how its mother's cooking was so much better, and Quebec lost its collective shit. Quebec ranted that it was tired of being singled out, made to feel apart, and how annoying it was that if it wanted a change a lightbulb in its room, it had to get everyone's permission. "It's my room! If I want more light, why should Ontario care? I should be allowed to make more of my own choices when it comes to my room!"

So the roommates had a house meeting and renegotiated their deal. Quebec was adamant that it had the right to make whatever changes it wanted to its own room and it shouldn't need to get everyone else's permission. "My room is distinctly different from the other rooms, so it deserves special status!" The other roommates were confused by this at first, but they didn't want to lose their access to the fantastic food, so they gave in to Quebec's demands. Soon the other roommates also enjoyed having more say in how they managed their rooms, but they quietly resented that Quebec got so much more control.

And so the people in the house continued to live together, trying to make it work. Every once in a while, Quebec threatens to move out of the house, but changes its mind when it sees how much the rent is out there in the rest of the city, and it realizes that it's really not so bad living in that house. Sometimes the other roommates talk about leaving too, but then they call another house meeting and negotiate a way to stay together.

It's not an easy life, but living with family rarely is, and everyone is stronger in the end for making it work.
Copyright© 2010 John David Hickey