There are a lot of things I can justify spending $300/week on – hell, I could take up a serious drug addiction with that kind of money – so as you can imagine, renting a single room in Sydney isn’t one of them.
Which is why thrifty me opted to share a two bedroom apartment with nine other people in what is commonly referred to around these parts as a share-room-house(?).What have I learned from this bargain basement experience so far? Well I’ve never been to prison, but here are five reasons I imagine it’s a lot like this place:
1. YOU BECOME OVERLY PROTECTIVE OF YOUR STUFF
Any person in a normal living situation doesn’t think too much about the exact fridge location of their food. They just toss it in and quickly shut the door before it tumbles back out again. Share-room-houses, however, also mean share fridges. Every man for himshelf.
Now, to put my protectiveness of my particular shelf in perspective remember this: I already share a bunk bed with one person, a wardrobe with three people, a bathroom with five people, and a balcony/couch/kitchen with nine other people. So if I open the fridge with a ham sandwich on my mind, you better believe that if I don’t find my ham on my shelf there is going to be trouble in toy town. The contents of that shelf are as sacred as John Wayne Gacy’s art supplies or Chopper Reid’s commissary. Don’t put your stuff on it. Don’t take my stuff off it. I will shiv you.
2. YOU DON’T WANT TO MAKE FRIENDS
You don’t want to make friends with anyone in a share-room-house. It’s bad enough you’re at a point in your life where you find yourself secretly wishing the tooth grinder on the bottom bunk would just die in her sleep already. She’s a nice girl, but it’d probably be best for everyone’s happiness if she’d just stop breathing.
You don’t have respect for yourself let alone any other of the schmucks in a share-room-house. You just want to do your time, get out of there, and never see any of those people again (especially the ones in for long stays, what’s WRONG with them?!). Besides, when 1400 people occupy a prison or ten people occupy an apartment someone is ALWAYS coming or going. Who can be bothered investing emotions into some jackass who is going to up and leave anyway?
3. BOTTOM BUNK IS A BIG DEAL
Remember when you were a kid and you fought your siblings like a wild animal to secure top bunk? How else does one gain the highly sought after title of “King of the Castle” and therefore get the right to call everyone below your altitude a “dirty rascal”?
Well, in share rooms and in prison such declarations have no place. Bottom bunk is not the last resort of the inferior climber. On the contrary, it’s a privilege. You don’t just stroll up into your cell/share room and claim bottom bunk. Oh no. You gotta earn that shit.
Why? On bottom bunk you don’t have to climb tiny steps made for children forty million times a day. You don’t have to smell everyone else’s toxic farts throughout the night as they rise to the ceiling and linger. And most importantly, on bottom bunk you can string up a few sheets and BOOM! You have some semblance of privacy again! Sure, you’re 24 years old and living in a blanket fort, a situation that might cause responsible adults to reconsider their life choices thus far. But ask any five-year-old and they’ll say you’re livin’ the dream.
4. YOU DON’T WANT TO DROP THE SOAP
Don’t worry people this is not a cry for help because I have been violated in my share-room-house shower. The reason you don’t want to drop the soap here is simple: many, many human bodies use that bathroom day in day out. Any object that hits those slimy tiles teeming with skin cells, bacteria, hair, and all manners of bodily fluids (especially from those on top bunk if you get my drift) is no longer something you want to rub all over your body in an effort to get clean.
5. ALLIANCES ARE FORMED ALONG RACIAL LINES.
Look, it’s all good and well to cook felafels, learn Spanish with Dora the Explorer and make adorable interracial babies with any number of minorities (not being sarcastic here)… when you’re on the outside. But in jail/share-room-houses things change.
On the inside you can’t just pick the aspects of different cultures you like and discard the rest. It’s all or nothing. Your love of Korean BBQ is confronted with your distaste for Korean menstrual habits. Your fascination with Japanese anime has to be reconciled with the strange jar of Japanese something in the fridge, the smell of which is permeating everything on YOUR shelf. Oh yeah, and Spanish was cool until you started to wake up to it every day because apparently inside voices are not a thing in that particular leg of Europe.
Before too long interracial resentments always start to build. No man can be an island though, so whether it’s someone to call if you lock yourself out or someone to let you have their turn in the jail phone line, everyone needs at least one friend. And it’s preferable if you can both speak the same language. Which is why, just like in jail, in a share-room-house the Koreans cook together, watch Korean movies together and just generally Korean it up amongst themselves. The Europeans and Australians do the same. They drink beer and talk about work and soccer and a whole host of other things in English. And I don’t doubt for a second that if more than one Italian or German were to move in they’d f*ck off all us other whities in an instant and revert back to their native tongue 24/7.
When I get home from work I don’t really want to enrich myself with the wonders of cultures unknown. I just want to drink tea and watch crime documentaries until I pass out. Am I missing out on some cool new experiences/friends/perspectives? Maybe. Do I care? Less than you could ever imagine.