Ernie had Bert, Chandler had Joey and Noddy had Big Ears: these roommates had a bond that went way beyond taking down an occasional phone message. They were inseparable – friends for life. In reality, though, Chandler would surely have wanted to suffocate his greedy, promiscuous ‘friend’ in the leather cushions of that La-Z-Boy, while Big Ears must have dreamed of tossing his nodding buffoon of a bedfellow under that little red and yellow car.
We have all spent time living with someone we wouldn’t, under normal circumstances, have given the time of day to. Dubai does that. Your last-minute Dubizzle hunt throws you together in a nightmarish mismatch, one that makes Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau’s Odd Couple look like peas grown from the same pod.
I can live with the constant drying of clothes in the living room, the hot draught blowing in from a sliding door left open during a cigarette break on the balcony, even the dirty dishes that have been sitting in the sink for so long that they’ve become host to a new breed of life. But every man has a threshold, and mine, as it happens, is somewhere around the point when my beloved ‘roomy’ thought it appropriate to borrow my underwear (a true story, though not, I should point out, one about my current flatmate).
So why do we do it? To save money on rent? Surely with a bit of effort, a half-decent studio can be found for little more than the price of a room in a shared apartment. Loneliness? Not me. I love my own company. Maybe it’s because we tell ourselves it will be different this time. That colleague who has a room for rent always seems so down-to-earth when you meet them in the pub. Neatly presented and polite, they appear to be the perfect landlord. It’s only when the ink is dry on a six-month lease and all the stuff is moved in that cracks begin to appear.
‘Can you tidy the kitchen before you sit down to eat dinner?’ Yeah, fair enough. ‘If you have friends over, can you take them into your bedroom? It’s not fair to dominate the living room.’ Seems a bit odd, but okay. ‘Your friend is welcome to stay overnight, but I’ll have to charge them…’ Now come on!
This time I’ve learned my lesson: as soon as the lease expires, I’m going it alone. I don’t care if I have to scour every property website in the UAE. I will run to work from Sharjah each day if it means a nice, clean space of my own with no nagging voice drifting under the door to tell me I didn’t straighten the couch cushions properly. I’m done with all that.
Although didn’t that friendly guy from IT say he had a room available…?