Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Datun

Datun (pronounced Da toon) was from Nigeria and I had the privilege of being a roommate of his for eight months. I met Datun later in the evening when he walked into the apartment with my other roommate George. Since they had been there a week and had each staked out one of the two bedrooms, I had no choice but to bunk with one of them. Since Datun's room was bigger and already had two beds in it (the apartment had been furnished by my employer), I opted for his room. The first night after a restless four hours of listening to what sounded like a horse struggling for its dying breath, I spent the rest of the night on the couch in the living room. The next morning I politely asked Datun if he would be offended if I bunked with George instead and after telling him it was because of his very serious snoring problem, he good-naturedly told me to go ahead.

That had been a Friday and so I spent the weekend getting to know Datun and George better. Datun had lived in a huge city of millions in Nigeria and had witnessed the worst of humanity already in his life, including a man drug out onto the streets, tires piled on top of him and lit on fire. When he came to America, he was let off in Fargo, North Dakota and almost got thrown in jail for fighting with airport security because he thought he had been left in the middle of nowhere instead of the United States where he had been heading. Living in a town of 15,000 in central Minnesota was just a little village where he came from and took quite a bit of adjustment. But for someone who has seen so much violence, I thought he was well adjusted. But as time wore on, our cultural differences just seemed to get in the way.

To start off, he volunteered to cook an authentic Nigerian dinner for us that first weekend. It involved taken a frozen chicken and putting it in a sink full of hot water early in the morning and leaving it there until late that evening. By the time he got to it, the water was a bloody putrid smelling slop and I was sure bacteria counts would be through the roof. Both George and I professed to not being very hungry and just eating enough to be polite and hopefully just make us seriously ill without killing us! We both suffered abdominal discomforts that night and never again ate Datun's food. Instead we just said that we would just all cook our own meals separately.

Being still college students, we were all dirt poor. Every penny counted. So when Datun kept setting the thermostat really high during the winter to the point I would instantly break out in sweat after getting home from work, I chalked it down as result of living with someone from a tropical country. I eventually solved the problem by setting the thermostat to a desired temperature while Datun was gone and then pulling out the bimetallic coil. In effect, Datun could change the setting all he wanted without ever changing the temperature, except in his mind. It worked and we survived until summer.

In the spring, I had to sneak the coil back in before the air conditioner was called for so that it could be turned on without giving Datun opportunity to suspect what had been done. I hadn't been too worried since I assumed that his warm tendencies would carry over to summer. Man was I wrong. He did the opposite, cranking down the temperature to bone chilling temperatures where a coat was needed to remain comfortable. George and I bid our time until Datun was gone one afternoon and then repeated our thermostat tampering process.

At night, George and I put a fan in the doorway or our room to blow the air from the window air conditioner from the living room into our room. Datun however decided that he would just drag his mattress into the living room and sleep in there. This was a problem since my morning routine consists of getting up early to read the morning paper and watch the news headlines over breakfast before going to work at 6:30. Datun didn't start work until 8:00 and thus saw no reason for getting up that early. After one morning of tripping over him and his mattress several times while getting ready and then reading the newspaper by the stove light, I decided that this was ridiculous. After all, he had a master suite all to his own and I paid good money for my third of the rent to enjoy the living room. So the next morning I just turned on the lights and went about my routine as usual, including watching the morning news on television just a couple feet from where he was sleeping. It took two weeks before he finally asked me to keep the lights off and not watch television while he was sleeping. I told him that if he paid my portion of the rent, I would. He went back to sleeping in his bedroom from then on.

George was on an even tighter budget than I was since he was only an accounting co-op student and didn't make the "big bucks" we engineering co-ops did. Plus he had a girlfriend with a baby on the way and needed every penny he could save. One evening Datun was working in the computer room, which was just an alcove off the living room with a light. Datun eventually got up and went into his bedroom where he was doing whatever he did in there. (Towards the end of our experience, we rarely saw him outside his bedroom.) After about an hour, George got up and turned off the light in the alcove. About an hour after that Datun came out to the kitchen for a drink and saw the light had been turned off and made a big display of walking back over there to turn it back on before returning to his bedroom. George again turned off the light and again when Datun came back out he started yelling at us asking why we kept turning off the light. George tried to explain that he was trying to save money and he saw no harm in it since Datun was obviously not using the light in the alcove. Datun just couldn't see the light so to speak and went back to his room and was not seem for probably a week after that.

I must break away to say that although he still used the apartment as evidenced by a bloody chicken growing bacteria in the sink, he got out of bed long after George and I were already at work and came back after we were already in bed. I know this because when ever George's girlfriend was in town, I had to sleep on the couch to give them some privacy, which now that I think of it, was probably the reason she got pregnant.

In Datun's defense, I'm sure we weren't the model roommates for him either. We swept the carpet with a borrowed vacuum cleaner from down the hall when he thought he could do just as good a job on his turn with a hand held broom. We might have been guilty of setting up an eighteen hole golf course during the last throws of winter as we waited for spring to arrive and one of those holes happened to be the pillow of his bed on which he was currently occupying. Alcohol may or may not have been a factor. I also think that when one of us got too drunk from playing Jack Nickolas golf on the computer with "shot a stroke penalties" and puked on a bacteria growing chicken in the sink, it might not have been culturally acceptable. Whatever the case, when Datun left late that summer, George and I didn't shed many tears. We just chalked it up at another learning experience.

George was literally a room mate since we shared a bedroom and he was the best roommate I ever had of all my roommates. I even got to where I enjoyed his quirk of having to have the radio playing all night long and didn't mind the seemingly increasing amount of weekends I spent sleeping on the living room couch. It was definitely better than the dying horse experience in the room down the hall.

No comments: