Chapter 2 – Roles, Roomies, and Donuts

A person has never truly lived until they’ve lived in an apartment complex in the great potato state. That’s just science talking and is therefore beyond discussion or debate. Yet, for some reason the Olympic Committee is unresponsive when it comes to my requests for it to be the next great Olympic sport. I mean, horse dancing squeaked its way in there. Come on folks; let’s get our heads in the game. Maybe it could do with the fact that I made one of the qualifications for potential competitors that the police had to frequent their living establishments – is 3-5 times a week really too much? You wouldn’t think so. But the reality is that they just don’t want to let another sport in that America would rock at. Pure silliness if you ask me.

And yes, I do tend to get stuck on things that should be the “next great Olympic sport.” Is it a coincidence that these things already correspond to things I excel at? One can never really know these things; the mind wants what the mind wants. I’m just looking for a way to get recognized for my average skill-set, which is my definition of living the American Dream. But I digress.

Living in an apartment in Idaho truly is its own thing. I live in a swanky 3 bedroom apartment with 4 roommates. Yes, I too took high school Algebra and can do the math. There are more roommates than rooms. But we also did the math, and it is stinking cheap is all get out. How else could I afford my wicked-awesome scooter and bottom-of-the-line laptop to write this on?

We all sacrifice to live the way we want. Some spend hours on the treadmill just to get rid of that morning donut. I eat 3 donuts – thank you, sonic speed metabolism – before I get off the top bunk in the morning. Don’t get any ideas of emotionally stunted boys sharing a Racecar bunk bed or anything – though we totally would have bought one if we’d seen it at the thrift super-hub. It’s just your basic, boring wooden structure with some random soda, coffee, and pizza stains thrown in for accent purposes. We couldn’t afford an interior designer, so we had to make due.

I share a room, and the ensuing bunk, with Sam. He’s a prep cook at the same “fine dining” establishment that pays my bills. Sam’s true calling is to prep and cook buffalo wings.

“Steve, buffalo wing cooking and prepping is gonna be the next great Olympic sport,” he slurred to me as we, half-awake, made the 5 minute drive home from work.

“That’s just stupid,” I said with conviction. “You can’t just make anything an Olympic sport; that’s how synchronized swimming made it in.” He readily acknowledge this truth and went back to half-watching the rode as he drove his little truck – which we like to call the “Lil it from the Pit.” Even though he may have had a point, I needed to keep the IOC’s board clear of ideas so mine would have a shot. It’s not always important to have the best idea. Sometimes you just need to keep better ideas under a bushel long enough for yours to see the light of day. That’s true ingenuity; coming up with sufficient reasons why a brilliant idea is idiotic.

A few weeks back we heard a knock on our door late at night. We were deeply entrenched in a high stakes game of gin rummy – which I recognize feels like a contradiction in terms – when the thud came. Donnie, the cell phone salesman at the local mall, was on a date, and we didn’t know what to do. He’s the one that answers the door. It’s really important to assign these things to people; otherwise there would be pure chaos. Donnie answers the door. I answer the phone. Sam talks to the burly apartment manager when something needs to be fixed. Kevin, the barista, makes sure we get bills paid in the general vicinity of the due date. Frederick, the oil entrepreneur (Which is just a nice way to say a guy who works at a gas station. Fred – as his mom called him, but we likeFrederickbetter – likes to say he’s just learning the business. After 7 years, it’s either a really tough business or he’s full of it. You be the judge.), stocks the toilet paper.

After looking at each other blankly for a few moments, we heard the knock again. Whoever it was had no plans of going away. Kevin decided to break rank and answer it. I chose not to intervene, but thought it may be best if we had a talk later about “the roles.” As I was deep in thought on how best to broach this topic, Kevin returned to the living room, but wasn’t alone. With him stood two rather large men, in what appeared to be police uniforms. Given that it was August, I decided to rule out Halloween as a possible explanation for this interruption.

Frederick stood up and asked, “What seems to be the problem?”

Our social fabric was coming apart at the seams. I was too engrossed in how to work the intervention with both Frederick and Kevin into my schedule to hear the officer’s reply. Oddly enough, at that moment he sounded a lot like Charlie Brown’s mom.

As I refocused on the conversation, I picked up the name Jeffrey Joseph Johnson being spoken almost like a chant in the room. Sounded like serial killer’s name to me. Then the officers were looking at me. It’s like that moment when you’re “resting your eyes” in class, and the teacher calls on you. I could tell it was my cue.

“Jeffrey Joseph Johnson,” I said with a nod and a smile. The one thing I picked up in school is that it’s always better to be positive and assertive with your answers. And my mom always taught me to be polite.

As Kevin picked me up from the county jail, he explained to me that it was this assertive nod that got me in trouble. While getting into his delightfully clutter-free Camry, Kevin seemed a bit frustrated with me, so I decided this was not the appropriate time to discuss roles. Apparently the guys too tall to be candy-seekers were looking for a Jeffrey Joseph Johnson and had gotten a tip that he lived at our apartment. The chant-like mantra I encountered in the living room was in fact the officers asking each one of us if we were Jeffrey Joseph Johnson.

Apparently Triple J, as we would later refer to him, had a warrant out for his arrest as a drug dealer. They didn’t have a great description of him other than the fact that he was very average looking. This in-depth character sketch, coupled with my enthusiastic assertion of the name Jeffrey Joseph Johnson and the fact that my driver’s license was in Donnie’s car, led to my temporary incarceration.

After taking me off to what they declared as my “new home away from home,” they called in back-up to go through the apartment looking for “my stash.” Despite my roommates’, who apparently looked as averagely unsavory as myself, objections they quite thoroughly went through the apartment. There was something about “due cause” and “a violation of civil liberties” that Kevin kept talking about as we drove me away from county in the morning. I could tell he was quite passionate about these issues. Definitely not the time to talk about roles.

“Who won the game?” Kevin looked dumbfounded as I asked this question. He muttered a few things and then focused his gaze bumper in front of us at the stoplight.

I didn’t think it was an altogether stupid question. The loser of rummy was supposed to run around the apartment complex in their underwear. I just wanted to make sure that my little mishap didn’t count as a forfeit or disqualification. But Kevin was still upset from his having spent hours convincing these guys that I wasn’t this triple J fellow, while I was “relaxing on the taxpayer’s dime.” I tried explaining to him that it wasn’t really that relaxing, and the water in the restroom was really quite tepid. However, to little effect.

When we arrived back at the apartment, the rest of the guys were waiting with donuts and chocolate milk, the breakfast of champions – or at least of bachelors. As we began to load up on calories, Donnie informed me that they had discussed getting me a welcome home cake. They opted against it to save their money just in case I needed bail. That’s true friendship.

“Is it too soon to laugh about this?” Sam asked with a mouth full of milk and maple bar.

Kevin looked up from his chocolate-covered, cream-filled delicacy. “Yes”

I leaned over, grabbed the chocolate milk gallon and filled up his glass.

“Ok,” he said with a smile, “now we can laugh.” And we all did. Not the end of the movie, rolling on the floor type of laughter. But we would have those moments when we later told and retold the story. For some reason, Donnie’s version always involves SWAT. Once I tried explaining to him that SWAT doesn’t come to apartments, but he didn’t listen.

But all-in-all I learned a valuable lesson, roles are very important.

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