Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

They say that space is endless, and in so saying they accept that they can never prove this.

What I'd really like to know is, where does my space end, and someone else's begin?

In return for my housekeeping work, I live in a small windowless room on the 7th floor of a backpackers' hostel in Auckland, New Zealand. I share my cupboard with 3 other housekeepers. There really isn't enough room in there for 1 person, let alone 4. There certainly isn't room for any of them to start picking girls up and bringing them back at 4am.

When room-mate #1 tried this on about a month ago, I had to cut through all the kissing and giggling to tell them straight out that she was leaving. Room-mate #1 protested "It's not like that - she's a mate" and began to accuse me of throwing her out onto the streets, as she had nowhere else to stay. I told them I really didn't want to go down to reception to have her removed, and offered to pay for her to stay in a room of her own that night. Suddenly they remembered a friend of theirs who could put them up. Fortunately my subsequent relationship with room-mate #1 remained friendly.

A few weeks' later, I woke up one morning to find that room-mate #2 had pulled the same stunt and gotten away with it. He protested that she was paying for another room, so it was okay. I checked, and it wasn't. I told him, and again there was no further trouble.

Then one night, while I'm brushing my teeth, room-mate #3 comes up to me with a whole prepared speech about why his girl was an exception. Here is the conversation, condensed for the sake of this posting, that I had with room-mate #3:

Room-mate #3: "Look, she's a really good friend of mine, and she has to get up really, really early to catch her coach tomorrow morning. She lives a long long way away from here, too far to make someone walk at this hour. You can't make her walk all the way home when she has to catch a coach at 7 o'clock tomorrow morning. We won't make a single sound, I promise."

Me: "No way man."

Room-mate #3: "You're joking. And after I actually got up and came here to tell you."

Me: "You're right - I didn't even know she was there."

Room-mate #3: "I know you didn't. So if I hadn't come to tell you then she could have stayed. Come on man, you can't make her walk all the way home."

Me: "No way, man, no way."

Room-mate #3: "Look I understand that you're religious, but really, if you were to stop being religious, you'd have girls left, right and centre. You really would man, you'd have girls left, right and centre."

Me: "I am not losing my faith, and even if I did, I would still never have a relationship."

Room-mate #3: "You have never known what it's like not to believe in God."

Me: "And you don't know what it's like to believe in Him."

Room-mate #3: "Yes I do, because I was brought up as a Catholic. Look, I understand you have your religious beliefs, but really, just give me...four good reasons why she can't stay the night."

Me: "Because it's against the rules."

Room-mate #3: "That's...a very good reason."

Me: "Because I worked for my bed in a 4-person dorm, not a 5-person one."

I never got on to reasons 3 and 4, in fact I never even got on to trying to decide which ones to give. I just wanted to get to bed. I had work in the morning. Anyhew, they both left, room-mate #3 shaking my hand.

Then, last night, room-mate #1 tried it again.

Despite his girl's ability to walk and converse, room-mate #1 claimed that she had drunk herself completely unconscious, and that it was his moral duty to carry her upstairs onto his bed for the night. It was also my moral duty to let him. Room-mate #3 backed them up with "I have never seen anyone at the Globe as bad as she is." (Of course, she wasn't crying in a pool of blood with a guy on top of her, but that's another story)

So I played the inevitable "I will go down to reception if I have to" card, but room-mate #1 had remembered this and adapted, telling me that he had already cleared it with them.

In reception, there was both good news, and bad news. The good news was his denial of even having seen room-mate #1, let alone of having agreed to anything. The bad news was his denial of having any authority to throw out unpaying guests. That's reception talking. Anyway as a result, at 3:30 in the morning, I changed rooms.

The following day, without my asking for it, several staff-members came up and told me that I was completely in the right, and my boss fired room-mate #1 on the spot.

Me: "But this wasn't my intention," I protested. "He's a good mate, I get along well with him, everyone does."

My boss: "It's not that. He owed us 15 hours - that's a whole week. Don't feel bad."

I could well believe that my protest had only been the catalyst, but all the same.

Room-mate #1 was a good mate. We'd shared food, cooked for each other, I'd even leant him money precisely to keep him employed, which he'd subsequently paid back without my ever having to ask.

Now room-mate #1 is paying to stay in another room, reception have been told what the rules are, and at time of writing I still haven't seen room-mate #1 to find out what my friendship with him is now like.

I have no regrets. If I were given my chance again, I wouldn't do a thing differently. I just feel sorry for him, and wonder how pleased people will be on the day when I make the wrong choice.


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