During my time in college, I spent 3 years with the same roommate. I was lucky. I found one of the good ones in the first 6 months of college, and I stuck with him until the end.

His name was Stephen, and I was convinced that he was going to be a cabinet member for a future president. This dude is crazy smart, and I liked hanging around him while he debated the merits of historical events.

Not everything we did was of a scholarly nature though. I attended Indiana Wesleyan University, and there was a rather strict no boys in girls dorms and no girls in boys dorms except for 1 day a week where we had open house hours. We were always looking for ways to get girls to stop by since we didn’t know that many in the early days.

With Steve being an education major with a strong emphasis in history, we decided to work with what we knew. We went out to the local dollar store and bought about 6 bags of those little green plastic army men and about 10 packs of plastitac.

green-army-men

When we got back to the room, we grabbed our desk chairs and plotted out the battle of Antietam on the ceiling of our room. I know what you’re thinking. #ChickMagnet – and you’d be totally right. We’d just leave our door open during open house nights and inevitably we’d have a group of girls come through to see our ceiling. I believe today we’d call that #NerdCred.

In our final year, Steve and I moved out of the dorms and into an on campus house called Bridget house, and we shared it with 4 other guys. We had a lot of fun in that house with guys like Josh and Theo. It seemed like between the 6 guys who lived there, a game of Nintendo 007 was always going on. Theo was a film aficionado, and for all the crazy films he watched it was Tommy Boy that he seemed to know the best. I think I remember that he once made it 30 minutes into the firm before he missed a line of dialogue. He had memorized almost the entire movie, and he took up our challenge to mute the movie and have him recite it as far as he could go. It was absolutely EPIC.

Of all the things we did together, there are two that stand out above the rest for me.

In our dorm room, we had a land line phone. Everyone did. On that land line phone, solicitors were constantly calling us and asking for one of us to come to the phone. We didn’t have caller ID back then, so you just answered hoping it was one of the girls who liked our army men ceiling and wanted to meet for lunch. Inevitably, we would get a call once a day from a salesperson, and Steve had finally had enough. We might be studying with some classical music on in the background or playing 007 on the Nintendo, it didn’t matter. They were interrupting and needed to stop.

Whenever a solicitor called and asked for me, he would say, “Sure, hang on a sec, I’ll get him.” And then proceed to put the phone down on the counter and walk away. We would keep doing whatever we were doing and then about every 5 minutes he’d check back in. “Hello, are you still there? Great! He’ll be with you in just a minute.” Most callers hung up in the first 5 minute wait, but the best ones stuck around for the long haul.
I remember a time where Steve checked back in with a salesperson over a period of a half hour, and he was still on the line. I remember we were playing a video game, and he could certainly hear the noise going on in the background on the other end of the line. After about a half hour, we asked him why in the world he was still waiting, and he told us he got paid hourly, and listening to video games on the phone was as good a half hour he’d seen in awhile. I don’t remember how long he stayed on after that, but that guy was our favorite.

The other thing that comes to mind is the campus mailbox. When you’re in college in the 90’s, you check your mailbox at least once a day. Turns out there’s nothing more disappointing than going to the mailbox day after day and not getting any mail. I’m not sure how it started, but somehow Steve and I decided that an empty mailbox was something we shouldn’t have to endure any longer.

We started sending each other whatever free sample or free anything that someone wanted to send us. The Internet was a thing back then, and there were plenty of websites just dying to send a free sample of their product our way. We got packages in the mail of everything from educational classroom posters to little squares of memory foam over the next year, and going to the mailbox became much more exciting. We had a contest going to see who could send the other person the best free stuff, and I’m sure I lost. My mailbox was always full of one of those little plastic cards that said I needed to check in at the mail desk. I had packages too large to fit in my mailbox. My friends would be in awe as I would always be picking up a large package to take back to the dorm. I think that square of memory foam ended up touring Europe as an in flight pillow if I remember correctly. Nothing but the best from my roommate.

gafford-97

What I learned: I learned that when you find one of the good ones, you stay connected to them. Over the years since college, Steve and I have lived in different states, worked different jobs and both started families. When we get together though, it’s like no time has passed. He still asks me how I’m doing, how he can help and now that we live only 5 miles from each other, when the next time we should schedule a guys night and go see a movie our wives have no interest in seeng. If you’ve found one of the good ones, and you’ve lost touch, use this as a reminder to reconnect. If they are truly one of the good ones, it can feel like years have been weeks and you can pick up right where you left off.