This weekend, after six years of fairly uneventful cohabitation, my roommate moved out. So while everybody else was enjoying a splendid Fourth of July weekend, I was hauling dressers, bookshelves, electronic equipment and an unwieldy mattress up three flights of stairs. When roomie moved into my place back in 2005 he was like an urban monk, with only a suitcase of clothes and a computer to his name. I gave him a bed. But if you stay in one place long enough, possessions have tendency to start multiplying like rabbits. When I awoke the next day to sore muscles and a twitchy knee, I wished my roommate had maintained his former ascetic lifestyle. But all things change.
Making coffee on Tuesday morning, I watch as Buster, my joint custody dog, sniffs around my roommate’s old room, looking for him. Buster has been though four apartments, three jobs, two books and four girlfriends. But he’ll roll with the change. He always does. And when my girlfriend moves in with her Boston Terrier next month they’ll be even more change – the place will get a feminine touch. I’m glad. My Odd Couple bachelor pad was getting kind of lame. But, as a concession to Buster, we’ve decided to keep my ancient and ratty lounge chair in the bedroom. That’s Buster’s favorite place to sleep. I didn’t want to inflict one change too many. As I sip my coffee I look around the apartment. It’s emptier now, but full of the promise of years to come. Then my cell phone breaks into my reflective mood. It’s my ex-roommate.
“Can you do me a favor?” he asks.
“I’m having a sofa delivered to my apartment,” he says. “But I can’t get out of work to let the movers in. Could you do it?”
“Sure. But you got to tip the guys.”
I do a calculation in my head. “One piece, two guys? Ten bucks.”
“Okay,” he says. “I’ll leave the money on my bedroom dresser.”
A few hours later, with the keys to my roommate’s new apartment in hand, I meet the furniture guys in the parking lot.
“Man, it’s hot,” one of the deliverymen, a young fellow wearing a sweat soaked blue bandana says. “Who knew it was going to be this hot?”
“It gets even better,” I say. “You’ve got to haul this thing up three flights of stairs.” The deliveryman looks stricken, but the guys are professionals and get the sofa up into the apartment in five minutes.
“Where do ya want it?” the second delivery guy, says.
“Against the right wall,” I say. When they’re done I inspect the couch for damage, find none and sign an invoice testifying to that fact.
“Okay, sir,” the delivery guy with the bandana says as he picks the packing materials littering the floor. “We’ll be out of here in a sec.”
“Hang on,” I say. I walk into the bedroom. I hope roomie remembered to leave the tip. I went out of the house without any money. Even though he knows I spent many years living on gratuities, roomie’s a bit of a tipping neophyte. I don’t think he’s even read my books. But there, on his dresser, is a crisp twenty-dollar bill.
“Here you go guys,“ I say, handing over the money. “Job well done.”
The second deliveryman’s face brightens. “Thanks, man,” he says, clapping me on the shoulder. “We really appreciate it. Very cool.”
After the men leave I look around my old roommate’s new apartment. It is quiet but also filled with promise. And as I lock the door behind me I can’t help but smile. Twenty bucks?
You have learned well, roomie. You have learned well.