Dear Wayne and Wanda,
Let’s all agree we are amid unprecedented times with this coronavirus pandemic. I know it’s impacting everyone in different ways and I want to say up front I am very very grateful that no one I know is ill.
That said, here’s my situation. I live with three roommates in a three-bedroom condo. Two — let’s say “Jack” and “Jill” — are a couple. They were both in the service industry and have been laid off — hopefully temporarily. The other roommate, “Bob,” works for a grocery store, so not only is he at work, he’s around a lot of people. And then there’s me: my employer about a week ago told us to work from home full-time.
It’s been complete chaos at our place. Jack and Jill basically just drink all day and watch Netflix and order take-out or delivery and even had friends over a few times before Bob and I objected. That resulted in a fight — it’s their house too, yada yada. I explained about social distancing and why having people over is a bad idea. Their argument was the friends stayed 6 feet away, and anyway, Bob goes to work every day so he is bringing home tons of germs so what does it matter?
Meanwhile, I am trying to get real work done, and I can’t find a quiet corner.
Any advice for navigating through this?
We’ve all heard basic run-downs of Roommate Respect 101; the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, amplifies that times a thousand. Keeping our living spaces clean and monitoring our own hygiene are no longer niceties, but a matter of public health. Having random guests over might have been considered thoughtless in the past, and now has people on edge, fretting the new guy who brought the beer also brought along pandemic germs.
Look, first and foremost, we’re all in this together. Across the city, state, country and world, people are anxious, uncertain, and definitely on edge. We all deal with these scenarios differently: some hunker down and try to follow every rule, some go on with life like normal, and some go nuts, frankly.
Time for a roommate meeting — hopefully when Jack and Jill are in a sober moment. Strategize how you plan to protect yourselves and each other during this developing situation. Listen to each other: what do you need to feel safe and healthy and stay sane? Recognize the roommate rules have changed and talk about the new boundaries and agreements.
During that roommate meeting, you may remind the day-drinking duo that you and Bob might be the only roommates with rent money come April 1, so they should be doing their very best to keep you both happy, healthy, hardworking and well-rested.
Beyond that, you need to look out for No. 1 and put yourself in home hazmat mode ASAP. I know it’s tough to maintain a six-foot safe space when you’re sharing a place with three other people — all those hands, all those surfaces, counters, remotes, door knobs, handles ... Yikes! Pack wipes in your pocket and also place them strategically around the house to rub down everything before and after you touch it; pack hand sanitizer in your other pocket to use after you touch anything, too. Wash those hands at every opportunity. You might even want to invest in a mask, if you can find one. And those visitors? Give them a wave and a nod, not a hug.
A little over the top? I think not. This isn’t just about Jack, Jill and their random drop-ins and regular takeout. Bob could be even more of a health risk for you all due to his regular exposure to so many people every day. In this living situation, if one of you gets sick, you could all likely get sick. Give yourself the best odds for getting through this mess unscathed by taking all the extra precautions. If your roommates want to join in on your clean-living methods, even better. Good luck.