THE WAY I SEE IT: Roommate relations hurt by theft

Caity Donohue

I think most students can, at some point in their college career, confess to being guilty of coveting some item of their roommate’s. From rain-boots to laptops that beat your school-issued one, there always seems to be something.

Living on a college campus, we hear quite a range of stories and even have a role in some of them. For example, your friend bought a huge case of water bottles so she could always have a cold bottle of water handy. Last week, she lugged it up a million flights of stairs, or at least it felt that way because those cases are ridiculously heavy. Today, she found that her water bottle stash was seriously depleted.    

In such a case, if you yourself are uninvolved in the so-called drama, it always seems trivial. What is it to you to have a few bottles missing? But the hydration-deprived victim always has a source of contention: a flight of stairs, money out of his or her own pocket. It seems it’s never really what’s been taken, or “borrowed,” it’s just that it is now gone. It’s the sting of being taken from.  

So, you might think, it seems so simple. Just ask, right? 

“Hey, if I swipe this bottle of water, I’ll get you one at Holy Grounds on my way back from class.” How hard is that to do? This asking is crucial — and not a new thing. Go back to preschool: taking without asking was a big no-no. 

Look, if you don’t ask before you take something of your roommate’s, that is not borrowing. That is definitely what is known as swiping someone’s stuff, and it does not matter what that stuff was. Most people would argue that, put plainly, it is just rude. Asking is a gesture of respect that everyone must have learned by now.

As a friend pointed out to me in retelling her tale of woe, taking first and asking later does not count. In fact, it is probably worse. It implies some sort of entitlement that is bound to irritate your roommate. 

It’s only fair; people don’t like going through their stuff in pursuit of something, even a computer charger, and pulling their hair out because they think they must have gone crazy. I would say that when it comes to belongings, most people are creatures of habit and leave everything in the same place due to the human love of routine. It may take a day or two, but doesn’t everyone eventually notice when something is not in its usual place?  

Here is my most profound advice: Don’t let yourself be one of those people who “borrows” an item without asking and then lets pictures get posted on Facebook for all to see. I am sure it seems impossible that anyone could be that dense, and yet it seems to be quite the trend lately from what I have heard. If you take someone’s sweater and there are 20 new pictures up within the next day of you sporting said sweater, your roommate will see it. Don’t then go on to claim that you have not seen it around the room lately when your roommate seems to be pawing through her drawers, looking for it. They saw the pictures and probably already found it in your closet. The jig is up.

Because we live in the era of Facebook where, often, our lives are on display for all to see, it seems that this defies common sense. How do you set yourself up to be caught red-handed? How do you expect not to be caught in the first place?  

No matter what kind of relationship you and your roommate have, stealing something from them is a sure way to jeopardize it. So just abide by the asking-before-taking rule the next time you need a pair of sunglasses to wear outside in the lovely weather we’ve been having. 


    Caity Donohue is a sophomore English and secondary education major from Northbrook, Ill. She can be reached at [email protected].