Sunday, September 03, 2006

Stronger than Kryptonite

As autumn quickly crinkles our way, I can’t help but feel fortunate that I don’t have to pack up all of my earthly belongings and lug them to someplace far across town like I did for five years at Penn State. Besides a few grain silos and the Hooters that they put up after I graduated (wouldn’t you know it?), there’s likely not a structure in central Pennsylvania that didn’t house me and my duct-taped couch for at least a semester.

My poor parents. After helping me and my sister to move for more than a cumulative decade, they have probably logged enough hours to become honorary Sherpas. When I have kids that age, I’m going to make sure that all of their furniture is inflatable.

I lived in a fairly small apartment during my junior year with five other guys and a Chocolate Lab. The dog was by far the best-behaved tenant; he never ate anyone’s food but his own, which is much more than can be said for the rest of us. Also, he got an occasional bath and his breath wasn’t that bad.

The most important lesson I learned that year is to never leave your grocery cart unattended while you’re in the store with your roommates. Otherwise, you’ll end up at the checkout, trying to explain to the clerk why there is a small bounty of hemorrhoid cream and home enema kits hiding under your frozen pizza.

Whenever one roommate returned from the grocery store, put his food away and left it unattended, one could easily have lost a finger in the resulting feeding frenzy. Five Tasmanian Devil-like tornadoes would whirl through the kitchen, spewing chicken bones, pizza crust and empty Gatorade bottles into the air. If you didn’t want your food to become community property, the only way to protect it was to bury it under a shrub by the front steps.

Before I gave up on the enterprise altogether, I took a black permanent marker to the pitcher in which I tried to keep a supply of orange juice and wrote: “Before drinking the contents of this pitcher, stop and ask yourself, ‘Is my name Mike?’ If you answer ‘No’ to this question, put this pitcher back in the fridge, turn around and enjoy some free thirst-quenching goodness from the faucet.”

My buddy Derek, who won the lottery and received me as a random roommate our freshman year, had an unfortunate craving for nacho cheese Doritos. All Derek wanted in the world was to be able to maintain a stash of Doritos in his cabinet, but the evening was truly rare in which at least one of the apartment’s occupants didn’t launch a raid with the objective of commandeering Derek’s Doritos. His cabinet was plundered so often that he finally used a Kryptonite bike lock to secure the handles of the cabinet doors together.

If Derek were to rank the days of his life from his most favorite to his least favorite, somewhere near the bottom of that list would probably be the day he came home to find both of his cabinet doors on the kitchen floor, still locked together, leaning against the trash can, which contained, of course, an empty Doritos bag. The cabinets’ manufacturers obviously didn’t have security in mind when they designed hinges that could be removed from the outside with a Phillips-head screwdriver, a flaw that my fellow roommates were quick to exploit.

When I recently told my dad the story about Derek and his Doritos, Dad asked, “So does Dorito have a girlfriend now? Sorry, I mean Derek. Does Derek have a girlfriend?”

I think I like the name Dorito better. I’m going to try to get it to stick. And yes, Dorito does have a girlfriend. She finds him crunchy and flavorful.

You can put embarrassing health products in Mike Todd’s shopping cart online at


  1. when I visited my "soon to be husband" when he was in the Navy in Va. He had an apartment with 4 roommates. When I walked in there was a beer can tower the size of the great pyramids. It took up their entire dining room. And their poor dog was constantly drunk, because instead of water they gave him beer. Not a stick of food in the place, but beer for the masses.

    You men are something else.

  2. Isn't this column appropriate?! We finally had a chance to meet Dorito's girfriend recently... I remember the bike lock on the cabinet. What a great memory.

  3. "Honorary Sherpas" -- I love it! Your parents and mine both... well, actually just my dad. My mom was the one sitting with her shih tzu on the bed, smoking and talking with all of my friends while my dad & I lugged cinder blocks and other pointless collegiate commodities up flights & flights of stairs. I think she was more popular than I was. ;)

  4. Burf -- can I call you Burf? -- that is a freaking great idea, and now I'm sad we never thought of it. We did have a leaning tower of pizza boxes, though. Boy, I sure saved a lot of effort by not typing out the "ica" in your name. I think I'll carve a dugout canoe with all my spare time.

    Jered Earl -- You probably polished off Derek's bag, mofo. Wait, that didn't come out right.

    Queen -- Your mom sounds dope. How come everybody had cinder blocks? What the hell did we do with them? Probably used 'em to keep the yaffa blocks from blowing away.

  5. I met my husband freshman year in college. He had a small refrigerator, which he generously offered as storage for any care packages from my mom. She quickly figured out to send decoys. And after twenty years, the bastard STILL eats my Doritos! Yes, I feel for your roommate. I know what it's like to find them gone when you need them most.

  6. This story of Dorito sounds very similar to one I'd like to share from my freshman year, living just a few doors down from you in the chapter house. Do you remember my problem with canned fruit and vegitables? My roommates found it funny to switch the lables on my canned food while I was away in class. I'd come home, ready to enjoy some raspberry flavored peaches, only to open the can and find stringbeans. I got clever and started engraving symbols in the cans, such as P for peaches. They got smart too and scratched these markings out and removed the lables completely. At this point I joined the house meal-plan, after realizing that my efforts were fruitless, (pun intended).

  7. sRima -- If you go the bike lock route, be sure to hide his screwdrivers first.

    Child -- That's a freakin' funny story. What is it that makes Chiodos so dang tormentable?