The difficulties with roommates were most evident to me when I went through the exercise, a couple of years ago, of answering “roommate wanted” ads. I sat down at the phone with a mountain of ads, and I set up appointments to look at apartments and meet their occupants. I didn’t expect it to take me very long to find an apartment. I’m personable enough, I (usually) do my share of the dishes, and I don’t leave my socks in the middle of the living room. What more could one ask for?

I visited roughly a dozen apartments in the first week, and the same scene was repeated at almost all of them. My prospective roommates and I would exchange info on our likes and dislikes and our habits, and everything would seem to go well. Just as we were about to make a pact, I would  (in an honorable and forthright manner) tell them that I was a musician, and stammer something to the effect that I would have to practice. The glow would leave their eyes, the smiles leave their faces, and I would be dismissed with some variant of “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Eventually one forbearing soul (who also happened to be desperate for someone to share his apartment, because he was running short of cash) allowed me to move in. There another problem arose. If I was to do any playing, I would have to keep the piano in my bedroom. The bedroom, while adequate for the bed, desk and dresser, didn’t seem large enough for the piano. An afternoon of careful thought provided me with a solution, though not a completely satisfactory one. I put one chair in the center of the room. I used it for sitting at my desk. If I turned it in the opposite way, I found myself sitting at the piano. The chair occupied the only bit of open space in the room. In order to get from my bed to the closet, I had to climb over the chair or put it in the hallway outside my room. The piano was flush against the foot of the bed, near the door to the room, so I had to jump across the bottom corner of the bed to get in and out of the room. As I said, not entirely satisfactory, but it worked. I also began to develop the techniques of an Olympic hurdler.

Another problem I’ve had to face is the transportation of equipment to and from the places I’m playing. About a year ago I lived in a third-floor walkup. Lugging 250 pounds of equipment up and down those stairs was no joy. How many times did I ask myself as, halfway up the stairs, I lay collapsed under the weight of my piano; why couldn’t I have learned how to play the flute?

Of course, the first floor isn’t ideal, either. There are simply too many points of access. And the convenient thing about musicians (convenient for thieves, that is) is that they advertise their equipment. Every time they carry it between the apartment and the car, and every time the sound of their instruments can be heard outside the window, some rascal may be tempted. Musical equipment is valuable and easy to unload. And where there’s a musician, there’s likely to be a pretty good stereo system. Put all together, it makes for a nice haul.

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