My professor is decidedly against using research in our papers (as he doesn't want to grade MLA citations until he has to, as far as I can tell), so picking a topic meant that I needed to stay in the realm of the day-to-day. Bad roommates are, I think, a universal constant, but I decided that my experiences were only the tip of the iceberg. I turned to reddit for additional insight, and got some really interesting stories, though ultimately I decided to keep it mellow.
Reaching adulthood and striking out on your own can be at once intimidating and exhilarating. Leaving the nest -- so to speak -- is an important coming-of-age ritual and a vital part of the development process; this is especially true in a society, such as ours, that so highly values individual capability and independence. Making your own way in the world at such a young age can be difficult, though, and it can be hard to gain any footing on your own. It is precisely this reason that many -- indeed, most -- of us seek a companion to help us as we take our first steps away from home. Be it a friend, a lover, or a total stranger, we seek a roommate for the stability we need to succeed on our own. A roommate can, however, be as much a curse as a blessing; a good roommate will ease your financial burdens and provide quality company and support, while a bad roommate is fully capable of the opposite: destroying you financially, eroding your confidence in humanity, and causing immeasurable grief and anxiety. With so much at stake, it is imperative to know how to successfully detect a troublesome roommate before the situation escalates beyond control.
While you should never judge a book by its cover, first impressions are crucial to filtering out the good from the bad. Every single day we rely on our first impressions to help us make critical decisions about many aspects of life. Our subconscious is adept at recognizing a huge number of factors that help us form a preliminary judgment which, while sometimes inaccurate and rarely complete, should not be ignored. When meeting a potential roommate for the first time, it is important to be aware of our first impressions and to take them into account when evaluating whether the person will be a good fit. Both parties should treat the meeting as a job interview: pay close attention to the entire presentation, taking stock of his or her attire, manner of speech, and any issues that the person presents as a priority. Beware of anything about your prospective roommates that could pose a potential problem, such as their reasons for looking for new lodging, their attitudes towards partying, their employment status, and even the specific jobs they work. It may seem cruel to simply follow our instinct in passing judgment -- and it can be difficult to say no to someone in need who is in a similar situation -- but being aware of these initial red flags can allow you to prevent a bad situation from ever occurring.
Unfortunately, much of the time we do not have the luxury of knowing a bad roommate before we are in a living situation with them. For this reason, we must know how to recognize a problem as it manifests, before it gets out of hand. Cleanliness, for example, is an important factor. An unclean living space can play host to an entirely new set of problems, from negative social implications to potential health and safety hazards to pest control problems and even, in extreme cases, structural damage and degradation. Mountains of dirty dishes, scattered collections of long-forgotten food, significant clutter in common areas, trash buildup, and mold buildup are all signs of a bad roommate. While any one or two of these problems can, with some patience, be worked through, combinations of these symptoms will often mean that a roommate is incorrigible. The insidious buildup of filth can be easy to miss until it's too late, so on this more than anything we must remain vigilant.
Pets, too, can be cause for concern, and require a certain amount of attention. Many animals can be just as troublesome as a bad roommate, or worse, as they cannot be held responsible or be reasoned with for their actions. Recognizing a problem animal before it becomes a problem can be difficult, however, and in many cases the safest course of action is to avoid roommates with pets or, at the very least, to filter the kind of pet that you will allow. Smaller animals, for instance, are easier to maintain control of and clean up after. Some animals will help you determine the quality of a potential roommate's character: any well-trained animal, such as an obedient dog, will generally indicate that the owner is a capable one; other animals, like fish, require a fair amount of responsibility to maintain, and are likely to belong to a relatively low risk roommate (do not hesitate to ask, however, how long the fish have been alive in the owner's care, as they are not difficult to replace). Other animals can be a liability and should be avoided at all costs, regardless of the apparent capability of the owner. The great poet Lord Byron kept a tame bear in his dorms at Cambridge, though one would likely be wary of actually living alongside someone so "mad, bad, and dangerous to know."
It is said that you will never truly know a person until you have lived with them. And while we are more likely to overlook the transgressions of our friends or loved ones, the desire to preserve our relationships means that it is all the more important that these people are not exempt from scrutiny. Everybody has a number of annoying little habits that can, with some patience, be overlooked or worked through, but even some of the most assertive people can allow their tolerance to get the best of them. Early detection is key, as what may begin as a bit of unnecessary clutter, left unchecked, can progress to a nightmarish collection of filth. Knowing how to recognize the difference between an annoyance and a truly bad roommate is the key to taking control of a situation or, when possible, avoiding a problem altogether.