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Why Having Roommates is Integral to Living in The City

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This originally appeared in my Broke-Ass City column for the SF Examiner

I first moved to San Francisco when I was 21 for an internship in the booking department at Bill Graham Presents. It was the summer of 2002, a simply magical time in my life, and the genesis of the nearly 15-year love affair I’ve had with The City.

At some point during the internship, I learned that one of the talent bookers lived with a roommate. This blew my mind. Given that he was much older than me, maybe 40, the fact that he lived with a roommate fascinated me. At the time I was sharing a converted living room in the Upper Haight with a friend, and both of us slept on air mattresses. There were two other roommates in the tiny apartment as well. Considering that I was still in college, living with a bunch of people seemed normal, but the idea of a grown-ass man having roommates seemed … well, odd.

Today I’m 35 years old and once again sleep in a converted living room. This time around I have a real bed and don’t share the room with anyone, but I still have three roommates. When I moved here in 2002 I had no idea how integral roommates were to the San Francisco experience. In fact, they are often the only thing that allows us to be able to afford this city.

Take a second and think back to all the different roommates you’ve had over the years. For anyone not used to the urban experiment that is city life, the idea of living with random people is strange. The funny part is that they don’t even know how strange those random people can be.

Over the years I’ve lived with an amazing cast of characters. There was the roommate who, after passing out drunk in the living room, would somnambulate back to his room in the middle of the night. When his bare feet hit the linoleum of the kitchen, his brain would think it was the bathroom. It took us a long time to figure out why there would be puddles of piss in the kitchen.

There was the motley crew of artists and freaks I lived with at 1907 Golden Gate. The ages ranged from 23 to 50 and included a lawyer, a personal valet and a social worker. The illustrious Miss P Segal held court late night around the kitchen table, smoking cigarettes and regaling me with stories of the early years of Burning Man and the Cacophony Society.

There was the girlfriend I lived in the Mission with for three-and-a-half years. We had an epic Cold War about the importance of form vs. function with regards to the throw pillows on the couch. When we broke up (don’t worry, it had nothing to do with throw pillows) I couldn’t move out for another two months because unfortunately, that also seems to be an integral part of the San Francisco experience as well.

There have been so many other roommates in my time in S.F. Luckily, I love my current ones. We all have our own things going on, but sometimes those things coincide, and we hang out. Nobody is too clean, nobody is too messy, and nobody pees on the kitchen floor. I don’t know if I’ll still be living with other people when I’m 40, but if so, it really won’t be that odd. I’ll just be glad that I can still be in this city, where having roommates makes you far less strange than living alone.

What’s your weirdest roommate story?

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.