Glenda and I roomed together fall semester of my sophomore year, despite skepticism from those who thought us a mismatch, she being so studious and quiet and I being so - well, not. But Glenda's sage-senior demeanor moderated my rowdiness somewhat, and I brought out a wonderfully silly side of her that most people missed. Besides, we shared both a philosophical bent and a love of language.
On the practical side, neither of us had much stuff, and what stuff we had was confined to our own areas. Nor did we borrow from each other or help ourselves to the other's cache of peanut butter or deviled ham.
We even managed to harmonize our nearly opposite schedules. Glenda rose early for 8 a.m. classes and stopped en route at the cafeteria for breakfast. I, on the other hand, had two night classes and none before 10 a.m.
Each evening, Glenda wound her alarm clock, set it for some predawn hour, and usually woke up before it went off. Then she'd thoughtfully reset it to get me up in time for my first class.
Glenda kept the clock across the room from the beds, where it would go off like a fire alarm - clanging for a few seconds, pausing briefly, then clanging again. This cycle could continue until the winder ran down.
But not if I could help it! I frequently woke up in mid air, as I bounded from bed to clock in a desperate attempt to shut that thing off.
At the other end of the day, I either studied quietly at my desk (while Glenda slept beyond the glare of my lamp) or hung out in some other part of the dorm.
During those hours when we were both awake and in our room, Glenda and I respected each other's need for study time, and we had interesting discussions on a wide range of topics.
It was, without question, the best roommate arrangement I ever had.
And therein lay our only problem.
Toward the end of the semester, I decided to live off campus during the next term to save money. I dreaded telling Glenda.
Meanwhile, Glenda dreaded telling me that she had landed a counselor job and would have to move to a different floor of the dorm.
We finally broached the subject almost simultaneously. Typically, the conversation went harmoniously - so much so that Glenda said something like, "This just isn't right. We should have a big argument."
She suggested that, since our friends were convinced that our rooming together was a mistake, we should let them think they were right. We could stage a shouting match. One of us would finally yell, "I'm moving out!" Then the other would scream, "I'm moving out first!"
We amused ourselves with this scenario for a few minutes before we bumped into the central problem: What would we fight about?
For the rest of that evening, we pondered and came up empty.
As I started to brush my teeth that night, I noticed that Glenda had squeezed her toothpaste tube in the middle. In those days toothpaste came in metal tubes that, if not handled carefully, bent and cracked and oozed toothpaste through little breaks. (Ask your grandmother.) What Glenda did with her dental accouterments didn't matter to me, but I was desperate for fight fodder.
"Glenda!" I scolded. "You squeeze your toothpaste in the middle!"
She put her book aside and grabbed a notepad. "I'll write that down!" she said. "We can start a list!"
Over the next few days we generated only a handful of items, all similarly flimsy. If either of us did anything remotely quirky, the other would say, "Write that down!" And we'd add it to that pitiful little list.
Then one evening, in the company of about a dozen other dorm denizens, I made some innocuous slip of the tongue. Glenda reflexively said, "Write that down!"
"Chalk that up!" said someone else. Glenda and I exchanged a quick look of amusement and said nothing. A few minutes later, someone else misspoke and another girl quipped, "Write that down!"
Over the next few days people in the dorm parroted "Write that down!" in a variety of circumstances - with no clue as to what it meant to us.
Inadvertently, Glenda and I had contributed, howbeit briefly and locally, to the vernacular. For a couple of logophiles such as we, this achievement wrought far more gratification than any feigned public altercation ever could have. It ended our semester on a high note, indeed.
The big fight? We never got around to having it. We couldn't come up with enough material.