My sister told me a story before I went to college of when she lived at the University of South Florida. She told me about her first-year roommate that kept pet rats and liked to smoke cigarettes in her dorm room. My brother’s roommate at the University of Florida sold drugs and had people coming in and out of their dorm at all hours, day and night. So when Florida Gulf Coast University sent me my acceptance letter and roommate information, I let the letter sit on the kitchen counter for a week before I opened it.
When I finally overcame my fear and opened the letter, the university provided my roommate’s name and email address, along with advice to get in contact with him.
My heart dropped when I read the email address of my new freshman year roommate: Mastadonfirstname.lastname@example.org.
I could not understand why this guy would list his email as Mastadonemail@example.com on a university form. Why wouldn’t he have made a new email address using his name and some numbers @gmail.com like everyone else? After days of wondering, I came to the conclusion that he wanted this email to represent something about him to his potential roommate.
I knew that a mastodon was a type of mammoth, but I couldn’t imagine anyone ever naming their email address after a prehistoric mammal. A quick Google search showed that a hardcore metal band was also named Mastodon. My heart rate quickened. If he listened to hardcore metal, he also probably had gages and multiple face piercings—a hardcore straight edge vegan who only talked about picket protesting McDonald’s and the greatest hits of Mastodon. It sounded like an absolute nightmare.
Before I got too carried away, I emailed Mastodon to tell him about myself as well as give him my phone number. I waited three days with no reply. Then I turned into a private investigator. I scoured the Internet to find out anything I could about my roommate. I looked on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even Snapchat. But I couldn’t find anything.
As the weeks turned into a month, I grew obsessed with deciphering the Mastodon Mystery before I had to live with this guy. I asked everyone in my family what they thought and I kept getting the same reply: “Quit talking about this email address. Everything will be okay once you meet this guy.” I almost believed them—until I hung out with my friend Alyssa.
We were sitting outside of Starbucks at one of their patio tables. I told her everything I knew about my new roommate and she told me that he was probably into BDSM. “Most times, people that are into that kind of stuff are in chatrooms where your email is your username. He’s probably some tech kid who has a taste for leather gimp suits and chains.” Even though Alyssa and I hung out for the rest of the day, all I could think about was walking into my dorm room one night after class and seeing my roommate on all fours wearing a dog collar.
When the day came that I left for college with all of my belongings, I could hardly bring myself to pack, let alone walk out the front door. I knew that in the next few hours, I would stand face-to-face with this mysterious man. We still had yet to communicate and I wasted my entire summer thinking about this guy. As I put the key into my new dorm room, my roommate opened the door. He wore gray gym shorts and a white t-shirt.
“Mastodon?” I said.
“I prefer Ryan, but yes, that’s me,” he said as he stuck his hand out to shake mine.
We shook hands. After he moved all of his stuff into the dorm, he helped me move mine in.
Looking back on my freshman year, I definitely overreacted to my roommate situation. Ryan’s simple infatuation with a band turned me into a crazed, paranoid detective. Even though we never became friends, we never fought or had an unpleasant time. During our year together, we learned how to respect each other’s schedules, interests and space. Thankfully, I never saw any bondage materials and I even saw him eat McDonald’s once. Since then I’ve had four different sets of roommates. While their email addresses weren’t weird, they all had their quirks. Each roomie has helped me to overcome my fear of roommates and ultimately, learn more about myself.
*Email changed to protect identity.