It Happened to Me

Forgiving the Deadbeat Ex-Housemate’s Debt

The Ol’ Deadbeat Ex-Housemate

While doing a quick search for images, I stumbled across an Onion article that I’d read before but haven’t seen in a while: Housemates Reject Third-Roommate Debt Relief Plan

Screenshot of “Onion” article: Housemates Reject Third-Roommate Debt-Relief Plan
Click the image to read the Onion article Housemates Reject Third-Roommate Debt Relief Plan.

That story reminds me of my own third-roommate situation from a little while back. My deadbeat ex-housemate, who left in December 2001, still owes me a few thousand dollars for rent, utilities, a laptop he borrowed and never returned and the largest domestic phone bill I’ve ever seen. He went home for Christmas in 2001 and couldn’t even afford to come back after the holidays, and I haven’t seen him since.

He often failed to help out with housework and liked to belittle my programming skills (much of my career was writing custom desktop applications in Visual Basic — the Rodney Dangerfield of programming langauges — and web applications in PHP and Python; he was a big-shot security consultant whose preferred programming tool was Lisp, considered by many pure computer scientists to be the Holy Grail), so I took delight in returning fire by ribbing him about his debt and my employability in relation to his (he lists himself as an “independent security consultant”, which to me read as “unemployed security consultant”.

Almost Got Him

I almost ran into him at a conference in Portland in May. I was flipping through the conference schedule, and saw his name on the speakers list — he was giving a presentation! I made sure I arrived twenty minutes early for his presentation and sat down in a front row seat, right in front of the podium. I convinced some friends who were at the conference — Luke was one of them — to attend, just so that I’d have witnesses watch him squirm. I wasn’t going to ask him “Hey man, where’s my money?” during the Q&A session of his presentation because I really didn’t want to hijack the conference for my own jollies, but he didn’t know that.

The presentation time came and went. Five minutes passed and the podium was still empty. The room was getting a bit restless, and I sat on the edge of my seat, thinking Come on…come on…come and face me, you little deadbeat…

Ten minutes after the scheduled start of the presentation, he still hadn’t shown up. One of the sound techies got on his walkie-talkie to see if he was still in the conference green room. Shortly afterwards, he want to the podium and announced that my ex-housemate was a no-show.

“Argh!” I remember yelling. “Once a flake, always a flake!” Flaking out on a debt is one thing, flaking out on a speaking engagement at an O’Reilly conference is a serious career-limiting move in the tech world.

A few days later, one of the conference organizers explained on his blog that my ex-housemate wasn’t a no-show; it’s that no one informed him that he was speaking at the conference. The explanation sounds a little convenient for my tastes, but I know and trust the conference organizer, so I choose to accept the official explanation of what happened.

My Big Decision

Maybe it’s the whole “turning 40” thing and all the associated “cleaning house” I’ve been doing lately, but I’ve come to a decision about what to do about the Deadbeat Ex-Housemate: I’ve decided to forgive his debt.

And after this one joke, I shall stop ribbing him about him owing me money:

Q:What’s the difference between my ex-housemate Dan and a large pizza?

A:A large pizza can feed a family of four.

His owing me money was bad in the short term, especially since it happened around the time I got laid off from the dot-com for which I worked, but in the long run, the impact it’s had was minimal. I have better ways to spend my mental energy than being annoyed at the guy as well, especially with some upcoming changes that I’ll talk about very soon. I suspect that he would also benefit from not having the albatross around his neck, as I’ll bet that there are a number of other people to whom we owes money. After six years, I’m ready to write off the loss, and letting him go seems like a contribution to the Net Good.

You are forgiven, Deadbeat Ex-Housemate. Go forth and get thyself a steady gig now.

Picture of 6 $1000 bills and “It’s not as if I was going to see this money, anyway”.

One Last Thing…

The wife is always horrified whenever they show the Family Guy episode with the “Where’s My Money, Man?” scene, but I have always found it hilarious and strangely cathartic. Here it is for your viewing enjoyment — be advised that the violence, although cartoonish, is still pretty graphic:

Update: Looks as though the copyright holders yanked the clip off YouTube. Ah well. You can view it here until Fox yanks it from that site.

Don’t bother playing the video; it got yanked by the copyright holders.

6 replies on “Forgiving the Deadbeat Ex-Housemate’s Debt”

Joey, this issue has been fun to read about for the past few years. I have been amused and impressed with how you have dealt with it, and this decision is no exception. You are clearly the man.
(the Family guy video is down, by the way)

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