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The Room Divider Screen I paid $100 for from a Homeless Man
The Story of How a Room Divider Screen Created Intimacy
Back in 1997 I entered my freshman year in college. I was so eager to get far away from home and meet new girls. I went to a large private university in the heart of Boston, MA where I shared a small dorm room with a Russian international student. There was so much excitement in the air as I recall when all the new freshman were moving into the dorms a few days before classes started. I was so overwhelmed by being surrounded by so many beautiful girls my age. Literally thousands of beautiful college girls walking about the quad with daisy duke shorts and low cut tank tops. Growing up as a young boy in the late 80's and 90's my older brother had exposed me to all those college movies like "Revenge of the Nerds", "Animal House", and many more.
At that time, I was no Don Juan, and had very little experience with women. I made an oath to myself that things would be different in college and I would get more women to bed than James Bond. I can remember being in a trance like state as I would sit with my roommate who was a computer science major...(aka nerd), at the table in the dining hall drooling over the beautiful women at the salad bar. My roommate would be so overly critical and point out each flaw, while I was blind to that.
It was a week into classes and the weekend was approaching and I couldn't wait to go to my first college party. I was starting to build up a little more confidence with women as I started to become friendly with the girl that sat next to me in my Spanish class. She happened to be a commuter and didn't live in the dorms but rather with her parents in a suburb of Boston. She was this beautiful Greek American girl with long black hair and an ethnic nose that would put all us white bread Americans to shame. She was sexy and very impressed with my high level of fluency in Spanish and my ability to read Greek(I bought a Greek Berlitz Book) and say a couple phrases with a good accent. She asked me if I was going to this big party at a fraternity house and wanted to know if she could crash in my dorm because it would be too late to drive back home at night. Of course I said yes and then I thought to myself, what about my roommate? How am I going to do this?
I called her later that day to give her a heads up that I have a roommate with whom I share the room with. Timing was perfect because my roommate just had his wisdom teeth pulled that day and he was so hopped up on pain killers he thought that Stalin was still alive. My roommate was passed out cold and he was always a deep sleeper and he would be up till the next morning. I thought to myself that I still could make out with her because he would be passed out. I decided to call this girl first and warn her about my roommate situation. She didn't sound that surprised and then she asked if I have a room divider for privacy because she would only stay over if my roommate couldn't see us. I lied to her and said that I did indeed have a room divider when I had no idea of where to go about getting one.
I went to a furniture store down the street from me which seemed pretty high end and asked if they carry room dividers. To the salesman's surprise he showed me a beautiful folding screen. I flipped the price tag over and to my shock it was $695!
That was it, there was no other place to go and it was almost 8PM on a Friday and I had planned to meet this girl at 10pm to go to the party together. I thought to myself that this was ridiculous. I shouldn't have to waste money on a stupid room divider for privacy, there has to be some alternative solution. I was in a panic, it was now passed 8:00 and I had not yet showered and cleaned up my pig sty of a dorm room. I still had no room divider and if I didn't find one, my whole plan with this girl would fail. Suddenly I had an idea to use cardboard. I went to a back alley and I had spotted some empty plasma screen boxes that I could fold into panels so it would stand up straight on the floor and provide enough privacy. I was so excited and proud of myself of how resourceful I was. I lifted up my prized box leaning on the dumpster only to discover that it was completely covered in dog feces on the other side along with a dead rat next to it. I felt as if somebody had found out about my room divider dilemma and soiled the cardboard box on purpose.
I was about to give up and call it quits. I would just have to tell her that there would be no privacy solution. Just before I was about to throw in the towel, I spot something that looked like a Japanese shoji screen in the corner of my eye. To my disbelief it actually was a four panel room divider standing a few feet from the brick wall of an apartment building in the back alley.
I ran over to snatch my prized screen. With a big smile on my face I grabbed the room divider and then immediately dropped it when I saw a homeless man standing behind it bathing half naked with a bucket of water. He had a startled look on his face as he yelled, "that's my screen!!" I picked the screen back up and apologized and explained to him my situation. He seemed very understanding and then told me he would sell it to me. It was one of those rice paper screen room dividers with the grid pattern. It was filthy, but who would no when the lights are dimmed. I made him an offer of $20 and then he tells me that I could do a lot better than that. He then reminded me that all the stores were closed and that I would have to go home alone to my "hand" instead. I ask ask him how much he wants and he says with a big toothless smile, "$100". I'm thinking this guy must be out of his mind, the screen doesn't retail for more than $80 and its filthy. I up my offer 3 times but he still doesn't budge below $100.
Well, what do you think happened. I caved in and went to the ATM to make a withdrawal. This hundred dollars was a whole months worth of beer money just for a filthy used room divider that I bought from a homeless man in a back alley in Boston. To make a long story short, I receive a call from the girl that she couldn't make it into the city to go to the party because she had a family emergency. It was too late and I was in the hole by a hundred dollars with a filthy and smelly room divider.
Nearly 15 years later, I think about that incident which inspired me to build a website dedicated to room dividers.