Soundtrack in my head: The Charlatans UK, “Chewing Gum Weekend”
I’ve had the pleasure of serving as my co-op house’s membership coordinator for the last two years. This means that I have been in charge of responding to inquiries about joining my co-op house. Over the last two years, I’ve responded to probably 400 emails, 200 phone calls, given house tours to about 100 people, led about fifty of them through the interview process, resulting in almost 20 new co-op members who signed contracts with us and moved in. Being close to the university campus, our schedule is, for better or worse, tied to the student schedule, resulting in the move-out/move-in chaos I described a few weeks ago.
We’ve had fairly high turnover in recent years-nine new people last year and six new people this year. Last year, the changeover came fairly gradually. We had two new people move in last summer who stayed through the follow year, and then in the period between August 15th and September 1st, people came in gradually-some right around the 15th, others toward the end of the month. It was sort of like MTV’s “The Real World,” where new characters would be introduced one by one–a little video bio for each of them would be followed by a shot of them walking down they hallway, talking about how nervous they are just seconds before they meet the group for the first time.
(I should note that last year, my co-op and several others in Madison were contacted last year by someone from a TV network who thought that our homes would make great settings for a reality show. As far as I know, none of us responded.)
This year was different. New co-op members began to move their stuff into their rooms as early as August 15th, but of the six new people, only one of them settled in right away. Everyone else either took their own sweet time moving in or didn’t come into town until the end of the month.
Even though I was the house membership coordinator, I didn’t meet two of the new co-op members until last weekend. I discovered one of them as I was coming home from work a week ago Friday–I noticed a guy with glasses and a piece of paper walking up to different houses on my block, looking at them, looking at the piece of paper, squinting to read the addresses, and then moving on to the next house. I wondered if he was the new guy who left a message on my cell phone telling me he was coming that day, and as it turned out he was. The next day, I walked into my house in the mid-afternon, and as I walked through the doorway, I heard someone walking up the front stairway, stop and turn around. From the bottom of the stairwell emerged a tall woman with long red hair who greeted me and introduced herself.
As a result, the house dinner and house meeting of Sunday, August 26th was one of the most interesting ones I’d ever attended, as I found myself and another housemate from last year sitting down to dinner with five people who were completely new to the co-op and each other. Most of the people at dinner had not yet met each other. And one hour later, other housemates joined us for our first house meeting, which went remarkably smoothly considering that most of us hadn’t worked together before.
I like the new co-op members who have moved into the house. All of them have interesting stories. I liked the group of housemates we had last year, too, but life happens. Of the six who ended up leaving, two took jobs out of state, one will be going to school in England, one got married, and two graduate students decided they needed to focus more on their studies. There’s reason to believe that some of our new people will stay a bit longer, and I hope that’s the case.