- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2011

The carpet was clean, the counters clear, the clutter confined to a closet. But the sink was full. So Jesse McLaughlin did what he always does: the dishes. By hand. Soap, scrub, rinse and repeat. With gusto, almost as if he was having - no, wait. Preposterous. Can’t be.

Was Mr. McLaughlin having fun?

“I actually really enjoy doing dishes,” said Mr. McLaughlin, 26, a security analyst at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “I don’t even use the dishwasher too much. There’s a satisfaction in seeing something go from a disaster to perfectly clean.”

Mr. McLaughlin looked toward the window of his third-floor Arlington apartment. “I love mowing lawns, too,” he said. “I would mow the lawn outside if building management would let me.”

He makes homemade ice cream. Takes out the trash. Vacuums the ceilings. He’s never short on rent, consistently quick with pizza money. A finalist for an ongoing national Roommate of the Year contest held by the real estate website Apartments.com, Mr. McLaughlin isn’t just to shared housing what Alexander Ovechkin is to hockey. He’s a precious, overlooked social commodity. An archetypal good roommate.

In fact, Mr. McLaughlin’s current roommate, Lisa Harbin, has only one complaint.

He doesn’t vacuum the ceilings enough.

“I vacuum them regularly,” said Ms. Harbin, 23, Mr. McLaughlin’s girlfriend and a personal assistant.

“Really?” Mr. McLaughlin said. “I only do them three to four times a year.”

“I vacuum when you’re not here,” Ms. Harbin said.

Roommate roulette

Who doesn’t need a good roommate? Someone to share laughs, bills and, yes, dust-busting duties? From the Pilgrims on the Mayflower to Joey and Chandler on “Friends,” ours is a cohabitation nation: freshman dorms, summer-intern housing, group houses, minor-league road trips. The young, entry-level masses, yearning to live in the big city.

Studies show that cheery housemates increase our own probability of feeling happy. That healthy diet and exercise habits rub off. That rooming with someone of another race reduces prejudice. As the economy continues to sputter, splitting rent even can make the difference between getting by and getting left behind.

Yet roommates never have been held in lower cultural repute.

Once upon a time, pop culture celebrated living together, even when it wasn’t perfect. Vive la difference! We had Felix and Oscar, the quintessential odd couple. Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari, dressing up as women. Jack and Janet and Chrissy.

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