Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mo’ money, dorm problems.

There was a brief, misguided time in my life wherein I wondered if living in my parents’ house during my undergraduate years deprived me of some greater college experience. I lived in my childhood room, didn’t pay rent, was provided with extremely good food, and got to hang out with my family all the time – and yet I pondered if I was missing out on what surely was the joy of the dorm lifestyle. Surrounded by friends, walking to classes two minutes before they start, drinking every night and eating in the dining hall – it sounded like a collegial Valhalla. And so, while I very much enjoyed staying at home and commuting to campus, I was always curious about that absent chapter in my development. 

The summer after I graduated, though, I travelled to Atlanta for five weeks of job training housed on the Georgia Tech campus. There, I received my first real glimpse of that college life. I swore, after more than a month of dining hall food and lofted twin beds, that I would never, ever return. 

This summer, I’m working at that same job training program at Georgia Tech. While things are admittedly easier, better paid and less stressful as a staff member than they had been as a trainee, living in a dorm just straight sucks

At home, I sleep in a queen-sized water bed. I know that’s ridiculous. You hush. The point is, I’m used to being able to spread out and thrash around as I sleep, hugging my cats and unconsciously acting out my heroic dream-battles by slaying armies of vicious REM-dragons. 

Here, though, I sleep on a twin mattress that is, inexplicably, comprised of egg crates and tissue paper, coated together in a slick, heat-absorbing plastic. It smells like sorrow. For some reason, the bed is also suspended at least four and a half feet from the floor. I’m not sure why that is. That’s a really useless height: too tall to be easy to get into, and too short for anything stored underneath it to be easily accessible. It’s like a horrible engineering mishap, designed specifically to make me fear rolling over in my sleep, just in case I wake up concussed and bleeding on the floor miles below. 

Once I spread a sleeping bag over the mattress to keep myself from sliding around on the plastic and built a retaining wall of pillows on the outside edge to ensure that I survive till morning, though, the bed’s not so bad. 

The suite common area I share with my three roomies looks like a haven of comfort and camaraderie, but it’s all a lie. The plush couches, so inviting, reveal themselves as particle-board monstrosities more beholden to medieval torture devices than lounging furniture. Nothing that looks so pleasant has any right to be so uncomfortable. I don’t know why I’m so offended by this. I guess I didn’t believe until now that furniture could lie to me. 

The lights, though, are the cherry on top of this spartan dorm cake. The uniform fluorescents themselves aren’t the problem – they just make me feel like a fake plant in some anonymous cubicle farm – but they don’t turn on all at once. Since I’m pulling 16-hour days, I don’t get in until pretty late, and when I flip on the bathroom light to start the shower, the lights flicker starkly on and off about 37 times before they settle into luminescence. Because I’m actually five years old, I always panic that there’s a serial killer or perhaps a hardened escaped convict waiting for me there, moving closer in each flash of darkness, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. It’s like being in a horror movie. 

We share meals in the campus dining hall, which is actually not bad, as campus dining halls go. The coffee is decent, and there’s a soft serve machine, which helps sooth my inner child of its serial-killer fears. 

There are a couple of distinct advantages of dorm life, though, too. One is central air. In the New Orleans summer, my bedroom is kept cool by a combination of a 40-year-old window unit held in place with duct tape and hope, and a ceiling fan so tired and squeaky I try not to stand directly under it anymore, so I don’t end up all Final Destinationed. So being able to regulate the temperature in my room just by spinning a magic little wheel is pretty great. 

The last prime advantage of living in the dorms this summer is the bubble baths. I am an absolute fiend for bubble baths. I can’t enjoy them in my apartment in New Orleans for two reasons: first, the tub seals are approximately a century old, so the tub doesn’t actually hold more than about three inches of water; and second, because, for some reason, no matter how hot it is outside, the walls of the tub are always absolutely frigid. It doesn’t matter how hot those three inches of water are, that tub will turn them to ice water in moments. I think this is one of the great mysteries of our time. Perhaps my tub is the key to attaining absolute zero. 

The bathrooms at Tech, though, are essentially hotel in nature, if you had to supply your own TP at a Best Western. Which maybe you do. But each and every night for the last month, I’ve been waiting eagerly for my roommates to finish their showers, and then I’ve been sneaking in like a bubble-bath ninja, playing a movie on my laptop or reading a book and sometimes crafting myself elaborate bubble facial hair. 

1 comment:

  1. When the lights are flickering it's the Weeping Angels.