The other day, with a spoonful of vegetable soup in transit to mouth, I overheard someone say “What did I take for granted before coming to college? Wow, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
I considered flinging the contents of my spoon in his direction but ultimately didn’t, which perhaps is a more laudable decision if you think about it in terms of how I am constantly faced with the choice of whether to flick or not to flick glorified red oil into other people’s faces yet consistently restrain myself from my baser urges, although I’m unsure how much of my “restraint” has to do with the limited availability of dining hall vegetable soup.
Because really? He didn’t even know where to begin? What a missed opportunity. If someone had thought to ask me for my opinion—understandably a rare occasion—I would’ve known exactly where to start: sinks. My college experience basically began with sinks, or the lack thereof.
My residence hall is connected to two other halls, so when I applied for housing in January of last year, I had to select the option with all three and was randomly assigned to where I live now. The three dorms are generally the same in that we’re all paying fortunes for small, drafty rooms and no residential dining of our own, but each hall has its defining characteristic. The hall across from mine has the shared front desk. The hall adjacent has the mailboxes. The hall I live in has, you guessed it, no sinks.
No sinks in each room, I mean. Our hall technically does have sinks; they’re just down the hall in the communal bathroom.
People try to spin “we forgot you needed personal sinks” into “this makes your hall more social.” I’m all for owning a mistake by pretending you meant it all along, but I wonder if we’re not taking it a bit too far here.
The logic is that by not having the convenience of sinks in our rooms like in other halls, when we need to wash dishes or brush our teeth or eliminate circumstantial evidence, we’re forced to leave our rooms and mingle with fellow residents. To that I say, is it not hard enough to strike up friendly conversation with strangers without having to sputter through the toothpaste froth dribbling down your chin? Without having to overcompensate in civility for looking like you’ve been freshly bitten by a rabid dog? Must we be exposed to more time in the communal bathrooms than the bare minimum?
Not wanting to spend more time there than necessary doesn’t mean I hate communal baths. I mean, I like not having to regularly clean bathrooms. I’m fine with cramped shower stalls. I don’t mind having to wait for available sinks; that only happens occasionally, although it does get awkward pacing around in there.
I do, however, feel personally victimized by the Serial No-Flusher on our floor.
There are four stalls in the communal bath for about thirty people. Every time I enter, on average, at least two of the four are not flushed (and the definition of “not flushed” carries a wide range of meaning). It’s actually become a sort of game for me. I push in the door of the first stall and wait, holding my breath for anticipation and… other reasons, as it swings open to reveal whether I’ve struck gold.
I used to go in order, starting from the farthest door, thinking that it was less likely the Serial No-Flusher would’ve struck there. But I soon realized I was dealing with a loose cannon; there was simply no pattern to her attacks, at least one that I could discern. So now, sometimes, I get adventurous and try the middle doors first.
I’d understand if these were accidental incidents, but it’s been a semester and neither the frequency nor intensity of her strikes have shown any indication of abating. After I realized I’d even developed the mindset of “every day I open a stall to find a flushed toilet is a good day,” I understood that it was time for me to act.
Operation Flush Her Out (FHO, almost like the noodles)
Phase 1 Strategy: If someone emerges from the stall as I enter the bathroom, enter that stall to investigate.
I didn’t go too far out of my way to catch the culprit because I figured I would happen across the SNF soon enough, but I hadn’t expected to find someone the first time I entered the bathroom after concocting Phase 1.
I now had the face and name of one of the nicest, friendliest girls in our hall. The motivation to continue this witch hunt, I found, came a lot easier when I’d imagined the culprit as some shifty-looking curmudgeon (a description that, incidentally, doesn’t fit any of our hallmates because I’m delusional). I resolved to not accuse anyone of anything until I could ascertain that this was not an isolated incident.
Phase 2 Strategy: Basically the same thing as 1 but just checking to see if SNF Suspect would be a repeat offender. As you can tell, I’m not very complex with my strategies.
The second time I encountered Suspect SNF in the bathroom was a couple days later, and as I was walking toward her recently vacated stall, I came to the realization that I hadn’t really thought this thing through beyond identifying the SNF. I mean, even after I ascertained who it was, what would I say to her?
- “I’ve been monitoring your flushing habits and I find them unacceptable.”
- “For the love of everything that’s holy, PLEASE flush the toilet.”
- “So it was YOU ALL ALONG!”
While I was having this epiphanic episode, someone pushed past me into Suspect SNF’s stall and closed the door. A toilet flushed, but I couldn’t tell from which stall, because all were occupied. There was a long moment of silence during which no one emerged.
Finally, a different girl from our floor left the first stall, and I entered. To my utmost horror, I saw before me a woefully unflushed toilet.
It wasn’t the Serial No-Flusher. It was the Serial No-Flushers.
I left the stall and, for good measure, washed my hands in the sinks upon which I’m placing all the blame.
… My heart still sinks at the thought.
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