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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Dorms provide shelter from cold

Published: January 24, 2014
Section: Opinions

It’s a new year and a new semester for those of us returning to college at Brandeis. The weather is growing harsher, it’s snowing a bit more, the people in general seem to have developed some degree of resistance to getting sick here and everybody is steadily acclimating themselves to sleeping at ridiculous hours. As we progress toward the coldest month of the year here on the east coast (typically February), there’s a good chance that people may find themselves wallowing in their dorms more than they had during the comparatively warmer parts of the year. Whether it’s due to convenience, sickness or comfort, it is time for them to decide or discover.

And it’s for this reason that I’ve come to recall a few particularly confusing aspects surrounding the residence halls. For example, I certainly didn’t expect my dustpan to become arguably one of the most essential tools at my disposal when I first started school here. The sheer volume of dust that’s generated seemingly materializes out of nowhere in loose puffs of gray absurdity that one has to subsequently gather up and throw away. It’s a contender against the idea of shoveling snow in terms of silliness. But seriously, to whom it may concern: You need a dustpan or vacuum cleaner.

But there are quite a few dorms out there that have a few more problems than just flakes of dust. I have heard talk of how disorganized and tragic a college student’s living space might become as soon as they are allowed that bit of semi-autonomy that comes with attending university—but goodness, is it stunning at times. I’ve seen old French fries, piles of unwashed clothes, a detached window frame and veritable mounds of assorted papers piled high into little hills of fibrous rebellion. It doesn’t help that occasionally there’ll be this strangely common, sickly sweet scent reminiscent of an unholy mixture of cheap perfume, deodorant, and vomit occasionally lingering about. Seriously, throw those French fries away or at least keep a cover on the tray.

But speaking about scent, another thing I’ve noticed living here is how amazingly efficient halls are in disseminating the odor of certain foods whenever someone uses the kitchen. Macaroni and cheese, one of my greatest enemies, is seemingly most potent among these obscene smells, with the ability to render the entire length of a corridor rank with a smothering miasma of warm dairy. In fact, even when nobody is using the kitchen at all, there’s still a suspicious odor wafting about, maybe from reckless usage of the appliances or unwashed plastic. Whatever it was, it was probably the reason why the kitchen on my floor closed down.

At this moment, I realize the majority of this article has basically been ragging on how filthy my peers and I, mighty champions of scholarship, are. This was not my intention, though reflecting upon the above has made me a little down. But as unkempt and frumpy as we’ve made our living spaces, they’re still very frequently some of the most interesting places to visit on campus by virtue of the people who occupy them. I’ve actually noticed a few patterns. For one, for every guy who’ll give you some zucchini bread—the existence of which still fascinates me—there are sixteen who will be playing guitars or pianos. For another, I’ve found that many students I’ve met seem to really enjoy Pepperidge Farm cookies.

But of course, I can’t really talk about the dorms without mentioning the heating. It’s occasionally so hot and dry in the dorms that it will feel as though you’re standing in an extension of one of Israel’s less rainy districts. I remember a time when I left a bottle of apple juice loosely capped on my desk for a day (I am no better than my peers, I know), and discovered that it had been converted into a slightly alcoholic cider within that miniscule period of time. That is amazing, I thought. Words can’t describe how impressed I was by the heat generated by my room on the “Snowflake” setting. I can only imagine the entire bottle completely sublimating were I to put the heat on its highest setting.

But those are the dorms. Love them or hate them, they’re pretty much needed for the basic survival of the majority of kids going to school here. As we pass further into winter, just remember to drink more water.