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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

WRITER'S BLOCK: The housing lottery: Hitting it big or playing it cool

Published: March 11, 2005
Section: Opinions

Okay kids, brace yourselves. Its time for the 2005 Brandeis Housing Lottery. Key the dramatic music and a slightly elevated heart rate. If youve done this before, you know that the process can be just a bit stressful. The housing lottery is a special blend of only the best kinds of stress. Its like senior prom and the presidential elections combined into one occasion. Take a walk around campus and theres a good chance youll find students clawing at their mailboxes with the most anticipation since college application season.

If you happen to spot an abnormally large group of girls with furrowed brows huddled around a table at lunch, have no fear. No ones boyfriend just broke up with them. Theyre plotting their plan of attack. Just keep on walking. Dont disturb them and dont you dare mention your own great lottery number, because if theyre determined enough, you might find yourself with seven new best friends and big plans for a Rosenthal suite complete with a lilac and beige color scheme.

There are a few select people out there who have the ability to take the housing lottery in stride. Theyll get their number, good or bad, and theyll figure something out. It may not be ideal, but itll work. It would be great if we could all be so easy going about it. But from past experience, Ive gotten the general feeling that a lot of us simply arent capable of chilling out and going with the flow when it comes to housing. They say Location, location, location! when it comes to real estate, and I guess in this case the phrase rings all too true.

Thanks to those cute little housing lottery guides we received in anticipation of the mayhem, we all know what our options are. And, most likely, we all have a pretty good idea of what we want. Some people are going to choose the Castle for its quirky charm;

others will want the more social atmosphere of East. Maybe its a single you desire more than anything else, or perhaps you prefer the company of a double. Suite, no suite? Mods, Village? Maybe all you want is an insect-free environment, but that might be asking too much. Sure, we can all envision the housing scenario of our dreams. But the big question is, will we get it?

Navigating the housing lottery is a process more complex, more in-depth than staging a small-scale military attack. They say to plan out all possible options beforehand. But the reality of it is that you cant be sure whats going to be available when you actually arrive to choose housing. Plan A will be out the window before you know it, and Plans B-Z are going to have to be ready to be called into action at any given moment. And the formality of the process doesnt make things any easier, either. Theres the waiting and the number calling and the curtains and the little maze of rooms that lead to other rooms. People check the online updates of the dwindling numbers with more tension than when theyre bidding on a rare eBay find.

The whole process begins to feel vaguely akin to a life-sized version of Monopoly. There are the classic hot properties that everyone is vying for, and, of course, the not-so-luxurious spaces that we avoid like the plague. But, unlike the classic board game, theres no paper money and no cute little thimble. Everyones trying to stake their claim. Were talking serious business here. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

But lets get real for a second. Im writing all of this in deference to all of you out there who actually have reason to worry. Luckily, I dont. Somehow I managed to score 1002, which mean that I am now a hypocrite of large proportions. I dont have to stress over my housing future. The lottery gods have smiled upon me. I can live wherever I want. But those of us who have been blessed with the low numbers have had to figure out how to juggle our own desires along with the housing fates of our friends who have been less fortunate. A double-edged sword. So theres really no doubt about it. Starting on Sunday, were all in for a bit of drama. Lets face it. Some of us are going to get lucky while others are going to get, well, screwed. But the sun will rise on the morning of March 16th. And when it does, you may be thrilled, you may be content, or you may be downright disappointed. But either way, were all going to have to deal with it. It is the housing lottery, after all. And my father always told me never to gamble.

Editor's Note: If you wish for Sarah Green to pull you in, send an e-mail to explaining why you are special enough and why she should pull you in instead of one of her friends. Although it won't get you pulled in by her, your submission might appear next week in The Hoot. Submissions will be judged on the level of desperation shown.