BY JEREMY BLACHMAN
Like most people, it seems, I have my own personal system for keeping track of things I have to do — class assignments, appointments, strangers’ credit card, social security and PIN numbers…. For me, I find post-it notes work the best. Not only are they just the right size for listing a day’s worth of things to do (or briefing a case…), but they also tend to stay where I put them: on my desk, on my bathroom mirror, inside my shoes, on the back of my neck…. This weekend’s list includes the exciting task of filling out the dormitory housing renewal application. It just seems so much easier to live in the dorms than to worry about furniture, Internet, electricity bills, more than a hundred square feet of space, privacy, pleasant architecture…. Although a kitchen that wasn’t all the way down the hall and filled with LL.M.s roasting wild game or painting their homemade clothing with goat blood might be a pleasant change of pace.
Overall, I guess living in the dorms here has been mostly as I expected. No real surprises. Besides, perhaps, the plumbing. As soon as the weather got cold, for whatever reason, my toilet decided it no longer enjoyed the flushing process. I deposited nothing extraordinary into the toilet, yet it began to consistently fail to fully power the journey from bowl to wherever the pipes take my little friends. I called facilities management the first time, and they came a few hours later to fix the problem. A week later, I had to call again. This time it took them a day and a half. But my bladder is strong.
The maintenance worker laughed when I asked him if maybe there’s a bigger problem than what it seemed, since I’d needed to call twice in the span of just over a week. He said twice was nothing, and that someone upstairs from me had called the past four nights in a row. Well, at least he’s regular. And apparently eating his fiber. And other people’s fiber, too. Three weeks later, when it happened again, it took them three days to come fix the problem. Again, my bladder is strong, so there were no consequential damages. But still, three days is a long time to wait when the Hark serves “Prune chicken in a bean sauce,” and “Metamucil pizza.”
Finally, this past week, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. Not literally, of course. I went to CVS in search of a plunger. And found a selection of two. The regular, traditional wooden plunger with the rubber suction cup, and the Plunge-O-Matic 3000, a battery-operated device complete with sound effects and splash guards. Well, not really. But there was a little plastic one for a dollar cheaper than the wooden one. But I’m not sure if it was designed for real toilets or if it was part of the Barbie bathroom set. Miniature plunger, toilet brush, and shot of mouthwash, in a kit with ultra-small Q-tips, a fingernail-sized bar of soap and condoms for Ken. I’ll let you insert your own joke here.
When I was walking back from CVS, I passed a friend who, while we’ve had some fascinating conversations about the weather, I wasn’t really prepared to discuss my bathroom habits with. Yet I quickly discovered that it’s very hard to disguise a plunger in a plastic bag and make it out to be something else. “What have you got there?” he asked. “Oh, nothing…,” I said, as I put the bag behind my back. “It’s just a stickball bat.” “With a suction cup on the end?” “Yeah, suction stickball. It’s a new game. It’s lots of fun. There’s an intramural league. We’re going down to UVA to play in a tournament.” “Sounds like fun. You play… in the bathroom, right?” He’d seen right through my story. There was no hiding the plunger from his observant eyes.
After I politely excused myself from the conversation — “I really have to go to the bathroom” works as a highly believable excuse when you’re carrying a plunger down the street — I kept on walking. And passed by a professor, the girl I have a crush on, the woman who’d interviewed me earlier in the day at OCS for a job with her law firm and, oddly enough, the maintenance worker who’d come to fix my toilet the previous time. He looked at me, and at the plunger, and I could see his heart sink. He felt betrayed. Double-crossed. Disappointed that I would turn elsewhere for relief.
My neighbor saw me carrying the plunger as I got back to my room. Word spreads like wildfire. I’m charging by the use now.