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COLUMN

Ode To the Porcelain Palace

Akshay Patil

My bathroom experience here at MIT has been an interesting one. The bathrooms in my dorm are strategically placed around each floor in order to minimize distance and crowding. Of course they’re all co-ed, which is always interesting for me after many years of sharing a bathroom with one other person who, although female, happens to be my sister. One positive thing about sharing a bathroom with lots of people is that my dental hygiene has improved. I’ll go into the bathroom all ready to brush my teeth and find someone else at the other sink already engaged in their oral cleansing activity. Wordlessly, and often without eye contact, I place my brush into my mouth and the contest begins. There is only one objective: I must finish after my opponent does. If I fail, one more resident of my hall will think that I’m an unclean leper who doesn’t properly brush his teeth and probably eats trash for breakfast. It’s a horrible stigma that I would only wish upon my greatest of enemies. At that moment, my bathroom becomes an arena in which I must defend my honor and preserve my aura of cleanliness.

Sometimes I am spared, and my opponent is near the end of their cleansing. Those are the easy victories. The real contest comes when the brushing starts right as I enter the ring. That’s when I know I have an ordeal of mintiness in front of me. Tirelessly I will scrub away, lather (question of the week: does toothpaste lather, or does it just foam?) overflowing from my mouth as I intently watch my adversary out of the corner of my eye. Often when I am far past my point of normal brushing, false hope will leap into my heart when they stop to spit, and then, in a move of unadulterated torture, my hope is crushed as they bring the toothbrush back into a mouth wearing a smirk of pure evil. How my gums want to just scream at that point. But the tribulations are well worth it in the end when the toothbrush leaves teeth for the final time, and I am free. Free to rinse, free to finally put in my contacts, free to finally retire my trusty tool until I must call upon it again to defend my honor.

Yes, there are battles to be fought in a shared bathroom and as the saying goes, “If it doesn’t kill you, it can only make your gums stronger.” Another quirk of having a shared bathroom is that it is cleaned every day during the week. Unfortunately, it does not get cleaned over the weekend, being the period of time during which people decide to imbibe magical elixirs and worship at the porcelain pedestal. It is most definitely not a fun thing to wake up and to be able to gauge how big of a party it was last night by observing how many of the toilets have remnants of devotee offerings. The worst part being that all said parties happen on Friday or Saturday nights, meaning that my entire hall has a whole wonderful weekend ahead to appreciate the aftermath. For this reason alone, I would consider banning parties over long weekends. Is the merriment really worth the price?

Showers are also an area of interest in a shared bathroom. Everything works out fine and dandy as long as everyone showers at different times, but the moment people start showering at the same time, the whole system breaks down. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I have class at 11, meaning that I get up at 10 in order to shower and trek to class. Unfortunately, another resident in my hall also wakes up at 10 for class. And we each like the same shower. Needless to say, we both now wake up at 6 a.m. in order to ensure that we get the shower first. It’s silly, but a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do to make sure that he gets his shower in the morning. The 6 a.m. shower time does come in handy on those days when hot water is hard to find. You need those extra hours as you systematically work your way through the dorm in search of a showerhead with hot water and some sort of water pressure. Showers on such days are inevitably a choice between being blasted by arctic water or killed by hot “Chinese” water torture. If one does succeed in finding the holy grail of showerheads, he must then face the indignation of having other people in the bathroom wonder who in heavens he is and why he sports a lopsided “fro” on his head.

College bathrooms have given me many enriching experiences and taught me much about life. I have become aware of a whole realm of strife and conflict that I never knew existed in this place the British call the “lavatory.” Thanks to a shared bathroom, my teeth are receiving better care than ever before, I’ve learned to pay close attention to a toilet before using it, and I now know the near-death experience that is a cold shower in the morning. My time here at MIT has taught me to appreciate the finer things in life. To never take for granted the pure pleasure one finds in friends, nature, food, art, music, and two-ply toilet paper.