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COLUMN

Dorm Hygiene

W. Victoria Lee

Most of us find our homes much cleaner than our dorms. This is no surprise, given that at home mom cleans every corner of the house instead of just certain areas that the custodians in the dorms clean, and that there are fewer people to make a mess at home. However, another reason is that few people show as much care to the common areas such as the bathroom, the lounge, the kitchen and even the stairwell as one would to the same areas in his or her own home.

I often find myself encountering drops of ketchup, sauce, and puddles of clear unidentified liquids in the stairwell that somebody’s burgers and drinks have left behind as proof of their former existence. But no one lives in the stairwell, so most people just step over spills. Upon passing by the same place the next day, I mostly likely find either the contaminated spots undisturbed or somebody will have inadvertently stepped on them to leave a trail on the stairs. The next day, the spots would still be there. In fact, in almost all cases, the spots continue to dwell on the stairs until they have been completely spread out by inadvertent feet or until they have dried up to acquire a darker hue that blends in the stairs.

The kitchen is another place where unkempt matters reveal their ugly shapes, starting with the scrubbing sponges by the sink. Most of us use the sponges when doing dishes but few of us remember to cleanse and squeeze dry the sponges after use. Scraps of foodstuff make themselves comfortable in their free apartment spaces provided by the porous sponge. With the aid of high humidity in the sponges, these foodstuff tenets produce foul smells and house unwanted bacteria.

Then there is the bathroom. Sometimes tissue paper just mysteriously fall onto the floor and stay there, until they get crumpled up by passersby too reluctant to pick them up. The mirrors are often decorated with water spots and toothpaste remnants. One would think the shower stalls should be the cleanest area because they are rinsed with water day in and day out. Yet one can surprisingly find fallen shampoo labels lying on the drainage on the floor of the stalls.

It seems that the hallways, the lounges, and the trash can are not able to escape the general apathy of shared-space hygiene, either. Spilled chips and bread crumbs usually have no need to worry about being removed until the custodians vacuum the carpet. Cup rings of cola and juice, and spilled assorted beverages, create interesting patterns on the lounge tables, not to mention the sticky remnants of jams and jellies sitting on the arms of chairs.

If there is a microwave, it is seldom clean. Grease, sauce, and maybe tiny pieces of pepperonis garnish the interior. The trash can is the worst place yet, especially on the days when the custodians don’t work. Pizza boxes and rotten fruits can pile as high as half a foot above the rims of the bin, forming a mini mountain with an apple core for a peak. And when someone throws a banana peel on top of that heap, an avalanche is inevitable, leaving the floor around the bin a horrible mess.

These happen not just in the part of the dorm where I live but also in other sections of the dorm, as well as the other dorms that I have visited. It is very natural for us to care less about the shared space than our personal space, because we all think “if the others are not keeping the space clean, why should I?” Unfortunately, a poor hygienic condition results if we all make such an assumption. Of course there are always that one or two very good-hearted people who volunteer to scrub clean the countertop or pick up the fallen trash, but it is really up to all of the residents to keep the environment clean.

But if we don’t mind living in a place where we can’t do our problem sets without the food remnants on the table staining the paper and where we cans smell the awful stench coming from the trash bin when we open our doors, then at least we should insure a clean shared space for those who do care. Start with that scrap of paper that you shot for the trash bin but missed. Pick it up. It will only take you a second.