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Toilet Paper Syndrome

By Tiffany Kosolcharoen

According to the 2004 MIT Admissions Application, we are “an institution where the currency is intelligence.” We “are not afraid to strike out in new directions in search of a better way to do things.” But can we refill our toilet paper?

I fear long weekends. Every Monday through Friday, the bathrooms at Next House are squeaky clean, thanks to the invisible janitors we seldom acknowledge. On weekends, however, the sight of the lone, brown, cardboard cylinders infects us with the toilet paper syndrome.

Intensifying on holidays, this disease immobilizes our hands, which become cramped and unable to peel off wax paper coverings. The sit-and-reach exercises from fifth grade physical education evade us as our backs become stiff and we can no longer bend down to reach the spare rolls. Our brains shut down at the sight of the metal thing attached to the wall.

But do not tell anybody! This is MIT’s biggest secret. Notice how last weekend, the all-impressive Family Weekend, the janitors were working at 9 a.m. on Saturday doing overtime? From wiping the mirrors to vacuuming the lobby carpet, the janitors made our dorms look like we were neat freaks.

Oh well, praises from Mom and Dad about our success at “subsidized” independence shouldn’t hurt, right? Wrong.

Once, when I was microwaving marshmallows in the common lounge microwave to make Rice Krispie treats, the once-tiny cottonballs expanded to goo and bubbled out of the pot, spilling all over the microwave.

As I instinctively sprinted to the restroom for paper towels, a guy in the lounge joked, “Look what a mess you’ve made!” When I returned to clean the goo, he said, “Nah, you don’t have to clean it up. I was just kidding!”

Just kidding? Was he being super nice to me just because he was hungry and wanted something to eat? It would have been unfair to Dale, the floor janitor, and my dormmates if I simply left the stuff to harden overnight.

There is a sense of entitlement here at MIT. Nobody has to do #*$! because daddy paid $40,000 a year for us to be here.

If trash overflows the garbage bins, dirty dishes clog up the sink drain, and cockroaches fester alongside rats, oh well.

Last Saturday, I was sitting in The Tech’s office observing a cleaning lady not only change the trash, but also pick up scraps of paper and candy wrappers from the table! We, as college students, have regressed! Not even my mom would do such a service back at home!

Maybe you don’t realize it, but these actions reflect us.

Guys are disgusted by messy girls whose long hair balls pile up around the bathroom sink and whose fifty pairs of heels clutter the floor. Guys don’t want to marry you and your maid.

Girls are turned off by rowdy guys who can’t cook, clean, or throw away their Budweiser bottles. We do not want to be your housewives.

I’ll admit I have a ways to go in the road to growing up. When I go home for the summer, I am spoiled with guest treatment: laundry, dinner, trash service -- the works! Yet I learned that if I don’t do the dishes or speak up to run errands, someone I love will have to.

There is hope. Little courtesies like holding the door open for strangers or adding paper to printers in Athena clusters do occur at MIT.

Yes, we can do more than calculate Eigenvectors, draw Thevenin equivalent circuits, or churn up six-page HASS essays overnight. We can break the stereotype that students at private, elite colleges are arrogant, self-centered, and stupider than the real world.

One toilet paper roll at a time.