Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Trials and Tribulations of Residing in a Frat House.

When I check in by the front door of A.E.Pi, the assistant (AKA my friend Tim) hands me a set of building keys and a parking pass, which may at this point be monetarily worth more than my life. As an after thought, Tim hands me a bottle of Febreze "in case your room still smells like feet," he advises with an apologetic smile.
Upon unlocking my door, which I fortunately learn early on locks automatically upon closing, I discover I have somehow managed to land the largest room. It is roughly the size of my room and bathroom from home combined, large enough to merit two air conditioners, neither one of which are working at this point in time.
Two lofted beds stand out from the wall, I note to myself, but there is only one ladder and one closet. As I do not have a roommate, I do not fret over the logistics of this arrangement. The beds are anchored in to provide only two and a half feet of room between the mattress and the ceiling, which I cannot help but think might be strategic deterrence, but I choose instead to fixate on the fact that there are glow-in-the-dark stars stuck to the ceiling directly above the pillow spot. I silently thank whichever frat star lived here last. Then I venture to walk under the bed. After a couple of somber minutes of reading fraternity "poetry," I revoke my gratitude.
I move the rest of my things in, actively choosing to ignore the suspicious stains on the chair that props open my door. I make use of the extra space and stretch a hammock from one side of the room to the other, hanging by the chains that support the bed. The dead roach I find beside my desk is flat enough that it seems to have been dead for while and therefore probably does not have a family, I tell myself as I slide it onto a spare scrap of paper and fling it into the trashcan.

We spend the afternoon at Andretti, the world of go-karts, ropes courses, and arcade games. Three details only on this:
1. I am surprisingly a speed demon at go-karting, coming in second in the first race and forfeiting the second because of a defective vehicle.
2. Walking a tightrope is every bit as thrilling as you would imagine it to be, even with a harness and a rope to hold onto.
3. The people you see winning massive amounts of tickets in arcades are not plants, as I always assumed they were. It's just that persistence sometimes pays off, as I learn on my 8th game of skeeball. I get the high score and win 469 tickets in one go round. We compile all our tickets and get a board game for the house.

Upon re-arrival to the house, we discover that the air conditioning is still not functioning anywhere in the house. This makes for an uncomfortable meeting on chairs and couches whose legitimacy is already in question from the stains and graphic drawings on the cushions. As we sit through two hours of Freedom Riders, we are conflicted between fascination with the movie and discomfort of the surroundings. I assure myself that I am sticking to the cushions because of the mugginess and not the prior state of the couch.
I decide a cool shower is just the ticket to surviving the end of a day so hot it left a macabre exhibition of worms roasting on the sidewalk. Not even the sight of the urinals grimacing at me from the back wall of the bathroom can dampen my mood as I march into the shower area.
Along the wall of shower heads in the bathroom hang four plastic partitions. They're not exactly fortresses of solitude, but they get the job done most of the time. Shower shoes donned, I venture into the back left corner, stepping over the hair-laced drain in the middle of the floor and opting to rest my shower caddy on the bench next to the shower. As I turn on the water, I reach back out of the makeshift cubicle for my bar of soap. The plastic curtain wraps around my body with a sickening "thwap." I gag, utterly repulsed at the thought of who else this may have happened to over the years with this very curtain, and try not to entertain the question of how many times they might clean these partitions. I think my memory blocked all traces of the next few minutes of vigorous scrubbing. My only indicative clues to its occurrence are my newly raw limbs and torso, which is enough to keep me from scheduling a clinical health examination.
You'll be happy to know they fixed the air conditioning that night. It was worth waking to a hypothermic state in an icebox just to know it was possible to remove my rings from my previously heat-swollen hands.
After the first day, I pretty much settled in. There are a few things I'm still getting used to. The fact that our rooms always sound like someone is in the shower right next to us, even when the bathroom is empty, for example. Or the battlefield of broken hinges on every cabinet and drawer, victims of multiple horseplay standoffs. Or the presence of a strobe light downstairs but the absence of any recycling bins. Or the compulsion to wear house shoes at every minute of every day. Or the internal conflict of getting dressed and undressed in a frat room, something I told myself I would never do (these circumstances, however, are exceptional).
But the truth of the matter is, it's all part of the experience, and so far, I've loved every minute of it.
Of course, my apples and cinnamon Glade plug-in helps a little.

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