Saturday, May 13, 2006

On K'zoo, Part I -- The dorm bathroom as a DMZ

Before we all left for the Zoo, Jeffery Jerome Cohen posted a "good luck" message that also said, "May you never meet the mystery person with whom you share the bathroom in your dorm." One year I did meet the people with whom I was sharing -- two 20-something publisher's reps -- and it was the best K'zoo bathroom experience ever. After they left their bathroom door open, but had vacated the bathroom itself, it seems, I ventured in through my side and called out. They came in and I asked if I could use the sink or whatever -- it was something that allowed for simultaneously bathroom usage -- and we all got to chatting, just like in a dorm. See folks, that's how you use a communal bathroom -- communally. In fact, in those bathrooms, someone could be on the toilet, two people could be at the sinks, and one person could be in the shower. That's how it worked in college, and those of us young enough to remember -- or not so privileged that we went to colleges with private "rooms" -- have no problem with this.

On the other hand, there's the suitemate Ancrene Wiseass and I got stuck with this year. She scolded us. But in true K'zoo dorm bathroom weird, passive-agressive form, she did so by note. At the time AW and I were really pissed off by it and it seemed dripping with nasty condescension, but I saved the note for posterity and now it seems pretty darn polite (lots of "I'm sorry" and "please" and smiley faces), if rather cowardly, what with being a note and all.

Anyway, our suitemate was apparently kept awake the first night by the conversation taking place on our side of the wall until the wee hours. AW and I got in kind of late, still had some catching up to do, and, most important, AW had to edit her paper down to a reasonable size for the next morning, and I was helping her. It's not like we were partying or anything. But we both do have voices that carry -- I just didn't realize how much voices carry through those walls (is anyone else humming 'Til Tuesday now?). So apparently our suitemate couldn't sleep and it was making her ill, and so the next day she bought earplugs and wrote us a note. My question: why didn't she just knock on our door and ask us to keep it down instead of suffering in silence?*

Ah yes, because of the weird, wasp-y K'zoo bathroom "etiquette" of never encountering or addressing your suitemate(s) directly, but only communicating through wordless signs of doors and light switches -- unless, of course, you're a newbie and a pair of publisher's reps. Then you'll have a grand ol' time and no one will ever have to wait for someone else to relinquish the bathroom.

Seriously, folks, we're the new generation -- can we change this silliness and use the dorms like dorms?? And by the way, why does everyone think the dorms are so horrible? I've stayed there four or five times now and find them quite comfortable and the price unbeatable. Plus, no shuttle bus nonsense to deal with. And until this year -- the first time I was sharing a room -- I'd never bother to bring my own towel or hangers or anything like that (though hangers would have been good in the past -- I used the chairs and bed posts). Besides, the whole hotel/dorm divide is starting to look like a haves/have nots divide and it depresses me.

Speaking of which, my next post (probably from Cowtown unless my motel on the road has wifi) will be on class and the nametag.

*I know this is coming from the woman who still has not told her downstairs neighbors they're too noisy. But that's more complicated. How does a thin woman tell the heavy people that they walk too hard? How does the childless woman tell the parents that their child is too loud? How does the dogless woman tell the dog-owners that their dogs are too rambunctious and noisy?


anhaga said...

I'll admit that the first time I stayed in the dorms at Kalamazoo (I was an impressionable college sophomore at the time, and the dorms at my college were a little brighter than the ones at Michigan) -- I found it vaguely depressing. They're so spartan! It also didn't help that my room mate and I didn't know the person across from us. However, the last three years I've requested not only a room mate but my suitemates -- and that has really made all the difference.

I've actually become rather fond of the dorms, although I'm a bit bitter that I ended up in Garneau this year, after three years in Britton/Hadley -- and it would be the year they completely renovated the entrance area in Valley I. No clue if they did anything with the rooms, but still...

Tiruncula said...

I, too, am rather fond of the dorms, but my usual strategy is to get singles with a friend across the same bathroom. Requesting that doesn't work 100% of the time, but I think it's worked all but one year out of the last decade.

meg said...

I hate the dorms because they *are* horrible, to my mind. No bedside table, no lamp, no hangers, no nuffin. I can't bring all those things with me from La La Land, and not even Michiganers can bring a bathtub (awfully nice at the end of a long day).

Then there's the hooting and hollering that goes on up and down the halls in the middle of the night, and the poor acoustics, and the bathroom business you describe -- I would just rather stay in a hotel and enjoy the comforts.

One of the comforts I particularly enjoy is the possibility of hiding out for a session and working (or just reading). Sure, you can do that in the dorm, but there's plenty of noise to remind you of the conference.

I'm not a huge fan of Kzoo -- I much prefer Medieval Academy -- but I liked it a lot better once I started staying in hotels.

Dr. Virago said...

Meg -- I like MAA because you can see a great majority of the papers, talk to most of the people there, and the quality is more consistent. But K'zoo has its charms. I like its casualness, for example.

But I guess I don't spend much time in my room at K'zoo, which is why the limited comforts don't bother me. If I did like to hide out for awhile, I'd prefer a hotel, too. Though when I was in La La Land, the biggest thing that bothered me about the zoo was *getting* there. Ugh.

Tiruncula -- I've also been told if you bring a mate of the opposite sex you'll get the bathroom all to yourself. Of course, I don't think Bullock (the boyfriend) would ever be interested in coming, alas. I didn't know you could request suitemates -- I'll have to keep that in mind next time.

Anhaga -- My freshman dorm was nearly as depressing a cinderblock monstrosity -- it can be cheered up and made more comfy with rugs and posters and such, but obviously Congress attendees aren't going to do that!

Now if only breakfast were longer than an hour!

Tiruncula said...

The answer to breakfast is 1) bring a coffee maker, and 2) after you've caffeinated, go to Maggie's.

Murky Thoughts said...

You are so of the vulgar and unwashed. Except for the "unwashed" part, which I haven't yet figured.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I have to confess that while I've done the dorms and it wasn't horrible, I soooooo much prefer the hotel. Mostly for me it's about climate-control - every year I've been in the dorms has been a "hot" Kzoo, and I've had a dorm that faced west, and we baked all night long and I couldn't sleep. (yes, yes, delicate flower, I know!) And I will say that I think the dorm sheets/blankets have declined precipitously in quality (or maybe my expectations just went up?). And I'm someone who likes to hide out on occasion, too.

Arranging suitemates with whom to share the bathroom is definitely the way to go though - that's what I've usually done and it's much nicer. Especially since it is amazing how well cinderblock walls conduct sound!

I also avoid the shuttle bus crap by renting a car - but I'll admit that Kzoo ends up quite expensive this way.

I've always been very pro-Zoo, though, b/c my grad program had a big tradition of going. I actually don't really like the MAA (but I've only been to one).

I do kind of wish it followed the big-city-hotel model of most big conferences, though - then the whole issue of needing a car to get to reasonable food sources, whether to stay in the dorms, the tramping across the universe, would be mitigated. But this would make it much more expensive, too (and probably formal).

History Geek said...

I had the best converstion about the Tudors and if any other King of England had excuted a Queen Consort with one of my suite mates. Both women were talkive and very nice.

My roomate on the other hand, was asleep everynight by about eight. Manged to lock the bathroom door so that I couldn't get into it. Basical I talked to my suite mates more than my roomate.

Heck, I talked more to people in the lobby. Somehow on Thursday night I wound up playing tech-support for several people even lending my laptop to one so he could send he a student a paper he'd commented on.

I still remeber from my time in the dorms about ten years ago, that we'd all be talking back and forth in those huge floor wide bathrooms.

Fast Fizzy said...

I don't care what she says, the Doc stays in a dorm because she's a cheapskate. Motel 6 is right up her alley!

Karl Steel said...

I agree that there's a kind of class snootiness, even if only a tempest in a teapot variety, to the dorms v. hotel thing. At least that's what I've noticed w/ some of my colleagues in my program.

Being that I hate driving, hate spending money unnecessarily, and find the dorms far less wretched than most of the places I stayed in my punk days (ask me about the 60$/mo basement walk-in closet I lived in for most of a year: I left when the backed up water from the slowly flooding basement finally reached my door), I'm pro-dorm. But I haven't decided yet after only 2 times if I'm pro-zoo.

They do have hangers for distribution, by the way. Just ask your dorm attendant. Irons, no (but they have irons at Leeds), which means wrinkly Karl. Next year if I go: earplugs and a sleeping bag. And flipflops for the disgusting shower.

Hurrah for DV's call for dorm community!

Dr. Virago said...

Hey Karl, thanks for being the lone male voice here not picking on me! Boo to my bro' for calling me a cheapskate (oh *he's* one to talk -- hey pot, this is kettle: you're black too!) and Murky Thoughts for saying I'm vulgar and unwashed! (Yes, yes, I know you were both teasing. And MT was making more of a class point/joke. I'm not *really* hurt.)

History Geek -- how on earth did your roomie lock you out of the bathroom?! And however she did it, that's horrible! But yeah for dorm community!

And Tiruncula -- next time, if I'm not picking up 4 other people and their luggage, I'll bring a coffee maker in my car and share with all my suitemates. That'll make us friends fast, I'm sure!

Ancrene Wiseass said...

I agree: the dorms truly aren't that bad. I am glad, though, that I brought hangers, a towel, a reading light, an alarm clock, and flip-flops. Also a pillowcase. The sheets were fine, but the provided pillowcase was so starched that it would've felt like sleeping on a particularly thick paper bag. Next year, I will definitely also bring a travel iron. (There are ironing boards in the dorms, just not irons.)

So, it's a little extra packing, but it's also waaay less expensive. Plus, I was able to sneak away during the middle of a particularly exhausting day for 45 minutes, then head off to the next session with only 5 minutes' lead time. Nice!

Plus, I had a good roomie. (Unlike poor HG, whose roommate ought to be tarred and feathered, so far as I'm concerned!)

All in all, I'd say I'm a fan, despite the deeply passive-aggressive suitemate.

And Karl! A $60/mo walk-in, basement closet?! Whoa. And I thought my week and a half in a blue shag-carpeted, porn-infested Irish bachelor pad sleeping on an inflatable Budweiser couch in the living room were bad.

Oh, yeah. Actually, that was pretty damn bad. Still, you totally win.

Karl Steel said...

Sleeping on an inflatable Budweiser couch I think just might trump me. Good lord!

A year or so before I moved into that house, some poor kid whose room was the furnace room on the other side of the basement suffered some kind of, er, cranial collapse. It was days before anyone knew he was missing: I suppose someone must have smelled something coming from the furnance room and found him. For a while afterwards, he had a kind of trench in his skull: ah! found it. It's the third image from the left on the top row.

So it could have been worse. For both of us!

This was about 11 years ago. We're all older and more fastidious now (and in my case, just hella less punk), aren't we?

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Well, I could do the dorms if I knew at least my roommate, and I am much more likely to be the type of bathroom sharer Dr. V likes -- when P/H and I shared at AHA, it was kinda like that, and it was even more comfortable with my roommate at K'zoo. But we stayed at a hotel. Fortunately, I was budgeted for the Radisson, and my roommate and I are of an age that those creature comforts are nice. And even with the wide range of taxi fares, it's just not that expensive to take taxis if one has to.

One thing about staying with a partner, though ... if the walls are that thin, I think I'd rather have the relatively greater privacy of a hotel anyway!