The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Back to School– Day 8

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Dormitory living isn’t for everybody.  I’m fitting in well enough, but I also stocked myself for nuclear winter and have a number of my standard creature comforts to ease the transition.  My neighbor, however…  she’s climbing the walls.  Says she would rather stay in a hotel, and has been trying to get out of here.  I don’t get it.  She’s already paid for this in full, and a hotel stay is going to put her expenses through the roof.  But who knows?  Maybe she’s rich.  A few various others are wandering the halls looking for cold drinks, bumming snacks off neighbors, trying to figure out the laundry situation, or tempering their isolation by throwing impromptu soirees in the lounges.

Dorm living is communal, though, and of the most important thing I ever learned is also one of the first things I learned living in the dorms:  Keep your door open.  It invites people to come in, says you’re open to socializing, and puts you right in the mix.  Unless I’m changing clothes, sleeping, or in class, my door is wide open.  I’m trying to lead by example, but since I’m stowed away at the far end of the hallway, only one person has really caught on.  We like to have conversations through our open doors and across the hall when we are sitting at our desks or doing whatever.

Regardless of how well we are all adapting, there is one thing that is pretty cruddy:  The Bathroom Situation.  It’s ridiculous.  The men’s bathroom on my end of the floor is right next door.  There is standing water on the tile around the toilet, standing water on the counters around the sinks, and no shelf to place something in the shower stall.  It’s the least practical bathroom ever built, and that’s not even all of it.  There is NO DAMN VENTILATION!  None.  The windows don’t open, there is no ceiling vent, and no fan.  The place is rank; the air is humid and thick enough to chew.  I’ve taken showers and come out sweating.  I’ve thought about blocking open the door, but I don’t think we want to deal with the odor of jungle rot, perspiration, and farts.

This came up when I Googled "least practical bathroom," so I guess mine is the 2nd least practical bathroom ever built.

So how do you handle this situation?  You fall back on some of the crass behaviors that characterized your undergraduate life in the dorms.  You do something you know full well is inappropriate, and justify it by blaming the university for “forcing” you into your decision–and you tell all your friends that it wasn’t a decision you came by easily, and you otherwise wouldn’t do it.  In this case, start using the handicap bathroom down the hall.  The one with all the shelf space around the actual tub.  The one with the ventilation.  The one with the removable shower nozzle.  And keep using it until one afternoon you find it inexplicably locked.

My only other real complaint is the significant lameness factor among my classmates.  Saturday night rolled around, and it seems I’m one of the few who wanted to hit the town.  Others were tired, wanted to work on their writing, preferrred to do their laundry, or were too unsure of what was happening downtown to be invested in going out to explore.  What the hell happened to the joy and excitement of being on a college campus?!  The folks who are only here for two weeks just pissed away the only weekend they have in Saratoga Springs.  The others who are in for the month-long haul might start to come out of their shells.  I hope so.


Elsewhere, we talked a lot last week about point of view.  Who, exactly, is telling your story?  It’s a critical question in fiction, and can have a huge effect in how you deliver background information and establish the setting, amongst other issues.  It’s something we almost never talk about in creative nonfiction, because in CNF the narrator is fixed–  it’s you, and it’s a matter of how much of a part you are going to have in your story.  But fiction is way different.  We’ve seen a few stories thus far that were wrecked by the wrong point of view, or that had points of view that were inconsistent and violated the “rules” for that particular point of view.  When that happens, it can pretty much shoot your story in the ass.  The whole thing is giving me a ton to think about, and I’m wrangling with the big questions:  Who has to be telling the story, and why is that the best choice for the story?  I’m reluctant to use third person omniscient narrators.  Not sure I’ve yet developed the chops to pull that off.  I gear my stories intentionally to avoid that.


Written by seeker70

July 11, 2011 at 10:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Dorm living at NYS Summer writing (skidmore) is just as sucky as it was last year at Tin House at Reed College. How do they get kids to come to these schools w/these horrific housing situations?

    Re POV — the 3rd person limited narrator, at least in short fiction, has become so common these days, that sometimes when I hit an omniscient pov, I trip.

    Pam Parker

    July 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm

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