Oct 11, 2006

On Showers

College, like so many other things, is a mixed bag. But one thing I'd really, really like to change is to have decent showers here. Seriously. They're just disgusting. I don't even want to talk about, for fear that I'll just spontaneously vomit. I often feel that I'm filthier when I leave the bathroom than when I entered, albeit a tad waterlogged.
Now I'm no stranger to strange showers. In fact, in Germany the showers were far more interesting than here. When we stayed in the hostel in Berlin (meant for backpackers and such), the shower was activated by pressing a button. It also only stayed on if the button was pressed. Thus, if you were taking a shower, you had to twist and turn to keep at least a finger on that button, and perhaps take a few risky hand-switches in the middle. I assumed that the problem there would be that the water was too cold. It's a relatively cold country, and so they could run out of hot water, or any number of associated problems. To my suprise, the water temperature was fine; pleasantly hot. The only problem was, it increased in temperature as time progressed. So after one minute it was warm, after five it was hot, after ten it was scorching, and by God if you stood in there for over twenty minutes you'd have third degree burns all over your body.
When I got to my German exchange partner's house, I figured the situation would be easier, especially after I got to the shower and discovered the familiar red and blue labelled knobs for water. The caveat, however, was that the blue knob released hot water, while the red knob yielded...hotter water.
In any case, I'd still take scalding water over a shower that looks like it came out of a dumpster. The air fare home to Texas is almost worth it just to take a clean shower.

Oct 10, 2006


It’s 9:30 on Tuesday morning, and one of my favorite parts of the week. It’s the mere hour between my 8:30-9:30 math recitation and my 10:30-noon music class. Since the buildings are relatively far from my room, I pass the time at the nearby Starbucks at the corner of 34th and Walnut.
This hour, every week, is a constant. No matter that I stayed up until 3 the night before, never mind that my grade on my math midterm is abysmal, and not to worry that I haven’t done the homework due in marketing tonight.
This hour is a constant. I consciously make myself not work during this hour, not stress, not worry, not fret, and not be bothered by the myriad of things that aren’t quite right in the world. Right now, during this hour, this constant, it’ll all turn out fine.
To the right of my laptop is a tall hot chocolate (they were out of caramel apple cider – I’ll try again next week). To the left is a chocolate croissant. It’s not always hot chocolate and a chocolate croissant – in fact, it seldom is. Last week it was a cappuccino and a slice of pumpkin loaf. The week before that it was something different, and next week it will likely be something different. The details don’t have to be constant – just the hour.
The music of the moment is something country-bluesy, conveniently playing on the speakers around the store: just soft enough to be unobtrusive, but just loud enough to resonate.
The hour is just long enough to finish a drink and something for breakfast – that’s why it’s an hour and nothing different.
I haven’t ordered straight coffee here yet – I always feel like I might offend the barista with the simplicity of my order. The people who are ordering less than ten feet from me seem to have studied their whole lives for the moment that they step up to the counter, make eye contact, and recite their perfectly personalized panorama of flavors.
There are two entrances to this Starbucks, and the small table that I’m sitting at looks out the window at one of them. The people who come in are an interesting gaggle (What do you call a group of coffee addicts? The answer: a roast), running the gamut from businessmen who down their triple shots with a kind of manly zest, to students who grab a caffe latte before class. They enter in different ways, too: the 54 year old professor walks in steadily and calmly – class can’t start without him; while the 19 year old international relations student with a midterm in two minutes rushes in and gapes at the line – class can and will start without her.
And the teenager with a backpack who orders a simple hot chocolate and chocolate croissant enters with a kind of reverence and inhales deeply once he steps over the threshold, because this is his hour – his constant.