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Let's knot

Blame it on my love of old musicals, but when I imagined a communal bathroom I thought there would be a lot of girls crowding around the same mirror talking about their days. If we happened to burst into song, all the better. However, instead of teeming with activity, the Princeton bathrooms are mostly vacant. The girls of the communal bathroom are of a ghostly sort, slipping in and out undetected. In fact, this is true for most communal relationships on campus — relationships with people who share common spaces with you but whom you’ve never seen or never met. It can be said that, while you’ll never meet a majority of people on campus, you can have unpleasantly intimate relationships with the things they’ve left behind.

As I stepped into the bathroom today I had a choice of four vacant showers. Waiting for me in shower one was a diverse array of hairy situations plastered on the wall: long curly hair, short straight hair and, yes, even the dreaded short and curly. In shower two, a friendly patron gifted me with a used Q-tip. Shower three revealed a snarled, matted knot on the shower drain reminiscent of a small rodent. Discouraged, I turned to the last and final shower. No hair, no Q-tips. Ah, sweet bliss. Finally a shower that didn’t require being face-to-follicle with someone else’s hair.

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My issue with the state of the bathrooms is not over hair on the walls, or trash in the showers, or even pee on the toilet seat. And I have no complaints about the custodial staff; they do a great job keeping everything clean. I’m only asking for a little communal courtesy. Leaving the bathroom the way you found it takes just seconds but makes the experience better for everyone who comes in.

To those who solve the hair-washing stringy fingers conundrum by wiping your hands on the shower stalls, wipe away! But wipe away the hair when you’re done showering. To those who run your hands through the water to let the hair run through the drain which inevitably leads to a furry knot on the drain, no worries; just exterminate the knot before you leave — even if it means using a paper towel to protect yourself from the germs of your own hair. To those whose first flushing efforts have been in vain, try, try again! And to those who after many years of target practice still miss the toilet bowl, just clean it up.

This lack of communal courtesy is not just in the bathroom. In the dining hall people often leave tables with a stray crumbled napkin or half-eaten bowl of increasingly soggy Cracklin’ Oat Bran. And on Thursday nights, a raging party in the dorms can mean the difference between sleep and insomnia for those that try to go to bed early. Well, you may be scoffing, what kind of out-of-the-loop freshman goes to bed by midnight on a Thursday? “I bet you woke up early, too, to do homework,” you must be thinking. Why yes, yes I did. My study habits aside, there are many areas on campus available for raucous partying — in fact, a whole street of them — but only one place for quiet sleep.

Yes, I could take my petty-problem pity party elsewhere, but I think there’s something to be said about communal courtesy that warrants repetition. Here in the Princeton bubble, you can meet a wide range of people in a wide range of situations, from the award-winning professor who eats dinner in the dining hall to the kid across the hall who needs to borrow a phone to call P-Safe. But there are even more people you don’t meet. These are the people who live in your dorm, sit tables away from you at lunch and share your bathroom but whose names you just don’t know. These people can influence our Princeton experience in many tiny ways on a day-to-day basis. And we can influence theirs. We should acknowledge that we live in a community and do our part to make the experience better.

I know that in the grand scheme of things I’m not talking about one of the world’s fundamental problems. So, if it comes down to either finding a cure for a rare flesh-eating bacteria that targets newborn puppies or cleaning out the shower stall, save the furry mammal! But if as you give your glorious, newly-patented, commercial-ready hair one last fluff in the mirror before going upstairs you think to yourself, “Do people enjoy this hair when it’s off my head as much as when it’s on it?” The answer is no. Go clean up after yourself.

Rebecca Kreutter is a freshman from Singapore. She can be reached at rhkreutt@princeton.edu.

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