A couple of days ago, I was taking the elevator up to the second floor of Witherspoon (commonly referred to as ‘Spoon by its residents). The act may seem mundane enough — I do it every day, multiple times a day, because I live on the second floor of ‘Spoon.
The elevator stopped on the ground floor, and the building keeper, Glenn, joined me. Residents of ‘Spoon regularly run into Glenn and exchange greetings with him.
That day, however, Glenn had a strange look on his face — a mixture of disgust, disappointment, maybe even some confusion. This was out of character for Glenn, as most residents of ‘Spoon would recognize. Glenn is normally very happy and talkative.
We exchanged greetings. Glenn paused for a moment and asked me if I recognized the large yellow waste containers in the trash rooms.
I said I did.
He then proceeded to tell me that while he was on the first floor of ‘Spoon, he found that someone had thrown their personal blue recycling bin into the large waste container, and when he proceeded to lift it up, he was met with the sight of urine.
For a moment, I didn’t know what to say. Should I first express my disgust? Or anger? Or should I simply proceed to apologize, on behalf of whomever decided it was okay to do that?
Glenn’s look of disgust and disappointment was understandable, but in that moment, he was also completely unsurprised. It was the face of someone who had seen many incidents like this before. Eventually, the elevator stopped at the second floor of ‘Spoon, and I told Glenn to have a nice day. But while the conversation had ended, my thoughts about it had not. I was reminded of a realization I have had on numerous occasions, even prior to this incident.
We attend one of the most prestigious schools in the world, yet so many of us seem to forget the basic principles of decency, either in the name of entertainment or privilege. As a student body, we often forget to recognize the people who make Princeton a great place to live — the staff who keep this place running behind the scenes.
Incidents like these happen so often on college campuses that they go unnoticed by the majority of students, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong that they happen in the first place.
Examples of rude behavior on campus don’t even have to be that extreme. Minor cases occur even more regularly, but those are the ones that add up.
Take the bathrooms in the residential colleges. It has happened to all of us — you’re minding your own business, and want to wash your hands or brush your teeth, so you place your phone down on the metal ledge in front of you, and behold, your beloved phone is now coated in a repugnant concoction of toothpaste and water left by someone before you.
Is it really that difficult for us to wipe the ledge in front of the mirror after we’re done? Is it such a trying task to rinse off that glob of toothpaste left in the sink?
Following basic etiquette is not only courteous to fellow residents using the facilities in your housing, but also helps make the lives of our cleaning staff a little easier. Sure, that repugnant concoction was absolutely disgusting for you to wipe off your phone, but imagine having to wipe it off of every single metal ledge in your residential college.
There are rules, and we have been repeatedly reminded of these rules. But then there is also something that goes beyond rules — a sense of awareness of what we are doing and how our every action can have an impact on someone else’s day-to-day existence.
That awareness doesn’t just refer to the bad things. As a student body, we can put forth small efforts every single day to make sure that everyone on this campus, not just the students, know that their work is acknowledged and appreciated.
After all, we wouldn’t have the ability to receive a world-class education and partake in a myriad of extracurricular activities without the efforts of thousands of others: our professors, residential college staff, members of the facilities team, dining hall staff, and so many more.
Let us make an active effort to respect all those who serve this campus. Let’s actively try to clean up after ourselves and refrain from engaging in rude acts that make already difficult work even harder.
Today, ask the person who swipes your meal card how their day is going. Make the effort to pick up that piece of paper towel that accidentally missed the trash can. Thank the cook who made a warm stew for you on another one of those cold New Jersey days.
And, if you live in ‘Spoon and see Glenn, be sure to thank him for everything he does for us “Spoonies.”