January 17, 2014 by Emma Cardwell
By January, most Calhouligans have reserved a soft spot for the 42-year-old, blue-carpeted and horseshoe-shaped residence hall in their freshman hearts, no matter what sort of sour opinion they possessed of it in September. Calhoun has certainly turned my heart tender.
Calhoun is a dormitory of geniality, recreation and practicality. Elevator travelers shout praises of joy and invitations to gatherings to floor dwellers on the other side of the metal doors as they glide up and down. We share furniture, using the elevator as a marketplace where a desk chair can be swapped for a bag of Kit Kats, under two conditions: the salesmanship of two architecture majors prevails, and the gullibility of the dim-witted bargainer who thought the architects only needed the chair for the night holds fast. The daily news, or what Joe on the sixth floor thinks of Maya on the eighth, can be conveniently read scribbled on the wall of the shuddering elevator. Calhouligans stay connected and have each other’s backs. We even finance our neighbors’ shopping excursions, or at least we encourage each other to work hard to earn spending money; coins were once glued to the elevator floor for anyone with a strong thumb or a kettle of boiling hot water to unstick. After you blistered your thumb to retrieve the money, you could have gone and purchased a pair of those fingerless gloves they sell at Urban Outfitters that homeless men wear when they’ve got things to itch. Then, around the corner when you had your throbbing thumb cast in the ER, you could have picked up a good-looking University of Pennsylvania medical student.
We Calhouligans all want each other to be happy in love.
Ah, love is a language that any Calhouligan is built and tested to understand. We know the heat and shiver of the building’s embrace, the smoothness of its lips and the crawling of its skin, how to comfort it and love it toughly. We know that love is not easy but unconditional. Misery loves company.
During the first week of winter break, while most residents had long since gone to grandmothers’ houses, some athletes, international students and others remained nestled in Calhoun’s embrace for winter training and whatnot. Either because our darling Calhoun had forgotten to send its Christmas letter or it had yet to receive a single sugar cookie from a friend, its pipes grew cold, and it threw a fit of icy proportions, sobbing chilly water into the girls’ bathrooms’ showers and sinks. Sweaty, exhausted and homesick residents yearning for cleanliness were turned away by their lover and had to accept that, baby, it was cold inside, too.
Fortunately, Calhoun finds ways to compensate for mood swings like this and knows how to tickle your soul just when you feel that the depth of it has frozen. If ever you are abandoned in the confines of a stalled elevator or stranded on your laptop when the Wi-Fi fails faster than Apple sold out of iPhone 5S’s, have no fear: A cockroach can be of service and will guide you toward the light. I’ve found six of the creepy crawlers as my love has run its course, and I have run from each burgundy-brown, writhing one. The other morning, a live one was socializing with a dead one in the shower. The jury is still out on whether or not the live one is actually the campus cockroach mortician and was taking measurements of the dead guy for his coffin size. Maybe he was just looking for someone to get kinky in the pipes with, conscious or not.
Calhoun’s roaches don’t let their personal lives interfere with our entertainment. When the building that we love is inclined to show public displays of affection to its residents, it delivers with relentless passion. Its roaches perform pirouettes in the bathroom and shimmy up the walls in the hallways. Word is that if you give one a peanut it’ll strip tease for you (but only in private under your covers).
Does Calhoun believe that its residents have invasive bug species fetishes? Is this a type of S&M that Rihanna failed to lure Chris Brown into bed with? Is that why he hit her? For sticking a roach down his boxers? We’ll have to stall further investigation until Jive Records releases Brown’s next album, rumored to be titled “I.T.C.H.”
This residence hall has more in common with Rihanna than one may think. Like the songstress, Calhoun also sings short, melodic phrases and chants a range of rhyming, high-pitched syllables that only a restless, dirty-diapered baby could identify the artistry of. On the eighth floor, the smoke detectors screech in the hallways from dawn to dusk. The sending of maintenance requests online does little to solve the problem when you need it. It was over 24 hours before anything was done by campus maintenance to quiet the voice of the detector in my room last week. My roommate decided to fix it herself after waiting a few hours. So, much later, when it was finally “fixed” a second time by maintenance services, the detector began to squawk again. It came back stronger than ever, yelping a heartbroken, angry melody akin to Rihanna’s “What Now.” A week later, maintenance replaced our detector. We are very thankful.
This is not to say that Calhoun is Disturbia. Bom-bom-bi-dum-bom-bom-bi-dum-dum. While there are roaches in the night to come and grab you, to creep up inside you and consume you, the faint musk in the halls reminds its residents of home, or of the home of many residents past. Past Calhouligans have lived to tell the tale of the building’s pheromones, its omnipotent odor. Just ask one. The stale dampness of the air that is an interesting cross between corn chips and body odor is what welcomes each and every one of us home. When Ricky Ricardo stops by on every move-in day, he shouts at the threshold, “CAAALLHOOUUN! I’M HOOOMMMEE! YOU SMELL ABSOLUTELY FRITO LAY-ICIOUS!”
The rooms are cozy, albeit too cozy for some. Their cone shape does not facilitate changing into your pajamas in the dark at 3 a.m. next to the immovable dressers. The curved shape of the building means that my gorgeous window view of the Philadelphia skyline is obstructed by the sight of some dude clipping his toenails across the way on the opposite side of the structure. Fortunately, Calhouligans can communicate through the blinds if we ever need to.
What keeps us riding the roller coaster of love that Calhoun tries so hard to hurl us from? Maybe it is the fact that this residence hall shapes its residents into people not like Rihanna but instead strong as the spirited Jennifer Lopez. Calhouligans, like J-Lo, embody humility. Jenny from the block worked hard to make it where she is today, sweating and striving, and she continues to perform with grace and ferocity. Calhoun is wise and a lover of many students. It whips us into shape. It prepares us for the harshness of residence in the real, clammy, scuttling, freezing world, just as the block did for J-Lo. It teaches us to negotiate (someday we’ll all work at Ikea selling dorm furnishings), exterminate and conglomerate. We pride ourselves on our inclination to build friendship. We Calhouligans, who have been kicked out of our common rooms and into the hallways outside of them, will always include one another, bug one another, smell one another and watch out for one another. Thank you, Calhoun, for teaching all of us to wear the pants in this debonair and dysfunctional relationship.
*Note: Details of life at Calhoun Hall have been dramatized.
Emma Cardwell is a communications major at Drexel University. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.