All right, kiddos, listen up. You’ve no doubt gotten a shitload of worthless advice about going to college from parents, counselors, and teachers. Some schools have even expanded their orientation schedules to include admonitory lectures on the perils of intoxicants and promiscuity. You’ve probably been drilled in great detail on what to do in case your dorm room catches fire. And somebody from the health service is always handing out a brochure called “The Malnourished Scholar” or some such.
What people don’t tell you is that in the course of the next four years, you will fuck up more than perhaps during any other period in your life. In terms of basic life-skills, lab rats have a superior learning curve compared to your average college student. You will take too many shots of Jager, suck down so many bong hits that you temporarily go blind, treat your smelly roommate cruelly, kiss the wrong people, have sex with the wrong people, spend too much time in the library, not spend enough time in the library, forget to call your parents, forget to call your friends from home, call your friends from home too much, skip class, fail an exam, cheat, steal, lie, and on and on and on. With luck, you’ll learn your limits. With luck, you’ll learn from your mistakes.
Whether we’ve benefited from ours? Well, it’s arguable, but below, a few tales of the mistakes we made in college and the lessons we learned.
Ian Sands, Tufts University
During my freshman year, I was involved in a long-distance relationship. It began at the end of my senior year of high school. The two of us, sexless amateurs without a real relationship to our names, were desperate to keep things going despite the fact that we were headed to different cities — she to DC, I to Boston. She had insisted our relationship be open. I went along with it because I was afraid she’d end it altogether if I didn’t.
A few weeks after she arrived at school, on a Friday or Saturday night, I checked my voicemail to find a message from my girlfriend, who was crying, though now I can’t recall exactly what she said. Then another one, saying that she had hooked up with somebody, but that it meant nothing to her. And then one more from a friend of hers, promising me over and over that despite her actions she really did love me. A few nights later, I drank too much and stumbled around campus asking loudly whether anyone wanted to have sex. I ended up locking lips with a friend of mine on a filthy frat-house dance floor, thinking I was evening the score.
Lesson learned: Absence makes the heart go wander.
Anonymous, Boston University
The first thing you should do after making sure your mom isn’t coming back for one last hug before sobbing her way back to upstate New York is duct tape your door shut, from the inside. Even if you decide to come and go, attend classes or Pilates or whatever it is you do, you should still heed this advice and duct tape the door shut. For one thing, it will allow you and your roommate to rock bong hits in peace. For another, it will protect you from jackasses like yours truly.
I had a shitty roommate my first semester — stinking rich, wore too much cologne, referred to all of us as “half-breeds.” We came up with lots of boring ways to make his life miserable: storming into the room at 2 am with guitars seemed to work well. But the best pranks we came up with were, unfortunately, things we couldn’t use against him, if only because they would have ruined all my shit too. So instead, we market-tested the ideas elsewhere. The one that worked best? The hair-dryer trick.
It took some preparation, but the results were worth it. Ideally, you’d wait until the victim was going to be out of the room for at least half an hour; you’d need an accomplice who lived within a couple of rooms, an extension cord, and a one-pound bag of flour. First, you lay out big Scarface-size lines of powder on the floor, directly along the base of the door, no higher than the gap at the bottom of the door. Then, plugging in the hair dryer at the nearest available outlet, set to “high heat” and blow the lines under the door. Repeat until flour is gone.
The result, when your victim returns, is a room that has been completely dusted. It is almost impossible to de-flour a room thusly bombed. A damp cloth will turn a dresser into a doughy mess. A vacuum will inevitably scatter as much powder as it sucks in, which isn’t very much. More than likely, the victim will simply surrender and sleep that night in their floury bed, and wake up the next morning looking like a piece of fish ready for the frying pan.
Lesson learned: The most important piece of real estate in any dorm room is the eighth-of-an-inch space between the bottom of your door and its frame.