A Tale of Two Dorms

©01 The Media Desk

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Part 1

      Freshman Dale Hinerick opened the door to the fourth floor room that was his new home. A confused blare of loud music threatened to push him back down the stairs. Turning to his dad he nodded and bravely lead on. 419 was down the hall to the left. The two men dropped the suitcases, bags, and lamp on the bed and went to return with another load. Dale's mother gave out a feminine snort of disapproval.
      "Your sister's room was nicer." The woman went to the window and gazed out at the view of an alley, dumpster, horseweeds, and parking lot. "It faces the west. You'll have a draft in the winter."
      "Yes mom. I'll keep the windows shut." Dale said mechanically. His mom began poking into the closet, under the bed, and such. The student went with his dad into the hall.
      "She wouldn't be happy if you were moving into the White House." His dad said over his shoulder. Dale smiled and said nothing.
      They returned in a few minutes to find the windows covered with heavy drapes, an olive drab throw rug on the floor, and her organizing Dale's clothes in the dresser.
      A voice spoke from behind them. "You're roommate will be here this afternoon. I'm the dorm super, Jay Jones. You must be Dale Hinerick."
      "Yes sir." Dale said rather meekly.
      "Forget the sir. Good to meet you folks. My room is on the first floor, 101. To call me you dial the building number, 6, then the room number. You don't need the prefix. See you later, I got more checking in to do." He left as suddenly as he had come in.
      The family looked at each other, then continued to unpack.

      Mary Henderson knocked on the door that read, 'Dorm Super-Cindy White'.
      "Hold on a sec!" Shouted a harried voice from inside. A few more minutes than 'a sec' passed. Then the door opened. "Hi, Mary. You should have said it was you."
      "You sounded like you were busy enough." Mary smiled to her friend.
      "Just the normal insanity of frosh moving in." Cindy looked like she was having a real lousy day. "What's up?"
      "My key broke off in the lock." Mary held the metal stub up for her friend to see.
      Cindy didn't respond. This wasn't something she really needed now.
      "I swear I didn't do it intentionally Cin." Mary added.
      "You're still in 205?"
       Mary nodded. "Do I still have to pay the fifteen dollar lost key fee? I didn't lose it."
      The super stood there and thought. She couldn't remember what to do in this case. She wasn't sure it was covered in the super's meeting last week. "I guess the dean will have to decide. I'll call the trouble desk," Cindy hated dealing with the trouble desk. It was well named, that was what you usually got when you called it. "Hello? ... This is Cindy White in Cannon hall. ... Yes, ... We have a key broken off in a lock. ... A room lock, 205, ... The washer still works, I don't need a plumber, a locksmith, NOT MISTER SMITH! ... Hello?..." She looked helplessly at Mary. two dorms

      Cindy had about had it with the trouble desk phone dance.
      "Hello, who's this? ... I need somebody to fix a lock in Cannon. ... Jimmy who? ... Oh, yeah, Jimmy the door, sure... Three Hours! Look, the girl is standing here in a wet towel... Five minutes? Thank you." Cindy hung the phone up after giving it a strange look.
      "I'm not in a wet towel." Mary smiled.
      "Doesn't matter." She examined the key, "This looks older than the building. Where did you get it?" Cindy asked.
      "You gave it to me the other day."
      "Hmmm, I'll see what I can do."

      "Do you need anything else, son?" Mister Hinerick asked Dale.
      Dale looked around, "No dad, I'll call if I need anything." He turned as his mother cleared her throat.
      "Remember to wash that blue sheet with the dark clothes. And take your good shirts out before they are all the way dry. And don't leave that old fan plugged in over night, your father has repaired that switch one to many times...."
      Dale said, "Yes Mom." At regular intervals. Finally he got to ask a question. "Where is my headphone radio?"
      The answer made him sigh deeply. His mom didn't notice.
      The next morning Dale's alarm went off at 6:13. He woke with a feeling of sudden terror. He didn't know where he was, what he was supposed to do, or even more importantly, why in the world he had set his alarm for such an inhuman hour. Gradually the previous day came back to him, he did remember one thing clearly, his mom had left his headphone radio at home.
      "You won't have time to listen to the radio." She had said.
      His dad had promised to mail it and a few other things to him.
      "What's that damn clock doing buzzing while its still night?" Dale's roommate growled as the clock went off again.
      "Sorry, it does that sometimes." Dale said. But his roommate was already curled up asleep again. He got up and moved to his desk. He scooted the chair up under it and scraped the tops of his thighs against the edge of the desk. Dale had been raised to never curse bad luck, so he imitated his dad, "Rassin, frassin, dad blamed thing." He said under his breath.
      He reviewed his schedule for this semester. He didn't know it but he was the victim of a widespread conspiracy to get him to declare a major before his second semester. The board of trusties had tried to figure a way to have incoming freshmen declare a college major before they had even graduated from high school, but in most cases, that just didn't work.

      Mary was let into her room like the lockman promised. But now she had a slightly bigger problem. Not only would her door not lock now, it wouldn't even close all the way. The locksmith promised he would be back first thing in the morning to repair it. But for now, Mary had a three-inch opening between the door and the frame.
      Cindy promised to double-check all the outside doors to make sure she would have at least a little security that night. Mary decided to sleep fully clothed with her umbrella by her side.
      Mary resigned herself to the fates and went down the hall to the take a shower. When Mary stepped out of the stall to get her robe and towel she found a male basketball player doing a stand-up job at a stall usually used for sit down work.
      "Hi, I'm Jack. I remember you from last year." He said giving her a good look over.
      Mary moved her washcloth in circles trying to retain some dignity as she calmly answered, "You're a guy. I swear. You're a guy."
      "Yes, ma'am. I've been a guy for over twenty years now."
      Mary stood and watched him zip his pants. Then embarrassed she stepped back into the shower had asked him, "Could you please hand me my towel and robe please?"
      Jack did so, apologized, and left.
      Mary dried herself off and nearly cried. This was not the way to start a new school year. She decided not to cry, not over something like this. Jack was kinda nice looking. She had dumped her last boyfriend because he wanted her to drop everything and live his life. Mary wondered what Jack thought of her, since he did have a better view at their meeting than she did.
      Mary pulled on her robe, it felt strange.
      It was her younger sister's pajama top.
      The terry cloth thing almost, almost reached her buttocks. Wrapping the towel around her she decided this was the end of a perfect day.
      It wasn't. When she opened the door to go back to her room she found the hallway full of every type of male student enrolled on the campus. Almost all of them dressed in suits.
      She drew a lungfull of air and steeled herself. Then she walked down the hall like she owned it.
      Her left thigh exposed from knee to waist because of the short towel, her chest straining the buttons on the top, her hair looking like a fright wig, she made it to her room with a very straight face. Then she slammed her door as far as it would go and threw herself on the bed.
      She wondered if it was too late to transfer to an all-female school.

      "Is Dale Hinnerrich here?"
      "Yes sir. That's Hinerick."
      "Dale Ambrose Hinerick." The professor said correcting the pronunciation of the last name. Dale winced. He really only hated one thing about his middle name. It was his middle name.
      There were a few giggles from some of the immature people in the room. Dale wished they could control themselves, this was college!
      "Donald Miriam Henscrose?" The prof called. Dale snickered.
      Later, Dale went and talked long and hard to the Dean of Academic Endeavor, the Assistant Head of Bureaucracy, and the Chief of Interdepartmental Confusion and Caffeine Distribution. The reason for his getting the run-around was simple. The BIG COMPUTER had scheduled him for a class called: The Physical Principles of the Trigonomic Calculations and Algebraic Theorem of Pythagoris and Archamedes, at 8:30 in the morning no less. The prerequisite for the class was to be a graduate student with a degree in either mathematics or physics, and a grade point of 3.7 or higher. A freshman right out of high school who still had his diploma in his back pocket hardly qualified.
      That morning in the class he had become lost right after the professor had called his name.
       Two of the students in the class were addressed as 'Doctor', and one of them had been considered for a Nobel Prize in physics. What Dale was doing in there was anybody's guess. The professor suggested he drop the class.
      "That won't be easy. We completely reprogrammed the registrar's computer over the summer. It doesn't like to be told it goofed."
      Dale stared at the fat man with a big pile of books. He wondered if he could pour a chocolate malted down the computer.

      Mary sat in her US History 358 class and listened to the old maid teacher drone on about patriotism during the early phases of some war or other.
      The young man next to her kept making obscene facial expressions at her and stared at her chest almost constantly. Mary made a coy face back at him, he smiled. She gave him the finger and ignored him. The teacher talked about Martin Van Buren. She thought he had been a president, she was relieved when the teacher said, President Van Buren. Mary had retained some of the history she had had in all those years of public schooling.
      The teacher was saying something about this unpopular president being somehow responsible for the civil war. A very heavy girl in front was asking a question when Jack walked in.
      Mary knew she was blushing, nobody noticed.
       He went up front and spoke briefly to the teacher, then he came back and said hello to her. The creep was evidently impressed, he moved a couple of seats away from Mary when Jack sat down next to her.
      "I'm glad to see somebody familiar in this stupid class." He said.
      "I bet you are." Mary said coldly.
      "Hey! I didn't plan on catching you like that. It was just one of those things."
      Mary deadpanned back. "I thought you saw both of those things."

      Mary smiled inwardly at the witty comeback to his line. But to him she just threw her best ice stare and turned back to the teacher.
      Jack said nothing and listened to the presidency of one Mister Tyler. Finally he asked if there was a way he could make it up to her.
      Mary let him stew for awhile. Finally she suggested dinner, a real dinner.
      He glanced out the side of his eye and caught her looking at him. They exchanged smiles and listened to the details of the Dred Scott case. Mary decided that Scott must have been a close friend of the teachers, and from the dates involved, he could have been her first husband.

      Dale waited outside the Dean of Chronic Mischedualing's office.
      He sat as far away from the secretary's desk as possible and looked through twenty year old copies of 'Education Administrators Magazine', Dale was a bored as it was possible for him to be. He decided that elevator music really did belong in elevators.
      "I'm very sorry son, the dean is in a meeting, maybe you should try back tomorrow."
      Dale couldn't believe it. "I thought he was on the phone, and I could see him for just a minute when he was done."
      The secretary looked over her glasses at him. "You're new at this aren't you? The dean never sees anybody, let alone somebody with a problem. I'll put your name on the list for the committee to review. They have to approve all changes in graduate level schedules. So seeing the dean would just waste his valuable time."
      Dale thought the last thing he wanted to do was waste somebody's valuable time. He just stood there and felt like a very small cog in a very big machine. He nodded without saying anything and turned to leave.
      The secretary called after him. "Don't worry about a thing Chuck."
      Dale turned. "Huh?"
      "I said, don't worry. You are Charles Cambia. Right?"
      Dale nodded again. "Ahhh, Yeah. OK." He left.
      He was very ill that night. His roommate had taken him to a fraternity mixer for the freshmen. Dale had never drank anything more than a stolen sip of his uncle's beer before. The turpentine punch at the party was a little more than he was prepared for.
      Plus the idea he was stuck in that math class was not helping him any. Then there was the homework he had in his modern literature class.
      A real piece of work called 'Eulogy to a dead carp'. Dale made it to the first line before the quisiness hit him again. He raced down the hall and bowed to the toilet.

      They had dinner at a restaurant called the Quinsbury Room. It was named for a prominent citizen who had invented their exclusive process for bar-be-quing potted meat. Actually for any brave soul who tried it, it was fairly good. You couldn't tell the meat from the sauce. It was a nasty concoction of about six different kinds of liquor, some red sauce, and almost random selection of spices, and some muttered prayers that it wouldn't blow up the whole place when they cooked it.
      Mary and Jack had strip steaks, and all the regular side dishes. Jack poured about half a bottle of ketchup on his steak.
      Mary responded by tucking the tablecloth into her blouse as a bib.
      They had a fairly good time.
      Until they got outside. Jack suggested they go for a drive. Mary said she doesn't on the first date. He played innocent. She frowned on his car. A small import of indeterminable age, with much body cancer, and all sorts of neat noises coming from under the hood. He tried to defend it by saying it was paid for.
      Jack dropped her off in front of her dorm. She wouldn't even kiss him goodnight. Since she had to kick in a few dollars to pay for the meal, she thought a kiss was uncalled for.
      "How about Saturday night?" Jack asked before she shut the car door.
      "I'll think about it." She might think about it.
      When he got to his room at the independent house his phone was ringing. It was Mary. "OK, how about a second date. Tonight?"
      "Sorry. I never do it on second dates." Jack said. After he hung up he was sorry he had said that. Now she would never even talk to him again.
      Mary couldn't believe her ears. She had made what was called a foreword pass at a guy, and he had turned her down flat. And she knew he wanted her, real bad. She had done what her mother had said ages ago. "Play hard to get." and she hadn't gotten any.
      Jack was still kicking himself for saying no. He was sitting on his bed staring at a girlie magazine when his roommate came in with a lit joint of the old happy smoke. Billy offered it to Jack. He took it and looked it over.
      Jack muttered some vulgarity under his breath and threw the smoking thing out the open window. His roommate freaked out and almost dived out the window after it. Instead he cussed Jack and ran down the stairs to fish the joint out of the bushes below.

      Dale had a decision to make. He could join Triangle Squiggle Thingie, Whatchamacallit A Squiggle, or Ohm Thingie Thingie. He was seriously thinking about joining the one with the circle on an 'I' Thingie Thingie, but he found out that was for girls. He liked the one that read 'I Felta Thigh' but that was only in a cartoon. He couldn't decide. He had been to too many parties.
      The fourth week of the semester. RUSH WEEK for freshmen males. And he knew why it was called Rush Week, all you did was rush from one party to another.

      Dale was at yet another party, he was beyond hope.
      "Dale, my boy, youse is drunk." Somebody said. He looked around. Maybe he had said it to himself.
      "Hello, ahhh, Dale. My name is Samuel H. Ansphorp the Third. I believe you are inebriated."
      "In need of which?" Dale slobbered.
      The fraternity member called two of the brothers to deliver the sodden freshman back to where he belonged.
      The frat men dropped Dale on his bed. Took a bag of chips and left. His roommate had already been deposited by the tag team from another house. He had even less experience with drinking than Dale, but he would never have admitted it.

      Jack saw Mary the next day in the history class. Even though this was a good sized campus with a student population around six thousand students. Word of Jack's strike out with her had spread. Jack knew being a starter on the basketball team had some drawbacks, especially when you did something that made you look stupid.
      There was now a betting line on them. On whether or not Jack would ever score with her. Mary heard about the line on the weekend. She put five dollars on herself. Then upped it to ten when Jack called and didn't say much of anything. Mary was enjoying this.
      She had always heard you could get a line on almost anything if you knew the right people. There had been odds on a student's baby last year, the odds on favorite to be the father was an English professor, but the girl said the father was a student at a community college nearby and the line fell apart when she refused a paternity test.
      Jack told somebody about how he called her to ask her out, but she seemed overly eager for him to take her out and make slow meaningful love to her in the back seat of his car. Mary laughed. The rumormill was working overtime. This was getting to be silly.
      Mary heard from a friend of hers in the media center that she was on the board right alongside the points spread on the football game, and the fall book on next year's statewide elections. Mary didn't know what to think about this.
      Jack did. He was getting worried. Some of the frats had bet heavily on him. And they didn't take kindly to losing their slushfunds on bad gambling risks. Jack was an Independent. He lived in the non-fraternity, Independent house. He had never pledged a frat, though he had been recruited by several because of his sports status. Jack never joined because his father had never joined when he went here. And Jack always liked the old line from Groucho or somebody, "I wouldn't join a club that would let somebody like me join it." But still, he liked to stay on their good sides.
      He didn't have a lot to worry about. Most of the frats had hedged their bets by taking out a second ticket in another name on Mary with fairly long odds. So the blustering was more for show than any real threat to Jack of his winding up in a septic tank somewhere.

      After the dry heaves stopped Dale went back to his room. He decided to ignore the dead fish poem. Psych wasn't too inviting either.
      Dale looked at another book on his desk. Then he made one of the bravest gestures so far in his life. He picked up the text for his Greek Math class. The cover was nice. As far as the covers on textbooks go.
      He opened it.
      His professor and a couple of the student in the class were listed among the people that had helped in the writing of the book.
      On the first page of the main text he noticed what had to be a typographical error in the problem.
      "Wow." He said.
      Dale realized halfway through chapter two and twenty-five typos, misuses of words, obvious errors, and such later he didn't understand a word of what he was reading, but he enjoyed finding mistakes in a book written by people with more letters behind their names than they had in their names.
      There was another frat party that night. But he wasn't going. He wanted to be halfway ready for class Monday morning. He spent Sunday on the phone, or playing video games in the student union. Or down the hall in Kremin's room.
      Kremin DeSeltzer Ristor was the kind of person who seemed to be the center of whatever was going on, where ever it was. His room was the floor hangout for all sorts of people. Some profs stopped by because they knew he always had a cold beer ready, and it was a good informal place to unwind. There was always somebody that didn't belong in the room there. The TV seemed to always be on. A card game of some sort would be happening. Kremin had two phones in his room. Usually both of them would be busy. He seemed to have a permanent connection to the Net. And Dale found out that as long as he didn't say anything too dumb, he was welcome there, just for being him. Something Dale was still getting used to.
      All his life, he had been his father's son, or somebody's nephew. Here he was him, and taken at face value. Some of the 'floor gang' even seemed to like him.
      Except for Jimbo. And Jimbo didn't like anybody.
      Dale was sitting on Kremin's spare bed watching Ken cheat at cards, he was trying to learn by watching. Then Dale's roommate walked in with a heavy-chested blond girl on his arm. "HEY MAN! 'ERE'S ONE HELLOFA PARDY OVA AT PHILCO ROXY CHI!" He said too loudly.
      "Hi I'm Bonnie. He means Phi Ep Chi." The girl said. Her chest was very nearly spectacular by Dale's standards. Actually her chest was spectacular by almost any standards, but Dale didn't know that.
      The people in the room declined the invitation to the party, Bonnie seemed disappointed, but she didn't make a big deal out of it.
      Ken now had a better hand than he did when the girl came in, Dale didn't understand how, but it didn't seem to matter to the others in the game, he was winning by a good margin, now it would just be even bigger.
      "Talk to Ronnie." Kremin told him handing him the phone.
      "Hi Ronnie." Dale said, He was shocked to hear that Ronnie was a girl. He thought it was a boy's name. Ronnie didn't seem to mind that Dale didn't know her from Adam, or Eve for that matter. She talked anyway.

      Mary was wondering if she should have a long talk with Jack. They had only seen each other in class since their date, although one or the other of them would call the other one for some reason about every other day. Jack wasn't the world's best note taker in class, and Mary wrote almost constantly in the class. But still, Mary was worried. One of the more Neanderthals frats had openly threatened Jack if he didn't score and they lost their money on him.
      Mary's neighbor thought they might make him into a hat rack. Carol didn't like ballplayers, any ballplayers. Come to think of it. She didn't like the coaches, the cheerleaders, the gym, or the football stadium for that matter. Carol was basically unhappy in school, but she didn't want to drop out. And she felt that anything except academics or theater was a diversion that was not needed by serious students.
      Mary knew Carol was always in grade trouble with her scholarship people, and was just barely hanging on. Carol was too serious, she was always studying, but it never seemed to help, and she resented any offer of help from her friends, the staff, even her scholarship advisor. She said she would get through it. On her own.
      Carol also had trouble keeping a roommate for a whole semester. Joan had moved in at the start of this year. Joan was a little chubby, too friendly, and always willing to do anything for anybody. Mary tried hard to hate her, but Joan was just too nice to hate. Carol wasn't happy with Joan, but Joan was always doing things for her, so Carol tolerated her. Barely.
      They were all fairly good friends, and the second floor of Cannon was fast becoming its own little clique. So any thoughts anybody had about what Mary should do to or with Jack was relayed to Mary in a hurry.
      Mary had heard through this grapevine that the AM radio station's morning show was going to do a special on her. "Did she or didn't she?" would be broadcast to nearly half the state at the end of the semester. There would be commentary on premarital sex, peer pressure, and positions for doing things in a small car, and suggestions on what varieties of condoms were best for what.
      Mary knew she didn't want her relationship discussed on the radio. She left and walked to the independent house.
      Carol disapproved of the whole thing. And she knew she wasn't ready for the quiz coming on Monday morning in Economics. Joan was downstairs doing their laundry. Carol hadn't really planned anything like this. She just knew she wanted this all to be over with. She couldn't handle the pressure, she didn't know how to tell her parents she was failing chemistry, she knew they couldn't afford to send her to school if she lost her scholarship. Carol didn't know who she could talk to, or if there was anybody who knew what she was going through.
      Carol found a bottle of vodka in her closet that she had bought for a birthday party last year. She had half a bottle of mild tranquilizers, and some diet pills, and some pain pills she had left over from when she had sprained her ankle. Without thinking about it, she took all of them and washed them down with the vodka.

      It was fairly late when Dale left Kremin's room and went back to his. He had just missed his first meal on campus, and he was worried somebody would tell his parents. Kremin couldn't remember the last time he had eaten in the cafeteria. Dale had been to every meal the campus had. The dorm had a small kitchen and there was an old woman that cooked a minimal breakfast for the students in it, but that was it, she didn't do anything after breakfast, or on weekends. Dale ate breakfast in the dorm five days a week he had to go to the main cafeteria on Saturday and Sunday. And Dale had been faithful to the cafeteria for lunch and dinner every day since he had arrived. But Kremin had invited him to stay for pizza.
      Dale hadn't even thought about it. The pizza man showed up, Kremin signed the ticket, and they chowed down. There were three pizzas, and plenty of people. And it was fun. And later... Dale got worried, he thought there was some sort of disciplinary board for freshman that missed meals.
      Dale called home, nobody at his house had received a call from the secret supper police. Dale relaxed. He got ready for bed.

      Sometimes things happen that nobody can predict.
      Sometimes bad things happen to good people and all we can say is "why?", and there is never an answer.
      Mary was out with Jack, they were having a nice time.
      Joan was whiling away time pinning socks together and sorting undies for the wash.
      Cindy was filing out a work order for a cracked window in the hall.
      Carol was sobbing silently in her bed.
      The last week of September had seemed like it was going to be a routine week, the soccer team was doing well, the football season was spinning along, there was a hint of fall in the air, it was a couple weeks until the mid-term exam routine began.
      Routine. Normal. Life...

Continued in

Two Dorms Part 2


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