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The Dartmouth
April 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

The Trials and Tribulations of Off-Campus Housing

I was in my living room last week on Thursday night or early Friday morning when I heard this tremendous crash in the nearby kitchen. Next, I heard the shrill of my roommate's voice. I jumped up to see what had happened. I wasn't too surprised. My roommate (one of them) had nearly been killed by a kitchen light fixture that fell to the ground, splintering into a million sharp pieces.

Although she was physically unhurt, she was visibly upset. (My roommate is really great, I didn't feel like having to plan a funeral for her. I had visions of making a telephone call to her mother in New Jersey. " Yes Mrs. X, it was the light fixture in the kitchen, she was turning on the light. You know we have that string..." Luckily, I didn't have to do this.)

My roommates and I are self-sufficient and responsible. We enjoy the luxury of electricity. We wouldn't mind turning on and off the lights if we didn't have to fear for our life every time we needed to illuminate the room. But this event was just one in a small series of events that have occurred over the last six weeks. Last week during homecoming, we threw a small party. An hour before the party we lost power. No lights, music or refrigeration -- I think this is the sixth time this has happened. My roommate (the other one) rushed outside to flip the breakers. I followed behind with a flashlight as we entered the basement. At least we have the key.

Recently, we have been blessed with some warmer weather. Now that our furnace has been repaired the apartment has been quite warm so I often open the windows. Tonight, when I tried to close the window, it broke. I spend so much time trying to fix things I feel like I should join the cast of Home Improvement. My friends have taken to calling me a poser for Bob Vila.

So, after the window incident, I bought myself a copy of the Idiot's Guide to Home Repairs. I am learning how to make simple repairs first. Baby steps. Then I will move onto more complicated projects. I am lucky because I take after my father who is a very talented handyman. He can fix everything from leaky faucets to flat tires. I want to be realistic: I am not expecting off-campus apartments to be like the Ritz Carlton but I do expect clean, safe living arrangements just like I would expect of college housing. These buildings are very old. The electrical sockets need converters because they only have two prong outlets.

I used to joke that after moving ten times as a result of the D-plan, I could write a book on how to move to and from college but these apartment troubles have given me new incentive for what to do with my life after college. I could be a "housing consultant." My responsibilities would include organizing the move into dorms or apartments, instructing students about the need for surge protectors, checking smoke detectors, buying cleaning supplies, etc. I get a sense of accomplishment when I work on projects like this. Who knows? Maybe some day I'll be on the cover of Dartmouth Alumni magazine as the next Martha Stewart? I doubt it -- I can change light bulbs but I can't cook a turkey to save my life.