Never open your door to people you don’t know. A clichéd piece of advice given to children, but wisely followed by adults as well.
Should you ignore this guidance, it is implied that you be prepared. For robbery, assault, kidnapping, torture, murder, etc. Or even having to explain the foul refuse of a stranger in your wastebasket. Correction: in the wastebasket that is actually the property of your university.
In college I was serious. The voices of every parent, teacher, and guidance counselor echoed in my head and kept me on task. Freshman year I drank one Zima and got busted. That was the end of my wild escapades. That’s what happens when you make bad choices, I told myself. Never again.
So it was not unusual on a late Saturday evening for me to be in my dorm room studying. My roommate Beth was often there too. On one occasion, we were startled by a knock at our door. I moved from my bed cautiously to investigate, as we weren’t expecting visitors and could account for the whereabouts of all our friends.
I opened the door to a pile of a person, in sort of a disheveled yoga extended child’s pose. Since the head was prone, I could only identify the hair color of the woman. The red-headed pile moaned.
“Uhhhh. Let me in. Open the doooor,” the pile groaned with a phantom’s tempo.
I looked at Beth, on the top bunk. “What is going on?” I whispered. “Who is this?”
“It might be Shelly,” she said.
“Was she going out tonight? I didn’t think she got drunk like this? Something is definitely not normal.”
“Mooove! Lemme in!” the pile yelled at me.
Being a rules follower and concerned about this person who may or may not have been a friend of ours and may or not have been very sick/drunk/high/dying, I stepped aside.
The woman stood as upright as a Neanderthal, pushed me aside, and stumbled forward into our room.
“Close the doooor. Shut the doooor.”
Now we could tell that this was not Shelly. We saw enough of her face to recognize her as one of the women’s lacrosse players from down the hall. This girl who smiled often enough, but whose gas passed loudly in the bathroom, whose voice raised a ruckus late every weekend night, whose mouth chewed tobacco at every chance. And she was asking us to close the door. While she was about my height and not physically intimidating, I hesitated to shut her in with us. We’d never had a conversation. What did she want? What could we have in common, even in an emergency?
“Can we, um, help you?” I asked her.
“Leave me aloooone. “
It appeared she’d had too much to drink/smoke/snort/shoot, was in a mess of some kind and had gotten lost, and…she was pantless. She sported a white t-shirt and maybe underwear–I don’t remember because I tried to give her some privacy. So out of embarrassment for her I shut the door.
Beth and I had been studying in our bunks, with reading lights, planning on crashing into our open books. Once I shut our dorm door and the fluorescent hallway lights weren’t shining in, our eyes had to readjust to the dimness of the room. While our eyes and brains were trying to provide explanation for what was taking place, Lacrossy found our wastebasket.
She crawled to it, and propped herself on it with her arms, in slow motion.
“Oh no, no, please don’t puke in our trash can. Please don’t. Aagh, Beth, what are we supposed to do?”
Beth was safely on the top bunk, and began laughing. I tried not to laugh, as I was the nearest of us to our guest and therefore the most likely to achieve communication. But I couldn’t help it.
And then things got a lot worse. Lacrossy continued rising, until unsteadily upright, and then sat on our wastebasket.
“Uh….I don’t know what’s going on here, but you use your face to puke….please don’t sit on our trash can and puke on our floor!” But I was afraid to go near her, unable to predict her next move.
Sounds echoed from the trashcan. Gaseous sounds in stereo, and liquid sounds.
“OH MY GOD! Should I go get the RA??” I asked Beth.
Now, if I’d had a guardian angel, spirit guide, or whatever entity of wisdom exists, it would have tapped me forcefully on the shoulder and said, “Yes. Yes, you should. Go get the RA to help this poor girl.”
But, still in shock, I didn’t. I felt like I was ratting on whatever she’d done to get herself in this awkward predicament. So, Beth and I watched incredulously as Lacrossy did allllll of her business right there in our dorm room wastebasket.
“Beth—I think she thinks this is the bathroom.” The bathroom was almost directly across the narrow hall from us. Now, granted, the bathroom was brightly lit, had stalls, and did not have attendants. It also tended to be louder and stinkier than our dorm room, but still, I supposed I could see the confusion.
Beth just continued to laugh. “Do you think she’s done yet?”
And this continued for what seemed like hours.
Eventually Lacrossy seemed tired, and the soundtrack diminished. I was thankful for my hay fever congestion that protected me from the full olfactory experience. When it appeared that she may have finished using our “toilet”, I did what any new bestie would do, and offered her a Kleenex to use in place of TP (once again, not a bathroom; no TP on hand). She accepted, tidied herself, stood up, and left our room.
After we released our laughter and shut the door, we had to make a decision about the wastebasket. Normally our trash would be emptied in a larger community can, kept in a small hall closet with a window. Where that hall trash was emptied, however, was a complete mystery. And if we took our “university property” trash can outside through the lobby, eyebrows at the front desk would certainly be raised. And then there was the problem of, well, not wanting to disinfect this thing ourselves, nor pay for it at the end of the year if it were missing. So off to the hall trash closet it went, the door shut behind it. But now what? Whose poor face would get punched by the aroma of that heinous bouquet, when they opened the door to dispose of their Coke cans? There was no way to cover up this mess for our uninvited guest. We had to wake up the RA.
It was a fun time explaining the whole situation to our also-very-studious RA, who’d been sleeping soundly after an exhausting day of studying for some major pharmacy exam. Then it was enjoyable explaining the whole story once again to the residence hall director, who we hoped did not remember us from our Zima indiscretion. Since Lacrossy didn’t remember her incident at all, and was in tears upon being accused, the director seemed very hesitant to believe us. She, in fact, accused us of playing a prank.
“Listen, we’re very sorry, Lacrossy for not informing the RA sooner. We realized we didn’t even know where you went off down the hall without pants, which worried us after the fact. But, Director, I swear to you we are not lying. I mean, if we were, how would we explain the stuff in the wastebasket? That would be one heck of an effort on our part to play a joke on a stranger.”
Ultimately Lacrossy swapped trash cans with us (we crossed our fingers that hers was clean, and figured we’d take her tobacco spit remnants over the alternative) and from then on kept her head down and her voice quieter in the halls. Her friends ridiculed her endlessly for her adventure. I felt bad for her, but took solace in my hunch that our room would never be mistaken for a bathroom again; her infamous legend most likely having been passed around the dorm.
So I’ll go the cliché one further: Especially never open your door to a stranger in a heap. A faceless guest is most likely not a friend, nor unloading any product of interest.