Life in the residence halls should be pretty simple after midnight. Most students opt to sleep and re-energize for the following day’s classes or decide to persist at their studies throughout the night. Whichever path they choose, sleep or work, most students do it efficiently.
Recently, however, a cloud has loomed over these nighttime rituals: a cloud of smoke originating from burnt popcorn.
A night of burnt popcorn occurs at least twice a month. Since I usually gravitate toward the irrational notion of sleep after midnight, I am woken up with a jolt to the sound of 1,000-decibel sirens reverberating off the walls. A computerized male voice informs me that the fire alarm has been activated and orders me to go to the nearest exit. I clumsily knock about my room in the dark, fumbling for a light. I put on my socks, shoes and coat, wondering the entire time whether these actions will cause me the inconvenience of being burned alive since I did not exit immediately. In addition, I cannot leave until I find my ID, otherwise it will take me until next Tuesday to re-enter the building.
During one of these fire drill nights the spectacle outside of a residence dorm such as White Hall must be hilarious to passersby: a sea of college students wearing bunny slippers and SpongeBob pants on North Broad Street in the dead of winter. It is an unacceptable hour of the morning and hundreds of students have been disturbed either in sleep or study. And for what reason? The answer is always the same: someone burned popcorn.
Students have realized that microwave malfunctions nearly always sound the fire alarms. Due to its frequent occurrence, there are some innovative students who opt to remain in their rooms and wait out the pulsing madness of sound waves. This practice is planting the seeds of a dangerous habit, which occurs in all of the University’s residence halls. If the time ever comes where the alarms sound due to a real fire, there will be some who will disregard it as a yet another false popcorn alarm.
In the case of White Hall, another form of chaos awaits outside for residents who do exit the building as instructed. The way White Hall is situated, its 500 residents have only the option of standing on the small area of sidewalk or steps in front of the building. Or, be shoved into the merciless traffic of Broad Street. The frantic RAs scream for all students to clear off the steps. Of course, no one does; they simply stare and blink.
This initiates a 10 to 20 minute hissy fit by the RAs, in which they scream and shout for the students to clear the steps. In this moment, the RAs pose threats of an even further delayed re-entry. The students, like frightened sheep, begin to knock into each other.
Students have been warned that improper use of microwaves will result in the appliances’ removal. Seeing that people repeatedly misuse them, a change needs to be made. Students need to decide whether sleep or late night snacks are more important to them. Nobody needs to be cooking Orville Redenbacher Extra Buttery Light after midnight.
A compromise for those lacking microwave aptitudes would be to shut off the power in the microwaves after midnight and turn them on at 7 a.m. In this case, the microwaves would be available during all appropriate hours.
After an agonizing half hour of sheep herding, I return to my room with my head throbbing. I lay in bed with dinner plate eyes; whatever sleep that was in me has been shrieked out. I am left in the darkness to wonder how soon it will be until this routine is repeated.
Jesse North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.