I may not have had my own bed while at home for Fall Break, but I did have the comfort of knowing that the second floor would remain above the first as I drifted into my REM cycle and back. Now back at the University Forest Apartments, I'm not so sure.
Ever since my little sister decided to annex my bed to kick hers up to king-size last year, I've adapted to a nomadic existence at home, navigating nightly from bed to bed depending on which sibling has left a vacancy. But these days the sack-swap seems a satisfactory sacrifice for the security of the structure.
That security feels lacking in the UFAs, which, I guess isn't surprising being that they were apparently built as a temporary housing arrangement during the 1980s. I'm not sure what kinds of dictionaries we've got stacked up in Boatwright, but the last time I checked, 25 years doesn't qualify as fleeting. Confirmation of that comes from the continuous leaking of water from our apartment's second-story shower to our first-story kitchen.
I've always dreamed of having a waterfall in my home, but the swollen ceiling and cracked tiles in my apartment hardly seem exotic. Although from time to time I do enjoy being overly dramatic, the reason my roommate and I scored an apartment after we got back from abroad last year makes my fear - waking up on the kitchen table after a middle-of-the-night apartment collapse - not so unfounded.
According to our RA, our apartment was vacant in the spring because the fall-semester tenants had to move out after the ceiling collapsed because of ... water damage. Why he told us this on move-in day, I'm not sure, but now that we have our own water problems this year, I'm glad I know what the stakes are.
It started innocently enough, a couple of drips in the kitchen after a shower upstairs. Drips became puddles. Puddles became bulges in the ceiling. We called Facilities, although I wasn't expecting much with baby ants continuing to crawl across me during my sleep long after the exterminator's two-week treatment-activation period.
The solution? Two-inch-wide L-shaped panels on either side of the shower opening. Other than causing me to trip almost every time I attempted to shower, I wasn't sure how effective they would be at trapping water. After a late-night bathroom trip proved to almost require hiking boots to traverse the humps that had developed in the tile floor across the room from the shower, I had my doubts.
I asked my apartmentmates the next morning, "Has the buckling of the bathroom floor always been this bad?" We studied the bulging and cracked tile and concluded: No, the water must be running from the shower, not just into the kitchen, but also underneath the tile, across the floor and collecting in front of our toilet.
That parents and guests during Family Weekend almost fainted at the stench of our apartment - probably caused by mildew - suggests water has been collecting elsewhere, too. What's scarier is that we've been living with the mildew for so long that we couldn't even detect an odor.
After showering at home during Fall Break, a pattern emerged about the design of bathing structures. Tub: curtain. No tub: door. Richmond, however, has tried to fashion a new category. No tub: no door. If I turned in an idea like that in one of my classes, I would get an F.
I examined the structure upon my return and couldn't believe how foolish it was - the shower floor slopes up only slightly toward the edge, with only a curtain as a guard. Without a tub, no hanging piece of cloth is keeping that water in, and with the way globalization is going, Wal-Mart won't be selling Iron Curtains any time soon. The two-inch solutions, though creating a small shield, seem a poor substitute for a tub or a door. Probably a lot cheaper though.
And ours is not an isolated problem. At least two other apartments on my block alone have also complained of shower water leaking into their kitchens. The burning smell when we turned on our heat last weekend didn't do much to bolster our confidence that our problems would end there.
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Don't get me wrong - the concept and location of the apartments are great, and I prefer our living arrangement to living off campus, as all of my friends at other schools do. Waking up to the Black Eyed Peas blasting from the IM Field speakers at 4 a.m. last Thursday - OK; waking up to the second floor collapsing into the first - not OK.
Paying $50,000 a year, students shouldn't have to move out of their apartments because of bed bugs, as a bunch of seniors have had to this year. I can barely handle getting my work done, let alone going through an apartment move when that fateful day comes when I wake up on our kitchen table.
Twenty-five years of temporary housing is not only unsanitary, but also unsafe. According to my friend's conversation with a Help Desk technician, who used to live in the apartments himself, it may not even be legal to be housing students in them after a certain date.
He-who-must-not-be-named is the first one banging down apartment doors to accuse us of ignoring fire hazard warnings via e-mails that Residence Life never sent to us in the first place, but when it comes to real safety, the apartments seem to be last on the long list of campus construction. I know we like to spice up our stats, but structural soundness seems a bit more urgent than new lounges, flat-screen TVs and the supposedly fire-hazardous Spiderman poster hanging above our front door.
Apartment renovations are long overdue, and this time, please spring for a light in the back room. Give my clever neighbor a real reason to sing her Miley Cyrus remix - "Party in the UFA."
Contact opinion editor Maura Bogue at email@example.com
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