Life on Aisle 12

by Sarah McCarthy

Living off-campus is, in many respects, unassailably cool. You are out from under the tyrannical thumb of the bureaucracy that demands you call your place of living some boring name like “Anderson” or “Douglas.” Instead, you may christen your house any name you choose, preferably a name that communicates without question that your house is the most clever of all houses. You can throw parties knowing that no RA will come break it up and you will take comfort in this fact only until you realize that the real-live police both can and will.

What no one mentions, though, is that living off-campus necessitates doing many decidedly un-cool things—things that smack of being not a carefree youth but a very boring adult. It starts when you notice some disturbing trends—i.e., that your toilets don’t really flush and that your kitchen floor which you thought was maybe just covered in artful brown polka dots is actually just layered in grime. You notice, with some trepidation, that though you have a dining room table, you don’t have any chairs to go around it, and that though you have a sink full of dishes, you lack any sponge or dish soap to deal with them.

Thus, you make a trip to K-Mart, because it is both slightly closer and slightly less evil than Wal-Mart, though you know that choosing K-Mart over Wal-Mart is not much more impressive than choosing Beelzebub over Satan. Rarely will you be less cool than during the hours (and yes, there will be hours) that you spend wandering the aisles of K-Mart. You will buy a Tupperware set, a vacuum cleaner, and floor polisher. You will take a moment—an honest-to-God moment of about fourteen seconds—to contemplate whether the price difference really makes it OK to just go with the generic brand swiffer refill pack. Will generic-swiffer swiff your floors with the swiffiness of the regular swiffer? You will feel like you are getting away with a devious trick when you come across a most flawless deal “1.29 for not just one, but TWO dustpans; two dustpans that, in fact, clip onto the broom for easy storage! Having bought a dustpan, you quickly realize that you can do one better than that and add a dust buster to the cart—a really delightful dust buster which you christen ‘Dustin’ and hang on your wall. Much like a cell phone or computer, Dustin has to be charged up to run at his full capacity, but when he is, there is nary a piece of dust that Dustin cannot bust.

Horror sets in, when you return home and realize that you have forgotten everything. Somehow, though you have spent a laughably large amount on products that you never conceived of buying before, there are many more very basic life necessities that your house lacks: a pot, for example, or a single glass that is not a sippy cup. And so you return. And so the cycle repeats.

I have been to K-Mart so many times in the past few weeks that I seriously contemplated whether or not it might be more cost and time-efficient if I went up to an employee and said something along the lines of “Ah, what the heck, I’ll just take the whole haul.” I could walk out then, with one of each and every item that K-Mart sells, comfortable that at least I could avoid another trip until the dishwasher fluid ran out. I don’t, though, only because, unless my house really takes a turn for the worse, I doubt we’d need the items found between aisles 16A and 17B—namely, the bright orange hunting hats and camo.

So, on-campus dwellers, I beseech you: appreciate that your toilet paper is magically bought for you, that you do not stand in the aisle and calculate whether the extra twelve cents is worth the extra-softness. And off-campus dwellers—just because we may have calculated such a thing doesn’t make us un-cool. Finally, the softness isn’t really worth it. The extra twelve cents would be much better put towards some refill swiffer pads.

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