Picture this: I’m naked, in a woman’s bed. The bed isn’t mine. There’s a knock at the door. “Maintenance,” a baritone voice announces. A pause. Another knock. “Maintenance,” the voice repeats. The clock reads 9 a.m. And there I lie: naked, in a woman’s bed. Except, it isn’t just me.
This isn’t an extraordinary experience for one living in the residence halls at Scripps College, and the maintenance thing is pretty common too.
Last month, my suitemates and I were awoken (in our own beds) by the familiar, yet somehow always jarring knock-and-announcement: “Maintenance.” There I was again: naked and afraid. They were here to do something, and they were here to do it in our rooms.
Scripps Voice readers, I apologize for oversharing in this article. I have one foot out the door of this institution and I genuinely cannot be bothered. I have a mental illness, or neurodivergence, or whatever you want to call it. The kind you take pills for. My room is often concerningly messy.
I awoke from my four-hour slumber (mental illness: see above) and dressed as quickly as possible, although clearing out a space on the floor large enough for a tarp in a ladder was not a speedy task. I rushed to bulldoze the mountains of god-knows-what to the perimeter of my room as the maintenance staff waited awkwardly and patiently in the hall.
I sat with my disoriented roommates as the comedically ambiguous sounds of tools and banging commenced in each of our respective rooms. Afterward, my suitemates and I had a discussion with the middle-aged men who had been instructed by their employers to come into our bedrooms, virtually unannounced.
We apologized for being unready for their arrival and making them wait as a result. One of the men shared our disappointment in the situation we all found ourselves in. He claimed he even asked The People Who Sent Him (whoever They are) if They could give the residents some kind of warning before his ingress. I can’t use quotes because this conversation wasn’t for an interview, and I’m not a “real journalist,” but I swear to god, he said that They said that if it’s after 9 a.m., THE RESIDENTS CAN’T STOP YOU. What the fuck???
Do not mistake my meaning in this next part. I love to complain. I make no effort to deny this fact. But my fervent love for a good rant was not the causal force for my next action. I am a woman of action with a moral code that explicitly condemns retribution (including backward-looking expressions of aggravation toward well-meaning individuals whose past actions cannot be changed). So, with progress and hopes for a brighter future in mind, I took to Outlook:
“Hello & Good Morning,
I hope you’re doing well! My name is Sam, I’m a senior at —” blah blah blah, we all know email etiquette, or at the very least, now we know we should Google it — “My roommates and I (and all of us at Scripps I’m sure) are immensely appreciative that we have the opportunity to live in such nice, well-maintained dorms, and to have the ability to make maintenance requests that are fulfilled in a timely manner. Please know that the following message does not, in any way, diminish this gratitude. My intent is to advocate for clearer communication between Maintenance and the student body in order to allow for greater cooperation between us.”
I kindly explained the events of the morning and made sure to clarify that “we would be more than happy to accommodate necessary maintenance,” and simply, “we would have greatly appreciated an email to give us some notice, and to give us the opportunity to prepare for their arrival. With an email, we would have been dressed, unafraid, and cleaned off the floors in our room to allow for them to begin work at their intended start time,” because “many of us attend a historically women’s college intentionally and being woken up unexpectedly by the sounds of men with heavy equipment is alarming. Even when unexpected maintenance occurs later in the day, I (and many of my peers) have had Zoom classes interrupted by the sounds of loud banging, tools, and the voices of the people simply trying to do their job.”
So — “please, in the future, would it be possible to send us an email, even just 24 hours in advance of the maintenance?” And — “Thank you for all you do for us, and I hope that, in the future, we can show this appreciation by cooperating and anticipating maintenance, making for a more efficient and peaceful experience for all involved!
Sam Bloomfield (she/her)
Scripps College ‘22”
Maybe a little dramatic of me to be honest! But I think (or at least I hope) it was sufficiently compassionate and captured something worth expressing. Dearest Voice reader, sincerely, if you find this email to be disrespectful in any way, find me on Instagram or something and let me know because I would hate to go about my life doing unintentionally disrespectful shit via email.
Call me ou- Call me IN!
I received a very prompt and considerate response from maintenance staff who assured me that my concerns were taken to heart. They explained that they jumped on the issue and intended to get a highly qualified vendor to perform the work as soon as possible, which, unfortunately, results in a lack of forewarning to the residents. They also expressed that, in the future, whenever possible, they will provide a minimum of 24 hours’ notice.
I felt really good about that! There I was, a champion of the people, a weaver of peace! I thought myself to be a modern-day Shakespeare with Microsoft Outlook as my Globe, a vessel through which The Divine Feminine may act, as had been the case for Eirene, daughter of Zeus and Themis, with actions defensible even by the most action-averse neo-lib standards. I had done it! I had communicated clearly and compassionately, and that’s really all it took to solve the issue.
John Stuart Mill claims it is “better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.” Fuck that!
Later that month, I was speaking with a friend who had spent the night in another woman’s dorm. She recounted a familiar tale. She was naked, in a woman’s bed. There was a knock at the door: “Maintenance.”
Image Source: Anaga Srinivas