Overcrowded and understocked, messy and locked, lavatories create problems for students
It's lunchtime, and more than 15 girls are packed into the first floor bathrooms on Blair's Silver Spring Avenue, waiting to use the same two stalls. Every newcomer to the already crowded bathroom looks at the line, peeks into the four empty stalls, winces and, with a look of doomed submission, takes her place at the end of the line.
With three students still waiting, the bell rings, signaling the end of lunch. One girl stamps her foot in frustration. "This is the third time this damn bathroom has made me late," she grumbles to a friend.
Many students and staff members believe that the bathrooms have been hit hardest by Blair's overcrowding. In the bathrooms' fourth year of existence, many students have decried their conditions. Paper products are scarce, messes are frequent and Blazers have to go to great and often disgusting lengths just to relieve themselves.
Can you spare a square?
Many Blazers say that the biggest problem with the bathrooms is finding a stall sufficiently stocked with toilet paper. More frequent use of the few acceptable stalls results in many messes and more clogged toilets, they say.
According to Building Services Manager James Brown, the school goes through 192 rolls of toilet paper each week. "We have people restocking the bathrooms after each change of class," states Brown. He believes that this process is enough to keep the bathrooms running successfully. "At the end of the day, the bathrooms should look like they do at the beginning of the day," he says.
However, building service workers acknowledge that this is not the case, and some of Blair's faculty and staff believe students are primarily responsible. One building service worker believes that the students' misuse of the bathrooms is not intentional but rather the result of a lack of motivation to maintain cleanliness. "They see where their friends threw paper all over the floor and they just say, ‘The hell with it,'" he says.
In an informal Silver Chips survey of 100 students on Oct 25, 57 students reported having found themselves stranded in stalls without toilet paper. Nearly all of those stranded were female.
Students who find themselves stranded have found a number of ways, albeit imperfect ones, to deal with that unfortunate situation. Junior Nikki Mosuro recalls her own reaction when she was confronted with such a situation: she enlisted the help of another student. "There wasn't any toilet paper, so I screamed at the top of my lungs and I finally got some," says Mosuro.
Twenty-three percent of those surveyed say they ask students in neighboring stalls to pass them toilet paper. Five percent use paper towels. Fifteen percent employ the so-called "drip-dry" method and nine percent make use of handy items including lunchbags, socks or even their own hands.
For some, just getting into Blair's bathrooms is a problem. Although about 800 students have eighth period classes, all but two bathrooms are locked at 2:10 p.m.
Pranks also limit the number of usable bathrooms. "Kids find a way to get under the stalls and lock the doors," says one building service worker. Though it may seem like a harmless prank, it makes life that much more difficult for many students. Five percent of Blazers report having had to crawl under the stalls or climb over the walls to use the empty stalls or just to get toilet paper.
A number of Blazers have made personal vows not to use the school bathroom unless absolutely necessary. Junior Winston Lin names an incident in early September as the reason for his becoming a non-user. "One time I was in the guys' bathroom, and everyone was pointing at this one stall and they were like, ‘Oh, my God,'" recalls Lin. "I finally had to look, and I was like, ‘Oh, God . . ."
What Lin saw in the stall is best left to the imagination, but the experience has since soured him to the use of any of the school's bathrooms.
Students and staff alike believe that the majority of Blair's bathroom woes could be avoided with a little cooperation from the other end. Business Manager Anne Alban believes the root of the problem is simple. "Students can help by not throwing paper everywhere," she says.
Shannon Sanders. Shannon is stumbling through life as a Magnet senior. She's an aspiring obstetrician, who hopes to live in NYC and somehow blend seamlessly into the masses of chicness after graduating from Columbia University. She's a sort-of member of Blair's Model UN club, takes dance lessons, ... More »