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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

COLUMN: Hideaways of Wheatley Hall

Wheatley Hall is known for many things: the English Department, a cuppa joe at the Wit’s End café, a room-numbering system that would make the NSA’s cryptographers green with envy, the Lil’ Marxist Junior Fan Club, and some other stuff besides. But something Wheatley is not readily known for is its hidden toilets. That’s right, kids, there are some benefits to having an unsynchronous campus building designed by an architect whose prior experience was in designing penitentiaries. Well, benefits beside the obvious.

If you wander long enough through Wheatley, you will find some interesting sights like deserted hallways, eerie stairwells that seem to plunge infinitely downward, Chairman Mao’s head floating in a pickle jar, as well as some unfrequented water closets- ones that are probably only used twenty times a day at the most. By Wheatley Hall standards, that’s practically virgin.

Sure, we’ve all had our bad days. Your horoscope promised true love, but all you got was a broken heart and a bottle of penicillin; you didn’t study because you’re hung over; burned your tongue on coffee–and to top it all off, you have a turtle-head poking. So, you walk into Wheatley’s first restroom only to find a full house, standing room only. What do you do? Wait in line? Not in my America! You tighten the laces on your Chucks and go find another convenience, deep within the labarynthian innards of Wheatley Hall. But where to go…?

There are about three or four restrooms (for each sex, or gender, or whatever the PC mot du jour) on the first floor: one near the main entrance, and a couple more scattered in varying nooks and crannies. But, those facilities easily reach maximum occupancy, especially during that ten-minute limbo between classes. Due in part to these factors, one must go venture upwards to find bowelary relief–specifically, on the fourth floor. Word to the wise: don’t take the elevators. It’s entirely possible to evolve into another species by the time you find a lift going your way (where do you think all those gnats at Wit’s came from?). So, take a deep breath, and walk all the way up to floor number four. I know, Dead Mike, it’s going to be a long hike, but as the Army says, “More sweat in peace means less blood in war.”

Once on the fourth floor, the WC is easy enough to find. It’s by no means as decadent as the Campus Center’s water closets, but it possesses a certain, almost Old World charm, like a quaint room at a secluded B&B in Vermont–except it’s a public toilet in Dorchester. Good news is that the fourth floor conveniences are practically unused now that all the hyphenated-American clubs and student centers have been transplanted to the Campus Center–unused except by CPCS (Center for Prostate Correction Surgery???), whose faculty make their lair down the hall on the same floor. But, I have a suspicion that CPCS has its own hidden water closets, possibly behind a false bookshelf, a false bookshelf that swings open by pulling out a certain book. My investigations, though time-consuming, have so far been inconclusive. However, I remain optimistic in my Secret Toilet hypothesis, and would not be at all surprised if the whole Dean Soto affair isn’t somehow, someway, related to these private/hidden restrooms.

But, until I discover the Secret Toilet on the fourth floor, there remains only one other alternative to the fourth floor WCs: the fifth floor, where the conveniences are set up in the same Vermont B&B style as on the fourth floor. One level further up from that, the sixth floor, is not recommended, as it happens to be the home of the English Department. The sixth floor’s WCs are frequented by the entirety of UMB’s English faculty and, as scary as it may sound, English majors themselves. As a result, the walls and stalls are covered with crudely scrawled sonnets and blatant imitations of e. e. cummings. What’s left of the normal, ribald graffiti has all been proofread and, with a red marker, all grammatical and anatomical mistakes have been corrected. Go there only to be traumatized by the poem “Ode to Metamucil,” published anonymously on the inside of the first stall door.