What Dirty Dishes Taught Me About People

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It’s true — college bathrooms suck. But you want to know what sucks even more? Dirty college bathrooms.

Sharing two showers and two sinks with 16 other girls is by no means an easy feat. This daunting activity is only aggravated by the fact that an unknown girl has been leaving her dirty dishes on our bathroom counter for weeks. The cleaning staff leaves them untouched; my floormates leave them untouched; I leave them untouched. So there they remain — completely, utterly untouched.

The dishes have certainly been a conversation starter whenever I find myself in the bathroom with another. Here’s how our tête-à-tête typically goes:

“These dishes are disgusting. Who keeps leaving them here?”

“I don’t know, but whoever is doing this is so rude and selfish and annoying. I really hope someone cleans this up.”

Fin.

This exchange has taken place between virtually every girl on my floor, which means one of two things: Either the culprit doesn’t live on the second floor of E and is going out of her way to walk up or down the stairs and meander into our bathroom to use it as her personal dish drop, or the culprit is among us and simply unwilling to own up to it. My money is on the latter. Everybody knows the dishes are a nuisance, yet we’re all perfectly content with letting them sit there, hoping they’ll magically disappear one day. Some girls have even gone so far as to place Post-it notes on the dishes, begging whoever is responsible to clean them up.

I often find myself sympathizing with and relating to both the girl who is leaving her dishes and the girls who suffer at the hands of this wrongdoer. In my “Intro to Psychology” class last semester, we learned about theory of mind, which is the ability to recognize one’s own desires, intentions and knowledge as different from that of another person’s. In essence, instead of just assuming one’s actions are reflective of character, we have to consider the context.

Sometimes, I think back to this concept and choose to imagine the culprit as the typical Yale student who has no choice but to scarf down her meals and ditch her dishes in the bathroom because she has no time before her six classes or shift at Bass or Model UN meeting. Other times, I shake my fist at said student and complain about her dishes, only to leave them there so the next person can pick up where my frustrations left off. A part of me feels like I (and, by extension, the other girls on my floor) choose to tolerate these dishes because we appreciate the message it sends — that we, as the blameless bystanders, refuse to cave and clean up the mess for her.

We all have elements of both parties in us: the girl leaving her dishes and the girls who refuse to compromise their innocence. On the one hand, our lives as Yale students consistently verge on the chaotic, and we forget the direct ways in which our actions may impact others. On the other hand, we become so consumed in our finger pointing and criticism of others that we forget to consider the whole story, that the so-called wrongdoers are real people who, occasionally, slip up.

Or, more importantly, we forget to consider that we ourselves could be the solution.

I’d like to believe a Yale community is a collaborative one in which we are able to call on one another for help when we make mistakes — without fear of disapprobation. So to my fellow floormates: try to acknowledge that the “wrongdoer” is indeed one of our own and that your character is not compromised by lending a helping hand (in fact, it might be strengthened). And to the owner of the dishes: Please try to step up to the plate (pun intended) and refrain from leaving your mess so that our bathroom can be tolerable — or, at least as tolerable as college bathrooms can be.

 

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