Web Exclusives:On the Campus...

February 13, 2002:
My head is pounding
Living in the dorms you gotta deal with the noise

By Liriel Higa '02

Sometimes, Princeton seems like a summer camp for postadolescents struggling to find our way to adulthood. Yes, we're living away from our parents, many of us separated by thousands of miles. Yet still, the issues we deal with often feel much like the ones I confronted during sleepover camp back in elementary school.

A primary one is noise. Throughout the semester, residents of Edwards Hall have received e-mails from our dormitory assistant (a recently created position held by a junior or senior who is in charge of contacting the appropriate office or department when a showerhead is broken) telling us to please, stop pounding on the floor and walls. In one of the e-mails, he suggested that the noise may be the result of our chairs (which rock) and he admonished us to be mindful of our rocking, especially at night. I hear banging noises occasionally. For a while I thought an upstairs neighbor was hammering something into his or her wall.

A friend conjectured that the thudding noises she heard were the result of someone using dumbbells that were too heavy, forcing the fitness seeker to drop them after each curl. However, the noise was infrequent and innocuous enough that I didn't think much of it. After all, anyone that passes by my room is liable to be subjected to The Crystals or the Cabaret soundtrack at any time of night or day.

However, in mid-January, the stakes were raised. One student on the first floor of my building left flyers outside the doors of second floor inhabitants. "$20 Reward To Stop the Pounding!" it proclaimed, offering a Jackson to the "craven person who has been pounding on the floor and/or walls since the beginning of the year on a daily basis at all different hours of the day" or $20 for information that would lead to disciplinary action against the offender.

The retaliation was swift and brutal. Almost immediately, flyers went up mocking the initial missive: "Pro-pounding rally at Firestone," proclaimed one. Another invoked Coasean bargaining: "[I]f you value your right to pound at $50, and I value my peace and quiet at $100, I can pay you $75, and we'll both gain $25." On the bulletin board by the Edwards computer cluster were a set of originals, with humorous and often crude slogans: a playmate data sheet with turn-ons listed as "pounding, pounding, sex, and pounding" and travel dreams "to one day visit Princeton University so I can pound in Edwards Hall." Another revolved around a picture of a huge bicep heralding the exercise regime of pounding, and one likening pounding to chewing tobacco: "Not everyone understands it. Which is exactly why you do it."

So what does this demonstrate, other than someone has far too much time on his or her hands, despite it being finals period? To begin with, surely there must have been a better way to approach the problem. One of my friends calls her next-door neighbors at midnight on an almost daily basis to ask them to turn down their music, please. They know that it is her calling and as soon as the phone rings, they flip it off. No hard feelings, and an acceptable compromise for all. Although finding the source of the pounding might be more difficult than locating the origin of blaring N'Sync or of pot smoke, surely it is not impossible. Of course, the pounding brouhaha would not have blown so greatly out of proportion had not the actual pounder been mature enough to cease and desist after the initial plea. But after all, it takes more than the camp counselor to come in and issue dire warnings for kids to actually stop whispering and giggling and go to sleep.

You can reach Liriel at lshiga@princeton.edu