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Out in the Cold


By Shari Rudavsky

IT MAY HAVE been chilly outside two nights ago, but it was positively cold in my room. Over in Lowell House, see, we haven't been getting much heat. As my friend says, the mind works better when it's cold.

But two nights ago my roommate and I weren't too worried about keeping our minds cool; we simply wanted to keep our hands and feet warm. Equally perturbing, though, was that our Winthrop neighbors--no more than 30 feet cross Mill Street--had their windows open and were pretty obviously toasty warm. And friends in Eliot, Dunster and Kirkland were complaining about the excess heat in their rooms.

My roommate and a refugee friend of ours clustered around our space heater and swilled hot water by the potful, but somehow it wasn't doing much to assuage the 39-degree weather. So at 11:30 p.m., we decided to do something to remedy the situation and called the heat hotline. No pun intended.

I CALLED first and asked why our room had no heat when it was quite clear that other houses had been granted such a luxury. The late-night Facilities and Maintenance worker on duty said that the heat could not be turned on until someone from the department had come and taken an official heat reading.

I looked at the phone, looked at the space heater which had probably managed to bring the room slightly above the requisite night temperature of 64 degrees, and realized it was probably futile.

My roommate called back, disgruntled at my lack of courage, and yelled at the hapless flunky on the other end of the phone. No, no, she was told, we could not have heat until it had been definitively proven with a heat reading that the room temperatures in our "zone" (that, no doubt, means Lowell House) were sufficiently low. Our hapless flunky on the other end of the line was of course happy to send someone over, but it might be four or five hours.

My roommate looked at the phone, looked at her watch, and we both knew it was futile.

As I huddled under two quilts, a sleeping bag and a wool blanket--dressed in a sweatshirt, jeans and two pairs of socks--I thought of calling our hapless flunky again, but decided against it. If the University cannot figure out that rooms get cold when the temperature dips into the 30s, can it be expected to turn on the heat--all the while adhering to its procedural requirements--at some ungodly hour of the morning?

It really doesn't seem that risky for officials to turn on the steam based on the outside temperature. Nor does it seem unreasonable to ask that the University believe students when they claim that their rooms are too cold, especially when the outside temperature is in the 30s.

But somehow at a frozen two in the morning, I didn't relish the idea of crawling across the icy floor to the frigid phone in our arctic common room. I guess deep inside I knew that the next day would bring sunny warm temperatures and with them, of course, that much-needed heat in Lowell House.

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