I’ve been told I’m a “cool” resident adviser. I won’t narc on residents of my Manhattan dorm unless they’re busting my nuts (as for bustin’ a nut, well, keep readin’!). Mostly I just don’t want to be bothered. But there’s this ritual known as “duty.” RAs take turns holding a beeper that students page from the front desk in cases of emergency, or, as more often happens, cases of unfathomable stupidity. Like when a young woman who I swear had to stop at the gas station every morning—to fill her head back up with air—moved in and took the lift to the basement instead of the fifth floor. “They must’ve made a mistake, there’s only washer machines up there!” she blurted. And just this minute I hear some beefy-sounding dude yelling in my hallway, “Hey, where are you faggots from the elevator?” (He sounds mad. Think I wanna deal with that?)
Ultimately, the Dirty Harry in me puts my personal sense of justice (versus administrative imperatives) above all else, but my Machiavellian motives compel me to recall the princely riches (my very own room!) I stand to lose. ‘Cause if RAs get collared puffing, pulling the fire alarm, or defiling other RAs’ lobby pics, we get canned. You residents just have to smile ‘n’ nod through your stern-yet-understanding building manager’s lecture. And if you uncover the RA psyche, things might not even go that far.
Dorm life is way different from Pratt on up to Columbia, duh, but I say the newbie’s narrative is often one of two: You come to school in the big, scary city from New Jersey or wherever and either (a) miss your girl/ boyfriend at one of your state’s colleges and listen to too much James Taylor while holed up in your three-people-to-a-double-discount-room drinking 40s of Old E you bought at a quickie mart, or (b) smoke your first joint with next-door neighbor Joe Slick/Jane Quick and in a swirl of remarkably adolescent confusion suck face and grind crotches, maybe even take off your pants.
You (b) people, with your tangled social lives and overenthusiasm, take up most of my time. But you wanna be pestered about as much as I do, so you wait until the milk is spilled and expect me to mop it up. Like the time I was summoned to a room of three sobbing ladies, one of whom was sniffling over, uh, almost blinding this dude by pitching a wine glass at his head. He had whisked her tipsy, tee-heeing suite mate into his room against demands by Glass-Wielder that she be released. But once his roomie came home and opened the door, Glass-Wielder lobbed her drink and gave some orderly an hour’s worth of stitches to sew. He threatened to “sue her ass” and call the cops. Ten minutes later, I’m taking notes and handing tissues to Glass-Wielder and upset-on-her-behalf buds.
That said, you (a)s probably need the attention more: One (a) I dealt with got his ass whupped by a neighbor and didn’t even have a scented finger to show for it. The next day I had to stand watch while he moved to a different room—the geek was afraid the hulk would turn green and tear his Hawaiian shirt off again. As a freshman (a), I recall spending the weekend learning “You’ve Got a Friend” (tricky minor chords and all!) so I could serenade my high school sweetheart. (She thought I was a corny asshole. Where was my RA then?) A few words of advice, sensitive ones: Wait out the adjustment period. But more likely, you’ll swim to the bottom of a beer bottle and drink your way back up.
Don’t dive down too many mugs, though. Kids get carted off to the hospital (strapped in a gurney!) when they knock themselves out knockin’ ’em back. Furthermore, if you’re too shbliterated to hand your ID to the guard at your Columbia dorm, or to guide yourself through the hand-scan turnstiles at NYU, you will not be let into your own home. Only an RA may grant you entry, after assessing whether or not you need your fucking stomach pumped. Recently, three ladies clutching Kate Spade bags had me paged ’cause their I’m-21-tonight-and-got-my-eyes-rolling-back-in-my-head-to-prove-it girlfriend was denied entry by a rent-a-cop playing by the rules. Not only was Muffy hobbling on her heels, but a reverse replay of that day’s cafeteria lunch was imminent. I had the pleasure of convincing her that she might be more comfortable puking/sleeping in her room instead of, oh, having an RN shove a tube down her throat. This was after assuring the man in blue that I’d hold a mirror to her mouth till daybreak. Then I dropped the foursome off at their room—”Make sure she sleeps on her side, g’night!” A pump and/or charcoal shake ain’t cool (just ask The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air‘s Carlton). And I don’t wanna wait around an emergency room while you get one.
You pot smokers are less problematic, but more frequently persecuted. Line your door frame with weather stripping (the portal should shut with a wooosh), toss a towel along the bottom, and open a window. My bud Brad, now a senior, once scored opium with his then roommate near the Bowery Ballroom and burned it in their outer room without covering the door crack. They were lucky—the orange fumes threw off their RA (only after Brad’s roomie nearly herniated himself hiding a really-big-for-some-reason microwave—nuking’s a dorm no-no—in their closet). “It’s incense, we swear,” they pleaded. Trust me, that only flies if you’re toking poppy derivatives.
So maybe not every RA is a brain. But we are sneaky. How else does one score such a cushy gig? You gotta convince the Man you’re on the up-and-up, even if you’re down-and-out by nature. We also silently conspire to knock boots with residents. So don’t come to me with a sob story unless you’re real purty. It’s that alchemy of (assumed) power, fame—our pics are in your lobby!—and the excuse to get all cornily up in your grille. (And if I were quicker with the bra-strap, there’d be a busted nut worth relating—guess I lied about that part.) Leads me to my next point: RAs even masturbate more than you. What else is there to do with that speedy Internet connection and no bunkmate? That’s assuming, of course, we haven’t a willing partner. Recall the duty ritual: What else gives you the excuse to skip dinner and dancing and start the date at home? That’s in addition to the room-of-one’s-own bit. (Though, in my pre-RA days, I was never above bumpin’ uglies with my boo while my roommate was listening to his headphones, taking a dump, using his automatic toothbrush, etc.) Between lonesome and lusty nights, getting paged with your pants down happens all the time—that’s why we don’t think your buddy has alcohol poisoning.
Anyway, the good news: You will never achieve this level of dorkitude again in your life. But in the meantime, be nice, and abandon all hope ye who get caught by the building manager. In all other cases, put contraband where we can’t see it (lest your bong be turned into a summer housing office planter; I ain’t creative enough to make this shit up) and c-o-o-p-e-r-a-t-e, Sesame Street-style. And, oh yeah, RAs really like being at a party, man, and having someone say, “Hey, ARE YOU GONNA BUST US? HA HA HA.”