If you’ve ever met a Resident Assistant, you know that his or her job is the most important job of anyone else’s on campus… at least, that’s how an RA would tell it. I had the fortune/burden/opportunity of being an RA for three years, and after a long string of pot smokers, people who enjoyed loud coitus, nineteen year olds who announce their beer bongs in the hallway before they attempt it, and the occasional roommate-from-hell, you find yourself being a senior RA, and you’re just tired. No one knocks at your door because they want to see you, and sometimes, when someone would knock on my door, I would run and hide in my closet or the kitchen… kind of like when Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your house.
But in all fairness, you are warned before you take the position about all of the complications that come along with it. We’re trained to handle them, and after a while, you suppose that you’ve seen it all. My freshman year, a guy in my building pooped out his window because he was afraid he couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time. Unfortunately, the guy who lived below him had his window propped open and was greeted with a special surprise that thumped his window like a brick. Sure, I laughed until I nearly passed out from lack of oxygen, but in the course of three years, I was prepared for such an incident. Pooping, after all, is some serious shit.
Second semester of my senior year, I was riddled with studying for my comprehensive exams, finishing grad school applications, and fulfilling all of the things that I had missed in the previous three years (multiple snap judgments, drinking in bars, hasty relationship choices, et al). But one night a week, I was assigned to duty (okay, seriously… the poop puns are out of control), and on that night, I was responsible for the livelihood of our building and the residents that lived there, or at least the ones that I liked. Most of my night consisted of me walking around and talking to people, taking a nap, fixing something to eat, walking around some more, and then going to bed earlier than I would on a night that I wasn’t on duty. And it was always in those hours that things happened that would never happen if I had been awake. That’s not to say that I could have stopped them, but for some reason, it wasn’t until I had fallen asleep that a fire alarm would go off, or someone would get their arm caught in a window, or that someone got trapped in the trash chute after smoking too much marijuana.
But on one night in particular, late in the evening after all the other hoodlums had gone to bed, it happened: someone shit under the stairs. I suppose that in the grand scheme of things, the biggest issue should have been that someone defecated underneath the stairs and was probably too drunk to realize it, but the biggest problem in my mind is that the poop wasn’t found for nearly 24 hours. I’ve had some pretty pristine pooping experiences in my time, but I can’t imagine that any poop is so glorious that it should ever go unnoticed for nearly an entire day. The whole situation made me doubt my ability to be an RA–if I can’t use my Snoopy skills to detect that someone has casually pooped in the building in a frequently trafficked place, then really… what am I good for? To add injury to insult, another RA found the feces, reported it, and got to put up a building notice.
If it’s been a while since you’ve been in college, it’s a known fact that there’s nothing in the world that infuriates a college student more than getting charged for something they didn’t do. People who originally thought that the under-the-stairs-poop was the funniest thing since Modern Family, were all of a sudden up in arms about the situation, angrily stating, I’m not going to be charged for someone else’s shit. As an RA, the charge didn’t apply to me. I could poop anywhere I wanted free of charge… not that I would or did, but I liked knowing the option was there. After seeing how angry everyone was, I knew that this was my opportunity: if I could solve the mystery of the phantom defecator, then I would not only win the affection of all my residents, but I could also redeem myself in the eyes of administration. This was my comeback. If I were Lindsay Lohan, this could be my Liz and Dick.
The next night I was on duty, I formed a small group in the parlor of our building. Knowing that I had not fulfilled my programming requirements for the month, I decided to make it a program because if there’s anything that people in our generation get sheer enjoyment from, it’s blaming other people for stuff. Soon, a group of fifteen or so of us gathered with the Irish exchange student leading the charge against every person who walked through the area we were sitting in. In her thick accent, she would berate people as they walked in, asking them when and where they were on the night of what became known as the “poopcident.” After a while, we started forming a timeline and the only hours unaccounted for were the hours between 2:00 and 4:00am. We had narrowed down our suspects to three with a heavy suspicion on one of my fraternity brothers. Did I like the idea of going after one of my own in the face of justice? No. Did it make all the sense in the world that one of my fraternity brothers was the one who pooped under the stairs? Absolutely.
Eventually, the meeting became a witch hunt and none of the three were safe, one of which was a girl. People wanted justice–people wanted answers for the poopcident. From across the room, someone texted me and told me that they had information I’d be interested in. The number was blocked, which is something I’m still surprised you can do via text message. I met them in the prearranged place, hoping that when I stepped away that Rachel, the Irish student, wouldn’t instigate a full on attack on the rooms of the suspected. The texter was an eye witness to the poopcident, and as I suspected, it was my fraternity brother who shat in the first floor stairwell.
And just like that, I imagine that I shared the same feeling that Jessica Chastain’s character in Zero Dark Thirty felt. She had spent all this time looking for Osama bin Laden, and then… (spoiler alert) they killed him. It was all over except the paperwork (and just for the record, being an RA requires a stupid amount of paperwork). When you invest all of this time in working to figure out the crime and the hidden location of your suspect, you’ve come to realize that you have put a part of yourself into this shit. You come out a different person, and even when your “Osama bin Laden” ends up being one of your fraternity brothers, you’ve made a big enough stink about it that you have to report it. Your nation… or residents… whatever… depend on you to instill justice. So without being able to predict one of the biggest blockbuster hits to come in two years, I asked myself What Would Jessica Chastain Do? or WWJCD? and then I wrote up the report. Word didn’t get out of who exactly pooped under the stairs, but for the select few that know, it paints a dark picture of what can happen to you when you decide to funnel liquor. And for me, well, that’s the last RA mystery that I ever solved. Sometimes, when life gives you a load that big, you just have to call it quits once you’re done.