Monday, November 17, 2014


"The bright, fluorescent lights infiltrate every corner, producing a happy, spotless shine from every angle, like a bare baby’s bottom in a light bulb factory. The sinks never seem to have any splashed water in or around them. And even the toilets—the toilets—remain totally immaculate each time I pay them a friendly visit."

See it on the Crimson website here.
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A Dash of Insanity


After putting in long hours at a desk in Lamont—skimming through Facebook photos, reading a few New York Times articles, watching some skateboarding YouTube videos, and studying a fascinating piece of lint next to my untouched homework—I’ve always found a distinct pleasure in relieving myself from it all by heading over to the library’s third-story men’s bathroom to, well, relieve myself.

This may seem like a pretty normal occurrence. As the time-honored literature on the subject has taught us, everyone poops. But this bathroom trip has been anything but normal these past few years. That’s because every time I go into Lamont’s third-story men’s bathroom, I make note of how astonishingly, consistently, and improbably clean it is. In fact, it’s the most consistently immaculate bathroom I have ever seen. 

The bright, fluorescent lights infiltrate every corner, producing a happy, spotless shine from every angle, like a bare baby’s bottom in a light bulb factory. The sinks never seem to have any splashed water in or around them. And even the toilets—the toilets—remain totally immaculate each time I pay them a friendly visit. 

Sure: There is this funky burnt-cheese-type smell that comes from that bathroom, on occasion. But that’s rare and doesn’t diminish from the fact that every time I walk in there, I feel as if I’m walking into the marble-coated restroom atop the temple of Mt. Olympus, where the excrement of the gods is flushed for us mortals to worship down below.

Let’s focus on the toilets, again, for a minute. Their seats are plastic, so they never produce that wretched coldness that grasps the thighs in its steely grip. Their flush handles are an un-stained fluorescent green, which counterintuitively gives you the impression that they are safe to touch. And their flushing power never fails to handle the failures of my digestive system in handling a dining hall Scheherazade Casserole. And, most of all, by God, they are clean! They are clean!

I don’t know if it’s just me who has noticed this, or if it’s an unspoken observation by the entire male population of Harvard. But this type of cleanliness is completely unprecedented within the Harvard library system. The Widener bathrooms outside the reading room are pretty clean—certainly not dirty, as far as bathroom go—but they don’t shine with the brilliance of a bare baby’s bottom floating in space right next to the sun. Not even in the newly renovated Leverett House would you find such a shine. In fact, in the long and better-left-untold story of disgusting men’s bathrooms throughout history, this type of brilliance in cleanliness is a totally unprecedented and ground-breaking achievement for mankind.

I thought, at first, that maybe the Lamont third-story men’s bathroom goes unused. In theory, if one never uses a bathroom, it should stay clean. Sure, the traffic in that bathroom is modest. But, more often than not, there’s at least one other person in there when I’m there.

Fancy hotels have pretty clean-looking bathrooms, but that’s mostly because its amenities are so ornate that people don’t dare to make them look dirty. The Lamont bathroom, by contrast, doesn’t look like a particularly expensive bathroom. It’s pleasantly lit, but most of its surfaces are plain and plastic. Unlike the Ritz, this bathroom didn’t get it cleanliness from overspending.

So what is the mystical force at work behind this miracle?

Well, maybe it’s not a miracle. If I had to guess, two fairly normal things are at play here: the foresight of the unnamed architect who built the bathroom and the continued work of the staff who maintain it. 

The floor plan is pleasant and the materials, although not ornate, are nice. And to keep it looking so nice, there must be constant maintenance. In fact, the vast majority of bathrooms on campus, although not on Lamont’s level, are clean and well-kept. 

So, to whomever made the floor plan for the Lamont third-story men’s bathroom and to whoever routinely maintains its cleanliness, thank you. Walking in there always puts a smile on my face. That smile usually creeps out the guy at the urinal next to mine, but I think we’re all appreciative of how clean that bathroom is, as well as most bathrooms at Harvard. It may seem like “ordinary design and maintenance,” but as far as I’m concerned, you’re working miracles.

At a place like college, it’s easy to appreciate the stars in an astrophysics class or the grand stories of times long ago in a history class. But when pooping in Lamont library or farting in Winthrop library—actions that are so fundamental to our lives—it can be more difficult to appreciate the power and beauty of that room across from the high-minded lecture hall. 

So, again, thank you. I don’t think I give nearly enough credit for the greatness what’s been in front of me all along.

Or, rather…behind.


Dashiell F. Young-Saver ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is an English concentrator in Winthrop House. His column appears on alternate Mondays. 

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