First World College Problems

March 12 2012

People often mention the “college bubble”, referring to our isolation from the rest of the world, but I think “college quarantine” might be a more accurate term.

Not because any of us are particularly sickly (except on weekend mornings) but because it’s hard not to find yourself growing more and more shut off from humanity. Once we adapt to life inside our gated communities, remembering that another world exists beyond the campus walls is easier said than done.

Because this strange phenomenon makes real world concerns seem surreal, it also has the effect of blowing our own personal problems far out of proportion. As guilty as I feel joining the ranks of a generation of spoiled Americans and their “first world problems”, I can’t help but admit that lately the following issues have, in my severely skewed mind, become on par with world poverty:

The vending machine gives me a lemonade whenever I press the Coke button. I don’t know about you, but the last time I opted to have lemonade instead of Coke was at Liam Crowley’s third grade birthday party after a particularly thirst-inducing round of laser tag. It was shortly after that I discovered, as I’m sure most everyone else does at this age, the inverse relationship between taste and nutritional value. (Excluding grapes, of course, since they are both healthy and delicious.) Coke, having the approximate health equivalent of drinking Pine-Sol, obviously became my soft drink of choice.

Needless to say, being forced to try and remember the complex relationship between all the vending machine buttons and their respective mixed-up results has left me both frustrated and surprisingly good at “memory match” games. This dilemma becomes even more dire when I have only several quarters left (Sub-First-World-College-Problem: The vending machine won’t accept any of the twenties in my wallet).

Two plates won’t fit nicely on my dinner tray. Clearly designed by the same hands that brought us Tangram puzzles, I often find a would-be pleasant dinner in our cafeteria blemished by the fact that (as far as my spatially-challenged mind can tell, at least) it’s impossible to cleanly fit two dinner plates on a tray.

This might seem like a trivial matter to stay-at-home eaters, but any frequent cafeteria diner will tell you that when you’re trying to balance pizza, chicken parm, macaroni and cheese, salad, a bowl of soup, and a glass of chocolate milk, having overlapping plates could make the difference between a safe journey to your table and a dangerous food avalanche.

On the bright side, I’ve actually starting solving this problem by just not using plates at all. Not only is it great for the environment, but I also have much more freedom in placing my food in a balanced fashion now that I’m not held back by the constraints of plates. So far it seems the only problem is the pesky nature of soups and cereal to spread out evenly across my entire tray.

The electronic key swipe to get into some buildings is too high to reach from within my pocket. Everyone knows that the true sign of a “smooth college guy”, apart from leather pants, of course, is the ability to effortlessly key into a building by just brushing their pocket against the key swipe. However, I find myself frequently vexed by the fact that some buildings have this key reader placed far too high off the ground to press my pocket against, giving me no choice but to awkwardly pull my key ring out of my pocket and shamefully open the door manually.

Even worse, sometimes the key swipes are placed at that level that seems like it might be reachable through my pocket yet would require a bit of jumping. This situation usually ends up with me uncomfortably side-humping the door, a maneuver that I’m afraid turns my attempted “smooth college guy” persona into something more along the lines of “architectural pedophile”.

I can only fit two appliances in the outlet by my bed at once. Maybe at one point, perhaps during the Neolithic period, man only required two appliances per outlet. For my electrically potent lifestyle, however, trying to cram all my devices into a single outlet is severely stifling my creativity. I often find myself aggravated by the fact that I’m unable to plug in my laptop, my fan, and my guitar amp all at the same time, thus preventing my oft-requested guitar solos over Skype while having my hair cinematically blowing in the wind. Now, I realize you may be saying, “Haven’t you ever heard of a power strip?” to which I would reply, “No. I have not.”

I suppose it’s an incredible blessing that my daily snafu involves figuring out what type of food I’d prefer as opposed to how I’m going to be getting food in the first place. Choosing between a hazelnut or caramel flavor shot at the on-campus Starbucks is certainly a more desirable option to choosing whether I should pay the gas or the water bill for the next month.

Through all of this, I think the most important thing to remember next time you’re watching breaking news of a natural disaster running through an underdeveloped nation, is that someone, somewhere, can’t find their phone charger.

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