Friday, September 20, 2013


My department is one of the most (if not THE most) proportionally under-resourced at my university (either way, our grad students do have the lowest stipend for teaching and/or TAing, natch), so, go figure, we're in a building that kind  of sucks. Granted, there are older ones, but they don't really try to keep this one in good condition- there are at least rennovations in older buildings and maintenance constantly fixes things. And fixes them, not just tinkers and then leaves (like the maintenance crew at my previous apartment complex, oy vey...). In our building, stuff  is run-down, but rarely replaced.

Enter the women's restroom on the second floor, and one  of the two paper towel dispensers. I'm in my fourth year of grad school, and the dispenser on the left has been finnicky  the entire time. It would jam and you'd either have to stick your hand  inside to get anything out, or you'd have to just use the one on the right. It did this at least once a week, and while okay, it'd start working again within a day or two because maintenance or the janitorial staff or somebody would mess with it, it would invariably jam again.

Four years. Four fucking years.

I started sending emails about it in the spring semester, like in March or so. I sent  a few over the summer. And finally, I snapped on Monday and sent another the the same gal I'd been in correspondence with. I didn't mean to come across as huffy, but I think  I kind  of did:

I realize this is probably a stretch, but that same paper towel dispenser is once again malfunctioning. Is it possible for it to get replaced, rather than tinkered with? Or is there someone I could appeal to in order to try and make that happen? This thing keeps messing up every week, and I'm sure the staff fixing it is tired of doing that, just as much as we patrons of that restroom are tired of it not working.


She informed me it was forwarded to someone else (and there were two names Ccd on her response), and I got an email Wednesday morning (at the top of a chain I hadn't been in the loop on) saying it had been replaced. Ladies and Gentlemen, my I present to you the Gabrielle ____ Memorial Paper Towel Dispenser:

Who did that? I did that, bitches!

Honestly, I don't know why I feel so fucking awesome about it, but  I do.

And here's the thing. It may be small, but  I do know that paper towel dispenser pissed a lot of women off. And I know they'll at least be glad it's there. Yeah, they'll probably wonder why the new one is there, and just assume the janitors/maintenance finally had had enough and, in all likelihood, not even consider the possibility that it took a total of thirteen emails (twenty if you count the ones I sent  months  and months  ago).

And I guess I see this as symbolic of life, and how I live. I may be a pushover and get walked over a lot, but I'm an advocate. I try  to change things. It's why I was on student  government as an undergrad and ended up on a first-name basis with the president of Whitman (he wrote me rec letters, yay), why I worked in special ed, why I was on my departments graduate student government, why I research what I research, why I want to move to Seattle and work for a nonprofit, and why I write this blog. Some of those things may seem more efficacious than others, and I recognize the truth to that.

But I get sad when people think they can't make a difference, why bother. There's that  saying, though, "You can't change  the world, but you can make a dent." And I want my life to be full of dents, and I want other people to realize that if they make dents, too, all those dents combined will result in something amazing. 

Lots  of dents
I've become much more jaded and pessimistic since I started grad school- between the number of times these institutions  around  me have let me down. And  the number of times the people here have let me down.  And the way things outside grad school have fallen down on me. 

But I still retain this wide-eyed, naive hope that I can make a real dent. Even if it's small.

And I still try to make  minuscule ones every day. By doing nice things for other people, whether it's helping someone get their bike onto the rack on the bus (Wednesday) or buying lunch for a stressed out friend (today) or helping people I love like  family through some hard times (ongoing). Maybe those aren't going to change the world, but those dents? They matter, even if for only the moment  they're happening (bike lady), to the people involved. Call it paying it forward, if you will- maybe  the random people I help, or the friends I help, will do it, too.

And all those dents combined would make a pretty shiny world.

1 comment:

  1. You have every right to be this happy about a paper towel dispenser. I jumped up and down when I saw it!