Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The future leaders of Great Britain.

When I applied for a position as a warden in my University's halls of residence, my intention was to try and make the system fairer and less 'guilty until proven innocent'. The day I moved into halls of residence in my first year, I met my next-door neighbour and she immediately expressed a want to move out of the room she had been given as it was on the ground floor and right next to the road, so she didn't feel she would be safe there. However on the second day, she told me that as there was nothing actually wrong with her room, she wasn't a priority and therefore was at the bottom of the list to be moved. I also shared a corridor with a girl who became my best friend for that year, and with her experimented with my interest in all things 'other', including doing an Ouija board in the hall a couple of times. We spoke with our corridor mates about this, and they had all seemed fine with it. One day a couple of wardens came round to speak to us about noise, which we found very odd considering we generally went to our friends' houses and halls to socialise and didn't arrive back until 4am almost every morning, by which time we'd just want to go straight to our beds. My friend was essentially tea-total and I only drank occasionally in my first year, so we very rarely stumbled in.

Then one day, my neighbour moved out. This was shortly followed by letters summoning us to a disciplinary hearing. We assumed that this would be about noise again, and so prepared to defend ourselves in much the same way as we had with the student wardens who had come to speak to us. However, when we arrived we faced charges of: -
  1. Walking through walls;
  2. Flying two brooms and a mop;
  3. Owning a knife;
  4. and Being generally disturbing.
Throughout the hearing, my friend sat there and didn't speak, and the senior wardens (staff members of the University who deal with major incidents and disciplinary issues) were getting impatient and seemed to think that we were being awkward. So I spoke on our behalf. By the time we got to the question "Why did you fly two brooms and a mop?" I was so exacerbated with the fact that we were having to defend ourselves for defying the laws of physics, which wasn't at all mentioned in the rules for halls of residence, that I responded "Because the carpet wouldn't work." My friend only spoke when she was asked why she had some tissue sticking out from under her cap, which she was only wearing because when we'd left our respective rooms and I discovered that she'd dressed ready for the goth night we'd been invited to after the hearing, complete with fake blood all over her forehead, I'd begged her to put a hat over it and she'd added the tissue to stop the fake blood from smudging. She responded by saying she'd hit her head on a door, and was asked if she'd been trying to walk through it at the time. Then, at the end of the hearing, I was accused of leading my goth friend astray, as I was obviously the ringleader of the group. Despite the fact that the kitchen knife they were referring to belonged to her. We were of course found guilty on all counts and told not to do any of it again.

A few weeks later, my friend and two of our friends from other halls, went on a ghost hunt somewhere. I'd decided not to join them for some reason. Then at some point I received a call from my friend saying "(my name) help us! Call someone! Call someone!" then the call cut off. I didn't have a clue what to do, so wandered into the corridor to see if anyone was still awake. I found one person awake, and he said that if I was worried I should call security, which I did. I explained what had happened to security and said that I didn't know what to do. They said that they'd deal with the situation and told me to wait in my room. As they were taking the issue seriously, I really began to worry.

Then, I saw my friend, and the mutual friend I had known had gone with her, walking up to the hall. I wanted to express my displeasure with their behaviour, so immediately started mimicking the more senior members of my family whenever I misbehaved as a child, and started my tirade with "You are in so much trouble..." (but left off the young lady) then went to call security to say that they were alive and well. However security were already on their way to the hall, so when the security guy got there, he started talking about charges of wasting police time as helicopters and sniffer dogs had been sent out to find them. We later found out that this was a lie designed to teach my friends a lesson. When questioned, my friends disclosed that another of our mutual friends had been with them. She was then given the same treatment by security.

The two mutual friends freaked out, and went to their tutors for help. During my A-level exams, I had had an awful time with my chest and spent the entire time drugged well beyond my eyeballs with painkillers. As a result, at the start of one of my Italian exams, I couldn't remember my own name, and after spending 10 minutes trying to think of it was about to put up my hand to ask what it was when I remembered that we had little cards on our desks with our names and exam numbers, so copied my name off the card. My friends shared this story as proof that I am mentally unstable and unreliable as a witness. Despite the fact that one of them had nicknamed me 'the novelty dictophone' as the photographic memory that I still had at the time (when not drugged up) meant that I could relay conversations back word for word, but with every word in my regional accent. Their tutors contacted the senior wardens, who came down hard on security for scaring my friends, and as a result security's report reflected my friends' version of events. I was therefore found guilty of lying to security about the phone call in my disciplinary hearing because security's report disagreed with me on the phone call from my friend. The fact that security couldn't give a first-hand report on something that they didn't witness didn't come into it.

So, when I was offered the warden role, I intended to try and make the system fairer and be a more easy-going warden. However, I was placed in the hall notorious for its end-of-year riots (the one before had seen damage worth more than £20k in one night), and its smaller riots throughout the year. My friends found it funny that I would talk about the damage done after specific 'incidents' with phrases such as "Surprisingly, it was only a normal Tuesday night level of damage" or "They managed to do a Thursday night level of damage!" The building is closest to the nightclub most frequented by local youths, so those that live out of town regularly use the building as somewhere to go until the buses are running again, and the layout of the building means that once you're in the building you can get absolutely anywhere. There's also something about the building that gives every student a certain fondness for damage, destruction, and feces.

So, on my first night on call, it was the third night of Freshers' week. As the keys for the building are similar enough to each other that each key opens more than one bedroom if you wiggle it right, on the first two nights my colleagues received complaints that the second year boys had been letting themselves in to the first year girls' rooms wearing Halloween masks, waking them up and scaring the lives out of them. So on my night on call I went for a walk around the building talking to the students. I went to one room where a bunch of girls were listening to music, and one girl told me that the boys that had been going around their rooms were in a room down the corridor, from where I could here a bunch of male voices. Just as I asked her what made her think it was these boys, the noise level in the room she was talking about went up, so I walked over to the doorway to see what was going on. As I got there, I saw a boy hanging on to the door of the cupboard above his wardrobe and walking up the wardrobe. The cupboard door then came off in his hands and he landed on his back in the middle of the room. As I'd seen him starting to sit up before his friends surrounded him, I wasn't pushing too hard to get to him. Then I heard one of the boys shout "Oh my god, you're bleeding!" so I shouted "Right!" and shoved them out of the way. I called security to tell them I had a head injury that was gushing, and they asked me if I could move him to the foyer. I told them I'd rather not as his wound was bleeding quite a lot and I should treat it straight away, and they told me that I had to move him to the foyer first. When we got to the foyer, there were about 50 students having a food fight. I ignored them, grabbed a chair, sat him next to the door, and started cleaning his wound. One of the food fighters came up to me and asked if he could help. I told him he couldn't as he had food on his hands and he'd get it in the wound, to which he responded "Pleeeeeeeeeease!" By this point I'd finished cleaning the 'casualty' up and was just applying pressure with a dressing pad, so I told him that he could help me put pressure on by applying pressure to my own head, which he promptly did. He then shouted across the room "Guys! Guys! Come and help!" At which point all 50 of them dropped their food and ran to make a chain of people spiralling around the room with a hand on the head of the person in front, starting with me and my 'casualty'. Food fight stopped without me even having to lift a finger. When security arrived they spent a minute or so staring before coming over to me to see what the problem was.

When he was packed off to hospital, the crowd dispersed, leaving their food all over the floor. The senior warden and I cleaned a bit of it up so that the floor wasn't an accident waiting to happen, and I started heading up the stairs to my room. As I was on the last few steps to my floor, a bucket of water landed on the steps in front of me, narrowly missing me. I, again, shouted "Right!" and started running up the stairs. From the top floor I heard "Shit! It's the warden!" and running. I got on the corridor, and there was water and bubble bath foam everywhere, so I called the senior warden and sent him up the other staircase with security to see if they could find the culprits. Walking down the corridor I found a guy and a girl fully clothed in the bath, with very little water left in it but foam all over them, the bath, the walls, the floor, and even some on the ceiling. I asked them what they were doing and they responded that they'd been dirty. The senior warden and I started mopping the floor so that no one slipped, when he saw someone stick their head out of a bedroom door behind me. He told me to go and take the names and room numbers of the people in the room as the girl had been wet. When I knocked on the door, a completely dry girl answered. She stepped back when I asked who was in the room to reveal one person sat cross-legged on the floor with their hands over their eyes, one sat upright on the bed with a duvet over their head, one stood next to the window holding a table lamp in front of their face, and one stood the other side of an open wardrobe door with their breasts, stomach and nose sticking out. It took me about 10 minutes to convince them that I could, indeed, see all of them, before I could start trying to convince them to give me their names.

There are so many stories from my year as a warden that it will probably take forever for me to cover all of them. But some that can be bullet-pointed include: -
  1. People filling a paddling-pool in their kitchen with water from their kettle;
  2. Henry the hoover being violated;
  3. A wall on the 6th floor being knocked down and carried bit by bit to the 2nd floor;
  4. A break-in to the hall next door where someone had a poo in the corridor and smeared some of it over a girl's bedroom door;
  5. The cleaners subsequently sharing all of their poo stories like the one found on the pool table and the one they found in the lift that looked like an aubergine;
  6. One of the suspects describing his diarrhoea in detail to prove that he couldn't have been the one who left the solid log in the next hall;
  7. The damage report after one cocaine-filled rampage including 6 broken fire doors, a broken fire extinguisher which was used to break the fire doors,27 broken ceiling tiles found in the quad, a broken wall, and 3 smashed tomatoes;
  8. The piles of vomit in different neon colours spotted around the place showing which alcopops had been consumed that evening;
  9. The strange dragging noise I heard outside my room which made me worried that there was finally a body, that turned out to be a girl dragging a traffic cone the same size as her right past my living room door, and the following "Ooopsie. I'll just leave this here..." without me having a chance to process the sight.
  10. Leaving my room to find a police car on the car park and going to retrieve the student who'd been given a lift home instead of arrested because it was his birthday - it was something like his 4th birthday so far that year.
 I've just remembered that the head wound/food fight/water fight night was actually the fourth night of the week and my second night on call, which would make sense as that was a Wednesday night level of activity and damage. My first night on call, and the very first night of the year, I found a guy unconscious at the bottom of a flight of stairs with a bin on its side next to him (which had obviously not come from anywhere nearby, making me wonder how far he'd fallen). I ran up to him, and after a few seconds managed to wake him. It turned out he hadn't fallen down the stairs, he'd just gotten tired and decided to go to sleep, and someone else had decided that he needed someone to sleep with him and, not being able to find a girl willing to do the job, had fetched a bin. Panic over.

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