UR posted a picture on Instagram of a student happily arriving to quarantine — a smile presumably beneath their mask, sanitizer and soap in hand. Even though quarantine messed up people’s plans, giving first-years an especially jarring transition into college life, the University attempted to put a positive spin on it.
Having my summer in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t what I expected, of course, but it was tolerable. Then Virginia got added to New York’s quarantine list, and I just about lost it.
After I got over the initial shock of having to completely shift my plans, I was able to prepare for quarantine. I was confident that I could get through it well enough. Riverview was the quarantine housing, a dorm about which I had mostly heard good things. Housing that’s restricted to juniors and seniors must be nice, right?
I was welcomed at Riverview with a “care package” of toilet paper, a shower curtain, garbage bags, a list of reminders, an activity calendar of sorts, and my very own Rochester coloring book. Everything I could ever want — except hand soap, which, you know, is just a little important.
First impressions are extremely important, and my quarantine room made the worst one yet. I’ll start with the few positives, because during workshops professors have always told me to cushion the negatives. The room was a decent size with my own bathroom and furniture.
Yeah, that’s it.
Staff had warned us if we didn’t use the shower curtain provided, the bathroom may suffer water damage that we’d have to pay for. When I stepped into my bathroom, I realized they could have saved themselves a shower curtain. My floor was bound to take on water damage anyway from the leaky toilet. I rolled my eyes at the puddle of water seeping from the toilet base.
I decided to inspect the rest of the bathroom to see what else I’d be dealing with. I found a significant amount of ant carcasses and spider webs under my cabinet. And although the spider who had left her victim’s remains under the cabinet was nowhere in sight, I did manage to find some of her friends in the corners of my ceiling and on my window sill with yet more lovely ant carcasses.
I went to bed that night looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep. That was practically impossible with the mattress springs digging into every part of my body. I have a bruise on my back to prove it.
But I wasn’t the only one suffering.
A couple days in, one of my suitemates slipped a note under everyone’s doors. She introduced herself and invited us all to start a group chat.
In the group chat, I learned that everyone’s mattress sucked, spiders were invading every room, and everyone’s toilet was leaking on the inside because you could always hear them churning late into the night. A few days later, one of my suitemate’s AC’s started leaking into their closet. This incident was the only time maintenance seemed to care that one of us had called.
Maintenance looked at my toilet once and couldn’t tell if it was leaking or if condensation was appearing from the temperature change. From the looks of the nasty discoloration and dampness around the toilet base, I didn’t think you’d have to question if it was leaking.
While I didn’t get anywhere with maintenance, I had hoped the service desk would be a little more helpful. The flyer they gave us clearly stated, “If you have any questions or need any basic supplies, such as toilet paper, toothpaste, or soap, the Service Desk is there to help.”
Body wash and soap had been on the same line of the quarantine packing list. I didn’t assume this meant we had to bring hand soap, nor did the majority of my apartment mates. But the service desk was there to provide soap if asked, so I was saved! Or so I thought.
Each time I called the service desk the first two days, I was sent to voicemail. I waited a couple more days, getting by with shower soap and hand sanitizer, and brought the situation up to my apartment mates. A couple of them were low on other necessities the service desk offered, so one of them did a group order. We never received anything we asked for.
The next day I called again. This time they told me they didn’t have any soap. I figured they either never had soap to begin with or they ran out. Given that soap is one of the most important things to have during a pandemic, they should have had enough for everyone or should have been willing to buy more.
To calm my anxiety from dealing with maintenance and the service desk, I played online Cards Against Humanity and Uno with my apartment mates. From just that and texting, we got to know each other. I learned who had a questionable sense of humor, who was extremely competitive, and who didn’t like to lose. Without them, quarantine would have been even worse, if you can imagine.
But I survived. I survived quarantine by coexisting with spiders, living with a leaky toilet, substituting hand soap, learning not to rely on UR volunteers and staff, and commiserating with three other people who understood what I was going through. If I hadn’t been in quarantine, I would have three fewer friends than I do now.
But UR did not make the experience easy, and I’ll continue to be critical of their social media coverage of quarantine as a happy-go-lucky experience.