Bumming it UMass style
It’s 5:21 a.m. and I’m sitting at the top of the ramp outside Whitmore wondering to myself: “Why am I not asleep?”
I got here roughly an hour ago with my now ex-roommate Jake. Believe it or not, there was one guy, Greg, crazy enough to beat us there. He’d been waiting since 10:00 p.m. the night before.
Why am I here? To stop being homeless.
It started a week ago when I came back to Amherst a week before the regular move-in day. Because I work for this fine publication, I came up Monday, Aug. 31 to work on the production process, which took a few days. I decided that, in the mean time, I’d crash at a couple of peoples’ places until I got to move in on Sunday, Sep. 6.
In retrospect, I realize that this absolutely made me a bum.
Everything was going as planned until Thursday. Oh, Thursday. I had gone into Wheeler, the dorm I expected to live in, to visit a couple of friends. However, they had gone to the Route 9 Diner without telling me (thanks guys). So, with nothing to do, I went to my room-to-be just to check it out.
This is where the trouble began.
The door to 121 Wheeler was supposed to have the names Nicholas O. and Jake D. on the door, to designate the tenants. Instead, I saw Chris and Dan. With move-in in three days away, this was not a good sign.
After speaking with the wonderful folks and consulting my SPIRE account, it quickly became apparent that neither me nor my roommate had a housing assignment. We had no place to live. Then there was the bad news: I had to tell my mom.
According to SPIRE, I never requested a housing appointment, which is weird because my roommate and I distinctly remember skipping class for our appointment so that we’d get the best room possible. I guess “select room” doesn’t mean what it used to mean.
When I inquired as to why I didn’t have a place to live this semester, a very kind lady at the housing assignment office informed me that I never requested a housing appointment and, being a junior was not guaranteed housing. She then suggested I look for off-campus housing.
And therein lies the problem of attending a big school where our academic lives are maintained by the second cousin of Skynet. You can get lost in the system.
Did my roommate and I screw up? I don’t think so, but that was about five months ago. Did the system screw up? I don’t know, the servers won’t return my calls.
It’s no fault of the housing people, they didn’t see us hunched over the computer hitting refresh. They saw what SPIRE showed them.
A glitch here, a missed click there, a hold here and you’re screwed. Whether you like it or not, we’re at the mercy of SPIRE. And like any machine, it’s a cold, cruel mistress that is one California governor away from ending us all.
Like a lot of people out there, my roommate and I got lost in the system. Our housing assignment (for whatever reason) never got processed and we never knew it. It happens all the time. The problem is, most people have only their Facebook statuses to complain about it. Status updates, though, will inform a mind-boggling amount of people of your problems. If only there’s something we could do about it.
But we can’t. It’s the product of a cruelly efficient system. Yesterday in class, my professor talked about how she would have to stand in atrociously long lines with a card to slip into a computer to pick classes. We don’t even have to put pants on.
Yes, SPIRE’s a good system and manages the get everyone’s business done with rare exceptions. The issue is that, with such a large system on such a large campus, people can fall through the cracks and, with an inflexible system, you’re kind of boned if something goes wrong.
This one goes out to all the little people. The ones whose classes get mysteriously cancelled, whose computers freeze long enough for them to not get into that class and those who spent an hour trying to figure out why they don’t have the right amount of credits.
Because, with no way to go around SPIRE, we end up with conversations like this: “So should I have him bring a tent?” my mother asked.
“Oh, there’s no need to camp out,” the employee on the other end said, referring to the walk-in appointment.
“No, to live in.”
It’s always nice when Mom’s got your back.
Nick O’Malley ended up getting a dorm in Northeast and now has a bed. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.