One perk of being a senior is housing. Even If you don't score the ever-elusive off-campus housing, you can still graduate from the dorm system and be placed in one of the many houses that the college owns in town. My friends and I got an exceptionally good lottery number, and had our first pick. We chose from an online floor plan, taking a house not too far from campus. It had all full-sized beds, a laundry room, and two kitchens. It looked like paradise.
Arriving in the fall, the house proved to be extremely exciting. It had a backyard the size of a football field (I've been informed that I'm completely wrong about the size of a football field) and a front porch. The floor plan, however, turned out to have been more of a suggestion of what the house could be. Or maybe what it once was.
The laundry room was loosely titled - really it's a mudroom attached to the kitchen that could, hypothetically, be used for laundry, if one were to acquire the appropriate machinery and running water. My upstairs bedroom had been labeled "kitchen" on the floor plan, which it evidently was at one time. Once you get over the linoleum floor and lack of closet it's really quite nice. I've never had such a large space all to myself, and there's something charming about rolling out of bed in the morning, tiptoeing across cold tile, brushing your teeth in the kitchen sink, and opening a cabinet to pull out a pair of pants.
But what came as the biggest shock, now that the second kitchen was a bedroom, was that downstairs we had a small but very real spare room. In all its blank glory, the spare room and how we used it seemed to define us as adults.
Coming from a childhood in Manhattan a spare room sounds like an oxymoron, but occasional visits out of the city let me know that some people had things like guest rooms, craft rooms, studies, home gyms, or the ever befuddling "den." We considered having a billiards room, inspired by the very broken pool table that had been abandoned in the house. When it turned out not to fit through the door we considered a library, and then a conservatory, and then I wanted to have a ballroom (where else are you going to kill Mr. Ketchup with the spoon or whatever?), and after assessing the size of the room we decided that a ball pit was really the best option.
A quick internet search informed us that filling a room that size with plastic balls would cost upwards of 2k. We decided to choose a larger object. Which is how we ended up with a spare room full of balloons.
Now if you followed along with me there, I'm sure you'll agree that the balloon room is a completely logical move. Balloons are large, light, exceptionally cheap, really fun, and when there are several layers filling a room it's nothing short of delightful to play in at the end of a long school day. Of course safety checks are coming up soon, and while there's nothing in the village housing handbook that specifically states you can't fill a room with balloons, I'm pretty sure that's just because they haven't thought of it yet.
But we'll take our chances for the joy it brings us, the decadent waste of space, and the fun of bringing a friend over. Here's the kitchen we gesture. This here is the laundry room. (Just saying it makes us feel very fancy, and we ignore their confused expressions as they look around the empty vestibule) We have the living room over here, the bedrooms are upstairs, and oh, oh yes, this is the balloon room. It's just a little something we threw together.
From our spare room you can look out onto the neighbors' front porch, and sometimes I wonder if they ever look back and see us. In past years the room might have been empty, or someone's bedroom, or maybe communal storage. This year they look over and see four full grown "adults" romping joyfully around an eight by eight room. They are swarmed by big colorful balloons that are being kicked and punched into the air, floating up over the air vent. It looks like a birthday party in a dream, or a preschooler's acid trip. One balloon pops, and the "adults" jump and take cover. The neighbor rolls his eyes and admits to himself that really, as college-aged neighbors go, this could be a lot worse.