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  • CarolJeffers

Drainpipe and Roof

After forty-eight years, I finally found out who the prankster was in the small girls’ dorm where I lived for a couple of years. It was “Drainpipe,” the nickname she earned due to her horrifying belches. I wasn’t surprised. She was the one among the ten of us living in the tiny single rooms with the slanted ceilings and dormer windows on the top floor who liked to stir things up. Have a little fun with her merciless teasing and crazy pranks. She was sneaky, and sight unseen, would steal towels from the person in the shower. She laughed the loudest at the victim’s outrage, one girl so upset that she unhooked the shower curtain, wrapped it around her nakedness, crying, carrying on, scampering back to her room. The stealing-the-towel prank ended forever once Laura, who didn’t have a nickname, marched out of the shower buck naked, dripping wet, unfazed, calling out, “Okay, where is my towel. Give it back.” Another prank was the saran wrap stretched invisibly beneath the toilet seat.

Drainpipe would not allow any of us to take ourselves too seriously. She would not tolerate whining or self-pity or anyone’s sense of righteous indignation. “Poor little me” and “life isn’t fair” were not to be uttered, served only as invitations to mockery.

We were a close group, nineteen and twenty-year olds majoring in sociology and computer science, business and English, library science and elementary/secondary education. Each of us decorated our rooms differently, some were more clutter-free than others, some were more lived in, those became the gathering spots where we hung out several nights a week. We might talk, laugh, kick back after an evening of cramming, but usually drifted back to our own rooms by midnight. We always had a cake and candles to celebrate each other’s birthdays, and again, the midnight rule applied.

“Roof,” (pronounced like “woof,”) one of the gang, whined about her room. “Why didn’t we hang out there?” she demanded to know. We could only snicker at the absurdity of the question. Roof, the most particular of us, the most fastidious, the most rigid, too, kept her room so immaculate that you dared not breathe in there. She might complain about the dirty carbon dioxide molecules left behind.

Once a bunch of us went to McDonald’s and when we got up to the counter to order, Roof spotted a large tray of chocolate shakes by the shake machine. She inspected them carefully, and finally came to her decision. “I want that one,” she pointed. The clerk looked at her as if she was crazy, while we snickered again about how ridiculous her pickiness was. “It’s McDonald’s,” we chided. “They’re all the same.” Roof was undaunted, knew the one she wanted, got what she wanted.

Life in the dorm changed when Roof got a job keypunching from 8 a.m. to noon most mornings of the week. She stopped hanging out with us in the cluttery comfortable rooms because she had to go to bed early. The rest of us still had our midnight rule, talking, laughing, playing music were just part of dorm living. After midnight, though, quiet hours.

Soon enough, there was Roof in her bathrobe storming down the hall, busting up our fun. “Do you know what it’s like to keypunch for four hours every day on less than eight hours sleep,” she demanded to know, her question rhetorical. A lecture. A sermon. An admonishment.

We tried not to laugh, even as she made us feel silly, like we were little kids and she was the mother threatening to take away our TV or mall privileges. We tried to hold it down after that, we did. And we could understand her situation of course. But as college juniors, none of us got up earlier than ten, all figuring out schedules with classes at eleven or later.

Roof may have yelled at us one or two more times before Drainpipe, I know now, took matters into her own hands. In the wee hours, she pushed the dorm ironing board across Roof’s closed door and then, finding a large trashcan about to overflow, hoisted it up on the board. She positioned it just so, with the trashcan tilted against the door. A door that opened inward. Sure enough, when Roof got up to shower, that trashcan tipped over, flinging its contents all over the floor of her otherwise immaculate room.

Maybe Roof got the last laugh. The trashcan came crashing down at six-thirty in the morning, waking up the other nine sleeping beauties. Still, Roof’s explosion of outrage was pretty funny even at that hour. And we all claimed our innocence, eight of us telling the truth. We knew nothing about it.

Drainpipe went on to law school and is a practicing attorney to this day. Not sure what happened to Roof after she left her government job. As for the rest of us, we are retired after careers as a librarian, systems analyst-computer programmer, social worker, art teacher, music teacher, special ed teacher, and English resource teacher. Wonder if Drainpipe pulls any pranks in the courtroom?

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