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In Defense of: The McBain Shaft

Even though the housing lottery is dormant in the fall, the lingering anxiety is still very present. Sophomore Josh Tate, a three week resident of McBain shaft, tries to ease potential worries and discuss a pleasant surprise at the perks of getting shafted by the housing lottery.

As a first year I was spoiled by a Carman double. Yes, not a quad, a double. One roommate with which to share a bathroom with, and not just any bathroom, an ADA bathroom with a shower about three times larger than anything I could have dreamed. My father had told me of his horror story of a 200 square foot triple back in his freshman year, and so I was blessed, coddled by the holy housing gods.

Well, by the end of last year, my roommate and I decided to stick together and go for a Nuss double. We’d heard the stories. McBain was Carman 2.0 without the perks. No more bougie bathrooms, renovated floors, and superiority complex. McBain also had the dreaded shaft, a pit that – if rumors were to be believed – would make its way into Dante’s Inferno revision. Our lottery number wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad, so we had hope. According to most everyone we spoke to, a Nuss Double was doable, but as we walked into John Jay to pick, a pair walked out with the last Nuss Double. We were in disbelief, frenzied, asking the housing gods what we could’ve done to deserve our fate after such an awesome room last year. It was then that I on a whim decided if we were going McBain we would go all the way.

I said, “Let’s go for the biggest room in the shaft.”

And like that, my wonderfully patient roommate and I were sentenced to a 249 square foot McBain shaft double right on floor two, where the sun refuses to shine. But, if I’m being honest… it’s been alright. No lakes of boiling oil or backwards heads (so far). Maybe it’s third week Stockholm Syndrome, but I’m starting to think the shaft gets too much shade.

In fact, that’s part of what I love about the shaft: shade. I was told that it would be depressing to go home and never see the light of day, but instead it means I can take a nap whenever I want. Movie nights are awesome with no stars, no streetlamps, and never any moonlight to penetrate down to the second floor. We’ve bought plenty of lamps to fight off the eternal dimness and now I can sleep through my classes with ease. True, I may slowly start to resemble Gollum or a sleep-deprived pre-med student, but that’s a small price to pay for a perfect nap space.

And for improved napping, there’s the added benefit of insulation from street sounds. Whether it’s an ambulance from St. Luke’s tearing through the silence of your Hartley double or the sound of people stumbling to and from Mel’s breaking that delicate Furnald quiet, there’s no escaping the noises of the city, even in the wee hours of the night. But the shaft? It insulates sound with its patented brick donut technology! Of course there’s the occasional shaft rager coupled with wails of students mourning the sun’s disappearance, but you’ll hardly notice!

And, of course, who can forget about AC? Shaft rooms have a window unit that appears to have been plucked from the 90s, giving residents immunity from nasty summer sweats and the room a classy retro aesthetic. I can remember nights spent in my Carman double coated sweat after the AC was shut off, but no longer! I have my very own climate-controlled cave.

But to me the most important quality of being a member of the McBain shaft community is the camaraderie. There are certain things that McBain and the shaft do to you that unite you. Maybe it’s how last night I had to check three different bathrooms before finding one without a roach party.  Maybe it’s the menacing Stanley Kubrick vibes in McBain’s entrance with a decorative fireplace, gigantic mirrors, and a fern wall. Maybe it’s the fact that the conspiracy that McBain was constructed as a psych department experiment sounds reasonable. Regardless, living in the shaft feels like a brotherhood. You all have the same view, the same difficulty telling the weather, the same parties to keep you up. There’s a poetry to it. You can spot the shaft in the eyes of anyone brave or foolish enough to get through it.

I’m not going to pretend I don’t get why the shaft gets hate. There’s no sunlight. The view is dingy on good days and basically Crime and Punishment on others. It’s eerily quiet during the day and aggressively noisy with parties on weekends. It’s a bleak, deserted other-world compared to a room with a view of campus or the city, but it’s in this weird little cubby that I’ve found things aren’t so bad in the shaft. I’ve got lamps to keep me bright and an AC to keep me cool. In the end, isn’t that what matters?

All I know is the housing gods work in mysterious ways. That, and I hope I get a better lottery number next year.

Header photo courtesy of Columbia Housing

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