If you’re getting ready to start at a college this year — especially if it’s a four-year school that requires you to live in a dorm — odds are you’re about to get your first taste of semi-communal living.
Dorm life means sharing a relatively tight space with several dozen people, some of whom you’ll rapidly get to know on a very personal level and some of whom you’ll barely speak to and awkwardly make eye contact with when you pass them on campus months or years later.
It also means learning to share the things in that space. Being respectful of the hallways and common rooms is a no-brainer, as is being courteous to the people in those spaces.
It’s a little harder to get used to 50 people sharing perhaps your most intimate space: the bathroom. Especially if you live in a dorm with a communal bathroom — several toilets, a handful of showers, a mirror the length of the Great Wall — you might feel like your privacy is in jeopardy.
For people who have grown up using locker rooms often, this might be normal. For those who haven’t, it might seem like showering on another planet. Here are some tips for peaceful, clean sharing of the most sacred of spaces: the can.
You already know the basics, because it’s like using a public restroom. 1) Don’t be a creep. 2) Don’t take longer than you need, especially if there’s a line (Tinder or Pokemon Go can wait until you get out of the stall). 3) Do wash your hands.
Seriously: Wash. Your. Hands.
Though you’re unlikely to get sick from anything in the bathroom if you have proper etiquette, it’s just like anywhere else in that anything your dirty hands touch is covered in germs. It takes a lot less time to wash up — with soap — than to recover from strep or staph or E. coli or Hep A.
4) Keep a pair of shoes for the bathroom, as who knows what’s on those floors. Rubbery slip-ons are cheap and work great for showers, as do flip-flops.
Also know that, by the end of the year, you’ll totally stop caring about whether your bare feet touch the floor, and that’s okay.
5) Clean up after yourself. When you shave, make sure all your hairs get washed away, whether they’re in the sink or shower. Don’t leave crusty toothpaste residue in the sink.
6) Get a shower caddy so it’s easy to take all your toiletries back to your room with you.
7) Figure out your schedule. You’ll find that certain times of the day are popular for showers, which means there may be lines, and people clean the restrooms, which means that there are times you might not be able to get in at all. It’ll take a couple of weeks to figure this stuff out, but once you do, you’ll be able to avoid standing outside the door in a bathrobe when you should be walking to your 8 a.m. lecture.
Oh, and those people who clean the restrooms? They’re doing an important, thankless job and they’re probably not making enough money. 8) Be decent to them.
9) If the restroom runs out of paper towels or toilet paper, or if there’s some sort of unpleasant substance (any bodily fluid, pretty much) out in the open, hit up your RA. They’ll know what to do or who to call.
10) Small talk is totally okay — really.
Don’t be a jerk. This should go without saying, but 11) don’t talk behind people’s backs — you never know who might be in one of those stalls— 12) don’t chew out someone because they don’t shower fast enough for you and 13) don’t make people feel uncomfortable, especially about their appearance. And if you live in a dorm with gendered restrooms and see someone who you think doesn’t belong in that restroom, 14) keep it to yourself. They know their gender better than you do.
15) Don’t have sex in there. Any kind of sex, really. No matter what shows and movies tell you, it’s not sexy — especially for the guy on the toilet next to the happy couple.
Jack Evans studies journalism at Miami University.