September 17, 2018

KANKANHALLI | Woman Versus Wild

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Asked to outline their morning routines, many would allude to breakfast, a hot shower, or some form of planning or light productivity. Early risers may describe a zen-like energy in anticipation of the day to come. Late bloomers — I’m speculating — would likely miss the question altogether in the midst of incessant alarm-snoozing and hastily dunking essentials into an overflowing carryall.

In most aspects, my morning routine is not much different. It follows a similar arc, customized with the staples of student life: waking up with the sharp regret of failing to fall asleep sooner, munching on a granola bar and running some quick calculations on how much more, if any, of my attendance grade could be sacrificed. This is all well and good; I have long since made my peace with the rushed morning, and I remain stubbornly faithful in the existence of the mythical, leisurely morning. Yet, not once had I prepared to slip into a bout of frightening mornings.

Recently, I have been forced to introduce another component to my A.M. flow: hunting for spiders. Spiders, with eight long, limber legs and immeasurable capacity to strike terror, are pets to some but monsters to others. In a show of respect to the former crowd, I will settle on labeling them unwelcome guests.

On the day of the first spotting, I was without a care. I was capering around the house, cleaning for pleasure, concerned only with the meals and social callings in my immediate future. One sprightly footstep after another lead me to my room, which is tidy always and disorganized never. There, on the window sill, he was: a wolf spider, as one of the numerous recipients of my panicked live-photo stream dubbed it.

You can rely on a potentially poisonous beast from hel— I mean, unwelcome guest — to nudge you to return your parents’ call. What ensued was an emotionally charged FaceTime with my mother on one end, urging me to quit whining and take action, and me on the other, good for little besides an impressive oscillation between screams and paralysis.

Eventually, I killed the spider, in no particularly merciful fashion. The relief at once again being the sole living occupant of my room was difficult to indulge fully, given the poor, lifeless creature whose only wrong was venturing too far out of the surrounding shrubs. Still, I was happy to move on.

On the day of the second spotting, I was guardedly confident that the worst was behind me. For the sake of my own sanity, I had not yet dared to think that where there is one, there are many — but, keeping with the law of plenty, there were many. On the day of the third spotting — today — I am indifferent. I am not inclined to continue fatally whacking spiders, and, perhaps unwisely, I consider them annoyances rather than threats. I am resigned.

Of course, few of us are searching for luxury in our late teens or early twenties, but basic safety, convenience and security are rightful amenities in any property — even properties in the pits of Collegetown. Universities across the country are equipped to offer on-campus housing to a minority of their enrolled students, and those who reside off-campus are afforded no guidance, compensation or guarantee of decent living conditions. This trend compels students to adopt accommodating, cost-oriented mindsets out of necessity, naturally prioritizing accessibility to campus over comfort. In turn, this perpetuates the culture of negligence and insolence among landlords, who then have no obligation towards maintenance. For student renters, floorplans hardly leave an inch of space for negotiation. Sometimes, we get a half of what we pay for, and we accept it.

It is an oversimplification to claim that the root problem is a shortage of housing. Then, the solution intuitively maps to building. With student demand for near-campus housing constant and unwavering, builders are incentivized to secure more properties, build larger, build faster, and capitalize. Overcrowding, poor HVAC systems, and insects and pests form a small subset of the tragedies in nationwide student housing. Refueling building efforts only scrapes the surface of the underlying issue.

Beyond the art of dousing insect-repellant all over my window sill, I’ve learned some lessons from my proximity to wilderness: caution and adaptability, surely, but also a degree of empowerment and a sense of fairness. With this being said, there could be a clause in my lease, in the finest of prints, that explicitly states I’m agreeing to occasionally spar with spiders… in which case, the fault is entirely my own.

Priya Kankanhalli is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Matters of Fact runs every other Tuesday. She can be reached at pkankanhalli@cornellsun.com.