It’s the Little Things That Count

I think we can all agree that these past couple weeks have been rough. Midterms combined with a constant stream of depressing news have certainly not filled my life with sunshine and rainbows, and I’m sure the same holds for many of you. But I don’t want to gripe about what you already know — midterms stink, Congress doesn’t ever get anything done, the earth is burning up, etc. Instead, I want to give us a chance to vent about the little-acknowledged, tiny, annoying things that build up to make a mediocre day terrible, and to acknowledge the moments of joy and happy surprises that can momentarily lift us out of the unappetizing stew of reality. Without further ado, here are the top ten candidates in each category, as selected by a panel of random friends I polled independent experts. 

Top 10 Tiny Annoying Things that Make a Bad Day Worse

  1. You attempt to log into Moodle only to find that your 30 days of automatic duo-authentication are up. Sighing, you dig around in your backpack for your phone, only to discover that you left it in your dorm room. You then proceed to curse Duo 2-Factor Authentication, insult its mother, and vow vengeance upon its descendants.
  2. You waltz into the bathroom, towel and shower caddy at the ready, only to discover that someone has taken YOUR shower. Okay, technically it’s a communal bathroom, but you have STAKED YOUR CLAIM to this shower. It has the best hook placement and is situated at the perfect distance from the door so that you can retain some semblance of privacy from people wandering in. You can try to take a shower in a different stall, but it just won’t be the same — and probably someone has neglected to clean their hair out of the drain.
  3. You set aside time in your busy day to actually do your laundry, only to find upon opening the washing machine that you have accidentally used the one that doesn’t spin the clothes properly, leaving them sopping wet and throwing off your perfectly planned timing. It will now take at least three dryer cycles to wring out the excess moisture, and you have class in a mere hour and fifteen minutes. 
  4. You are relaxing at a sunny table in Sci courtyard when you realize at three in the afternoon that you have forgotten to do your COVID test. The prospect of rushing down to Worth to have a q-tip stuck in your nostril is not exciting.
  5. You are extremely sleep-deprived and promise yourself you will get to bed early, as you are all caught up on work. Somehow, you manage to waste time until you go to bed at two a.m. despite having accomplished nothing useful. Self-loathing subsequently increases exponentially. 
  6. You attempt to order a Kohlberg sandwich, reserving it three days in advance on the GET app (an arduous task in itself) just to make sure, only to find upon arrival that all of the sandwiches are gone. You eye every passing student grumpily, certain that they snatched the sandwich that was rightfully yours away from your rumbling stomach. 
  7. You drop your mask. With the inside down. On a particularly grimy bit of floor. 
  8. In a hurry, you head to Sharples to grab a quick meal before running off to a meeting. But the person in front of you is standing just far enough to the left to prevent you from actually taking a helping of the only dish you want. You wait, seething, as they chat with their friends, pile seemingly every single topping atop their plate, hesitate, go back for more, look around at the options again, and then finally, finally move away enough so that they’ve stopped blocking the carrots.
  9. Your hands are full with several packages and a couple takeout vessels from Sharples when you arrive at your dorm room. Too late, you realize your OneCard is stuffed in an obscure compartment of your backpack … or possibly your jacket? Or maybe you lost it somewhere? Chaos ensues and your carefully stacked burdens stand no chance of remaining upright. 
  10. You receive an email about free food — your favorite food, no less. The next moment, you realize you have class then and that the food will definitely be gone by the time you can escape class. Since the only reason to come to college is for the free food events, you begin to question the meaning of your existence.

Top 10 Tiny Wonderful Things that Make a Day Better

  1. You wake up early and see the sunrise over Mertz field with mist rising off the grass as rosy light illuminates the trees.
  2. You go for a walk in the Crum and catch a glimpse of the cute fox who likes to ramble around there.
  3. Sharples happens to have leftovers of your favorite dessert (looking at you, rice pudding and Hope’s Cookies)! You promptly fill a tupperware up to the top with delectable sweetness.
  4. You come across Benedicta, a wonderful EVS tech who works in Wharton, and exchange a sunny “hello” and a smile. It is officially a good day.  
  5. You are wandering through Shane Lounge and encounter a table of unexpected free food. It is free no longer, for you have now taken it prisoner in your stomach.
  6. You have stored some tasty leftovers in the communal dorm fridge and no one has taken them. Your faith in humanity is restored.
  7. You encounter a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with for a long time. The two of you grab a meal together, and it is a far superior experience to eating Sharples takeout alone in your room.
  8. You and your friends manage to snag a coveted group study room in McCabe. You proceed to get no actual studying done but have a lot of fun anyway.
  9. The filter of the water bottle station you frequent most often has been replaced so that the light is now a friendly green rather than an angry red. You happily fill your water bottle, content that you will not contract typhoid. 
  10. Your professor brings their dog to campus. A cuteness overload ensues. You can now die happy. 

There you have it: the unspoken grievances of Swarthmore exposed as the insidious, good-mood-destroying influences they are, and the unsung joys that can uplift the mediocrity of existence. If any of you have experienced these things, I salute you as a fellow sufferer — and a fellow beneficiary — of the small annoyances and pleasures of the college experience.

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