Brandishing an English accent fresh off the boat from Harrow on the hill, Blue J strutted onto the Columbia Campus with aplomb. He knew his diction would fare him well with Columbia birds, and with enough high-falutin’ critical theory they couldn’t understand, he would would be in tip-top shape. Yet as the winter set in, Blue J began to feel a terrible sense of ennui. He felt displaced, isolated. The life of a third culture kid (tkc)—jetsetting between London, San Francisco, and New York—had left Blue J culturally confused. Pondering his place in the cosmos, Blue J was suddenly possessed by an urge to recline into a hard porcelain frame. As it had in his school daze, The Bath was calling to him. Buffeted by the winds of globalization, he too sought refuge in his very own safe space.
Yet as he crossed the threshold of the 5th floor River bathroom to undertake this mission, his beady eyes became fraught with dismay. To examine the bathroom with a view to bathe is to see the room anew. His purol-addled sensibilities were confronted by white tiles that weren’t so white - strewn with different hairs of different lengths, and implicitly, different provenance. Porcelain’s subdued gleams were nowhere to be found; instead, he was greeted by a pallid plastic.
Blue J attempted to console himself. Never mind, he thought. He was getting ideas above his station. Conscientious as he was, Blue J decided to check his privilege. With proletarian zeal, he scrubbed the coarse plastic surface of the tub.
His deliverance from the cold, screeching winds was near at hand. With gusto, he triumphantly plunged his foot down on the bath switch. It didn’t move. He tried screwing it to the left, to see if it was jammed. He tried screwing it to the right, to see if it was temperamental. It slowly dawned on Blue J - a conspiracy was afoot!
Columbia’s anti-bath machinations had gone on long enough. The discrimination must end! Pecking furiously away at his typewriter, channeling the energies of his intellectual forebears Mikhael Bakunin and Vladimir Lenin, Blue J drafted a pamphlet to be displayed in every bathroom. The Blue and White obtained a copy:
Despite Britain's role as the midwife of modern industrial capitalism, it would appear that the instrumentalist mindset with which it is so often associated never extended as far as personal grooming. When a man reclined into a hard porcelain frame amid soapy suds in order to stare blankly at the ceiling for awhile, considerations of utility never entered the equation. Whether he was immersed in cosmic ennui about the thought of being alone in the universe, or philosophizing over the relative merits of drip vs. French press, the bath did not discriminate: all thoughts were given equal weight.
In the UK, the bath was insulated from its detractors - but alas, not so in the States. The utilitarians teamed up with the capitalists, who were friends with the ecologists, and they all got together and decided the bath was inefficient, expensive, and environmentally unfriendly. While such a credo would seem music to the Columbia administration’s ears, we forget that the University as an institution also supposedly has other commitments—commitments of the platonic variety, where contemplation is king. If the university is to fulfill the goals and aspirations of the myriad dead white fellows whose names embellish our skyline, it had better create spaces where this can be done. And there is no better such space than the bath.
Bring that epicurean sensibility out of the attic, dust it off, and get yourself into some scalding hot water. It is the simplest of pleasures that yield the best of fruits.