I spend a lot of time with a couple of hours between classes and I usually need my laptop with me to work on things. If I don’t have to check my email, I’m working on papers or articles or rewriting a résumé for the millionth time so I can get a shot at that internship I’ve always wanted. All of these things take time and battery power, something my laptop can only survive for a couple hours on. But if you ask me, there aren’t enough dang outlets on campus. I’m not talking about in the dorms or study rooms; I’m talking about in the school buildings themselves. Now, there are plenty of places to sit around the university (less so now, since the couch lounge has been replaced by a white wall and loud construction noises), but finding a place to sit down with access to an outlet is nigh impossible if you need one during the middle of the day. The thing is, everyone knows where the power is. And everyone goes to those exact spots first, leaving me walking around like a creep for ten minutes with a dying computer and a Skype call with my project partner. I’m like that car in the parking lot waiting for a parking space to open up, hoping that the lady in the Prius is actually backing out and not just sitting there with her lights on.
I’ve gone so far as to sit in the middle of a hallway that has no chairs just so I could use a lonely outlet that seems to serve no further purpose than to taunt me. As I walk down the hallway for the fifth time, trying to find a place to sit and plug in, those three holes form a face that mocks me. It says: “You know there won’t be an open outlet. You’re going to have to sit down here in the dust while hundreds of passing students try not to step on you.”
I don’t claim to know how best to solve this situation, but there are some ideas that would make this a lot less of a hassle for those who need to plug in. The first would simply be to install more outlets in strategic places and make the seat-to-outlet ratio smaller. If arranged properly, four tables could easily share a bank of outlets. Next, the university could utilize the lonely outlets in the hallways without seats by simply moving desks or booths without access to outlets near those ones. That way they don’t have to spend money installing new outlets or buying new chairs.
I know that the outlets get a lot of use—I wouldn’t need to awkwardly take a seat next to a couple of strangers out of desperation if they didn’t. But it will be an endless power struggle for me until something changes. Until then, I’ll probably just carry an extension cord around with me for emergencies.
BY BEN LABERGE firstname.lastname@example.org
ILLUSTRATION BY JADE GOLEN.