Working Gal: Desk Assistant in the College Dormitory

In my junior and senior year of college, I worked as a desk assistant (DA) in my dorm. It was super convenient to plod down three flights of stairs in my pajamas to go to work. Essentially, it was my first foray in the world of working from home.

I’m trying to remember details of my duties, which involved

  • Doling out keys to residents who locked themselves out
  • Handling DVD, board game, and equipment rentals
  • Making “it’s quiet hours” announcements over the loudspeaker
  • Sorting mail and putting them in dorm mailboxes, which might’ve been one of my favorite of the job’s tasks. (Yay, organization! I was a real hoot at parties.)

Speaking of the mail, I told Jake, one of the residents, that in order to get to the mail room, I had to stand in front of the mailboxes, touch the fire alarm box in a certain way, and then the entrance would swing out like a secret passage bookcase. He believed me, too, even though I prefaced this explanation with “You know [how on] Scooby Doo…?”

More memorable is all the non-work I did at the desk. The gig offered a lot of downtime, and if I wasn’t doing homework (e.g., writing a paper about all the sex in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) or updating my LiveJournal, I was working on whimsical art projects (often using the dorm’s craft supplies), like

  • Making sand art
  • Making monotone crayon drawings of Victoria Secret models’ faces
  • Crocheting a blanket
  • Drawing “Mi Howse” and displaying it proudly on the wall
  • Making a family of tiny ghosts out of foam hearts, pink puff balls, and Q-tips
  • Drawing and coloring a paper ghost to haunt my employee mailbox
  • Writing erotica
  • Creating postcards using ink stamps, old catalogs, and index cards

When I had my DA evaluation, the graduate assistant (GA) commended me on my “creative flair.” I miss being so profoundly bored that it led to that kind of artistic compulsions.

Other not-as-artistic moments spent on the clock at the desk included

  • Eating pepperoni while watching Showgirls and The Style Channel
  • Talking about Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk Railroad with Harry, the super chill security guard who gave off vibes like Venus Fly Trap from WKRP in Cincinnati 
  • Playing Chutes and Ladders, Connect Four, and Operation with Twig (Though I still screamed when Operation BZZed at me, I didn’t run away crying like I did on my seventh birthday.)
  • Playing “bistro in Rome” with Green Bean (i.e., we gossiped while eating a box of fancy Triscuts)
  • Hanging out with Twig and The Bongmaster, who stretched two of the lobby couches across the front of the desk, blocking it, and sat at opposite ends playing Battleship
  • Changing everyone’s name in my phone (At first I went with diner food last names, such as Twist Overeasy, Raconteur Homefries, Twig FreshCreme, and Bitchhole FruitSalad. [There was a falling out, re: that last one.] Then, I changed everyone’s name again when inspired by the colors in a J.Crew catalog: Pine Cone Eucalyptus, Twig DarkPapaya, Green Bean Meadow, and so forth.)
  • Giving The Bongmaster Crayola-markers tattoos (I went with a sailor theme: an anchor on one hand and a heart on the other with Mom written in it and birds flying around it.)
  • Reading aloud the FAQ page
  • Eating a candy cane while reading Ramona the Pest (It made me want to own shiny red rain boots.)
  • Advising fellow DAs to use more slang when they called residents to tell them a package awaited them (“If you could pick it up, that would be tubular.”)
  • Looking for hidden Satanic messages in popular songs and finding “Nazi I miss you” in “Mack the Knife”

As you can see, most of my shifts were pretty uneventful. Once I looked on while while two nineteen-year-old girls got underage drinking citations, but even that wasn’t that exciting. In fact, the most memorable happening that I can recall was when the aforementioned Jake dared me to hula hoop for thirty minutes straight while working. Fortunately, it was an incredibly slow night, and when the half hour was up, Jake incredulously paid me twenty bucks (which was part of the deal). It was easily the best way I ever earned any money.

During my last desk shift, the staff gave me a homemade card that congratulated me on my impending graduation. On the front of the card was a drawing of a cartoon ham. This is because I told the GA that she should paint a beautiful cartoon ham on her hall brick, because they always make me hungry.

On my own brick, I painted a ghost in the desert next to a cactus and a cattle skull with a happy blue rain cloud over its head.

I also received an award that deemed me “most likely to make someone’s day,” which is always nice to hear. Another accolade to slap on the ol’ CV!

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