The Magic of the Common Room

January 23, 2022

I’m currently sitting in the otherwise empty common room of my dorm on a Saturday night. I love this place.

For a bit of background: I live in Houston Hall, which has an unexpectedly fantastic common room setup.

First, the room itself is stocked with quirky modern furniture, and is actually quite comfortable:

But the real genius of Houston’s common rooms are how many there are, and how they're placed.

Houston has a whopping eight medium-sized common rooms, with one on the first floor and basement floor, and one on both sides of the second, third, and fourth floor.

Houston’s common rooms (blue) and a student’s path into the building (red).

There’s two huge benefits to this layout:

  1. For the second, third, and fourth floor, each half of floor gets their own common room. That way, you usually at least faintly know the people in the common room, and it’s less intimidating.
  2. The red arrows trace a student’s path into the building, up the stairs, and towards their room. You have to pass through your half’s common room to get to your dorm room. Whenever you leave or return, you have a natural chance to say hello to your neighbors.

So it’s a good common room, with a good location. But my favorite thing to do? Occupying a chair in the corner on a weekend night and just working quietly while people-watching the people going to and from small parties. It’s fantastic entertainment.

You watch people frantically trying to figure out where the rest of their friends are (are you back in Miller? Where are you guys? Can I come later?).

You hear about how someone’s attempted hookup isn’t going very well (at the sound of this news, the rest of the guys groan).

You hear a vapid conversation that a guy has with his girlfriend on the phone, at the end telling her that he’s very tired and will probably sleep soon before returning to play FIFA with his friends.

It’s like getting access to a window that peers into the lives of people that I don’t usually interact with. Nobody really notices me in the corner. I honestly sometimes think that I blend in with the furniture.

But people-watching is so fun. Here are all the silly people with their silly lives and their silly concerns. Don’t mind that I am also one of the silly people with a silly life and silly concerns. For the moment, I’m just a fly on the wall.