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Reflection on the Mendoza bubble struggle

| Thursday, April 26, 2018

In my four years at Notre Dame, I’ve collected a lot of secrets. I know the best time of day to sneak food out of the dining hall. I know which offices have the best candy dishes — Theology, thank me later. I can even tell you the best bench locations categorized by mood, time of day, squirrel visibility, etc. But my biggest ND secret turned out to be common knowledge: The soap dispensers in Mendoza don’t work. They haven’t in ages.

For the last several semesters, I have stuck my hands under the dispensers, waved them around, gave up and settled for rinsing and drying my hands at least two or three times per week. And instead of saying something, I let it go every single time. I thought maybe it was a “me problem,” like perhaps I was using the soap dispensers incorrectly.

I believed this wholeheartedly until the day I cracked the case of the Mendoza Bubble Struggle wide open. It was a morning like any other: I sat through two classes and was finishing a third when I got up to take a little break and roam the halls. On the way back from my walk, I stopped in the bathroom and saw something I hadn’t seen in a long time — the soap dispenser was dispensing soap. And not only that, it was dispensing soap all on its own.

The ridiculous sight of the sink overflowing with foam lit a fire in me. I decided to day was the day I get to the bottom of this soap business. I went to tell the lady at the desk of the Mendoza Library that the soap machine was running haywire and she told me she was aware of the problem. I mentioned that they have never worked before and she explained to me that someone came to fix them months ago, but it didn’t work out for some reason, and today they were finally getting fixed.

I spent the rest of the day stewing in the foolishness of this seemingly trivial situation. Perhaps I was just procrastinating, but perhaps I was on to something. This event certainty wasn’t my first time feeling alone on this campus; I am a first-generation black student from a low-socioeconomic background who struggles with Bipolar disorder. But just like with the Bubble Struggle, there were people around me who were working through the same thing in silence.

It wasn’t just me who couldn’t get the soap dispensers to work, it was everyone. My friends. My classmates. My professors. And no one said anything all this time, because no one wants to be the person to admit that they didn’t just wash their hands.

It is hard to start a conversation if the subject makes us uncomfortable, but silence is seldom productive. A solvable problem turned into months, perhaps years, of inactive soap dispensers in Mendoza. So, next time you feel that you and you alone are faced with a particular problem, mention it to someone. Just say it out loud and see what happens.

I think you’ll find that you not alone way more than you think.

Promise Choice


April 24

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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