You’ve learnt the Google definition for six almost as well as the Lord’s prayer. And, as you unpack the spoils of your IKEA shopping spree, you recite it like a sacred chant.
“Equivalent to the product of two and three; one more than five, or four less than ten.
Equivalent to the product of two and three; one more than five, or four less than ten.
Equivalent to the product of two and three-”
There’s a knock at the door. You take great pains to remove the double padlock your parents got you from Timpsons – Daddy said Corona was immune to good locksmiths.
If you’re to live in this room for a whole term, you need to get a lot better at it. “Just a second,” you shout. Nerves make the heavy metal object a Chinese puzzle box. When did your hands get so sweaty? Just before opening the door a crack, you wipe them on your Barbour coat.
“Hullo!” It’s a girl. Best foot forward Benjamin, show her what private dentistry looks like.
“Hiya, I’m Laura, I’m your next door neighbour!” You think you recognise her from popular Instagram account ‘oxfordunifreshers’. She is not wearing a Barbour coat. Off to a disappointing start…
“I’m Benjamin. Benjamin Francis-Slaithewaite.” You take pains to not rush the pronunciation. You want her to remember it, in case she happens to be a Union member.
What follows is a sort of weird off-beat waltz. You ask her what school she went to. She responds with a ditch in Uxbridge. You ask her what subject – she doesn’t say one, just that she does Earth Sciences. From there on, you change tactics and talk to her like she is the first to be eliminated from the Bake Off tent. Her desire to see what your room looks like dissipates when you ask her to put on the gloves and visor you helpfully provide.
After that rather droll interaction, the next time you see ‘Poorer’ Laura is in the middle of the night. Well, you don’t see her. You hear her. And what’s this? She is not alone!
You lift your left ear from your satin pillow (Mummy said it would help with the dandruff). You are no Detective Morse, nor even a shadow of a Sherlock and yet it sounds like there is a non-government mandated social gathering happening under the very same roof under which you reside!
Hold your horses Benjamin, you may be jumping the gun. Only if there is more than “equivalent to the product of two and three; one more than five, or four less than ten” are you bound by the rule of law to call the police. Perhaps there is under, or exactly, half a dozen?
Well, the ‘E’ in ‘PPE’ stands for Economics, and that is a mathematical science so it is most definitely not beyond you to get to the bottom of this…
Seven minutes and thirty-four seconds pass. In that time you listen to footsteps, the sound of hands grasping cups and bottles, and the window being opened. Moments later, you have surmised that someone has taken the liberty to smoke a narcotic substance out of it. The depravity of it all.
In that time you reach two conclusions: there are seven people in ‘Poorer’ Laura’s room, and secondly, that is not equivalent to the product of two and three; one more than five, or four less than ten!
By this time you are pacing your room in your birkenstocks.
Your dressing gown is haphazardly tied.
You are not even wearing your tortoiseshell glasses.
The first night of Covid-19 Fresher’s and you are on the cusp of a decision, perhaps even more important than Sophie’s Choice!
The question is not whether you are calling the police – that is already a definite yes. It is whether you call the Porters or the Sub-Deans first.
Author’s note: This is a purely satirical piece. At this point, you have to laugh at the situation we’re in. Because, if you don’t, you will just cry. You will cry over the lost nights of Bridge, or the sweat you could’ve lost at Fever. If we are to ever get those times back, we must be responsible. Follow the law. Follow your college guidelines. And, above all else, look out for one another.