Scratches on the Floor
Illustration by Lolo Walker
After the initial excitement of being on our own settled down, my roommate and I started rearranging our dorm furniture in the midst of orientation week. What began with a casual “Let’s move the desk a little to the left,” slowly transitioned into “Wait! Maybe we should raise the beds?,” and, eventually, ended up as, “We have to move the drawers out from under the bed to create more storage space!” We dragged and pushed and pulled the furniture across the room. Someone tripped on the rug and got their hand stuck in the bed frame. Throughout all of this putter and tinker, my roommate and I inadvertently created many scratches on the floor. These scratches looked like souvenirs, similar to those left behind by the many students that came before us. As we stood in the room after the endeavor, I began to think about how each time we’d look at the scratches we created in the future, we'd be reminded of the fun we had while moving in as freshmen. We’d laugh at our indecisiveness and our goof-ups and, eventually, cry once we’d graduated, looking back on these fond memories. One thing was certain, though: our story would live forever in that room for those who chose to look.
The floor in Stabile Hall is covered in lines and scratches. What looks like a pattern in the granite is a constellation of uneven marks. They differ in length and depth; a never ending variety, collected over the years. As the novice value of the stories bound with those scratches fades, the old marks may stop being visible to us. That is, of course, until someone points them out or we consciously sit and observe them.
This phenomenon is related to a term called selective visibility. Selective visibility is intriguing; it’s guided by the perspective and horizon of the viewer’s mind, much like tunnel vision. An example relates to Mr. Boggle, a character in my kindergarten picture book, who, while peeping out of a small window, thought it was raining. As he stepped out with his umbrella, he realized it was someone washing his car! This was my first introduction to selective perception. Now that I’m older, I realize that we often see what we want to see. It’s like peering through a narrow tube where you overlook the surroundings and constrict yourself to seeing only a part of it in isolation. Sometimes, we can’t see the things that are right in front of us, simply because we’re moving too fast to really, truly look. It feels like time is in a constant rush, and we’re always chasing it, trying to catch up. During my first week at Pratt, I felt like I only started high school on Monday, and then, all of a sudden, I was moving into my college dorm by Friday.
Recently, I sat on the floor of my dorm room in Stabile with a mitre box, ready to cut basswood sticks for my second week of technics class. As I made my way through the woodwork I still wasn’t used to, I hit the floor with the saw over and over again. Despite knowing the damage I was causing, I couldn’t bring myself to feel bad about the marks I accidentally created. They blended in with hundreds of others just like them. I thought, “Perhaps those ones have been made by architecture students, too.”
Over time, these dorm room floors become your self-healing cutting mat. You’re no longer afraid to add to the heap of marks. Each time you look at the floor, you begin to wonder about things. Did those before me also use the floor as a cutting mat? Did they also hit the tip of their X-Acto knife on the floor enough times to make it blunt in a week?
As we add our own scratches to the floor, we become part of a larger story. When we move out, we’ll leave behind our own little traces of our legacy that will remain engraved in Pratt’s floors for as long as the dorms remain. Even though we’ll be long gone one day, somehow, we’ll still manage to live in this school forever, immortalized in the scratches on the floor. Someday, someone will stop for long enough. They will look at the ground, and think about how we were here. They will wonder, just as I did, about those who called this place home before them.
Stabile has its defects. Despite the flaws, though, I can’t help but feel at home in the building. It is home away from home—6000 miles away from home, to be precise. But those pieces of others’ lives, permanent in these floors, are comforting. They’re reminders that someone else lived through this before me, and I too, like them, will be alright.