In my second, and second-second, years of university my room came equipped with a small fridge in one of the cupboards. It was smaller than most under-counter applicances but still ample and very convenient for someone who has limited coordination first thing in the morning (I was amazed not to be fined for the multiple yoghurt stains on the carpet in front of said cupboard, where I often managed to fumble and drop the pot of yoghurt which was making its way to my breakfast cereal).
Sadly, my move this year to a room with a piano meant that I had to sacrifice the provided fridge. I did manage to get a room with a sink, which is probably more important as you can’t really bring your own, but I knew I couldn’t cope without a fridge after becoming so used to having space to store food, so I arranged to buy one from a graduating friend.
The college, recognising that this underground fridge trading is an important part of college life, has a system whereby the old fridge owner labels the appliance with the new owner’s details and leaves it in her room over the summer, unplugged and clean and inoffensive to conference guests. The new owner then collects it at the start of term and duly sells it on when she leaves. It works pretty well.
Except. Except that it isn’t just conference guests who come to stay in the summer. It is also large groups of bored, understimulated foreign teenagers attending a language summer school. Although thrills and delights such as film nights and walking tours of the city are laid on, many of these teenagers prefer to entertain themselves by moving furniture around. The housekeeping department tend to restore the beds, desks and chairs to their rightful homes but are less bothered by the fridges which they have no responsibility for.
All this is by way of a preface to the adventures of my fridge. It had been carefully labelled and left at the end of summer. When I moved back in I went to fetch it, and discovered it was absent. Slightly perplexed, I headed to my old room where I had left my small freezer, similarly labelled with my new room details. That wasn’t there either, which confirmed my suspicion: housekeeping had evidently changed the system and moved all the fridges to some central (hopefully groundfloor) location.
That wasn’t true either. I emailed the head of department, who admitted to having moved my freezer (it was too dirty and rusty, apparently; the conference guests would have been offended), but denied all knowledge of the fridge, and indeed when I went to collect the freezer from their secret appliance stash I didn’t see my fridge among them. Just my poor, insulted freezer. I loaded it onto a trolley and trundled it home.
For the last week I have been knocking on doors, sending emails and leaving notes in an attempt to track down my fridge. It’s a fridge, for crying out loud. It is taller than my desk and not easy to secrete in a pocket or large bag. Anyone who can afford to attend a conference can afford to buy their own fridge, and I can’t see a fourteen year old taking a fridge home on the plane, so it had to be somewhere in college. But I got no joy, despite many tips and suggestions from helpful fellow students. College merely shrugged and informed me that it was not their responsibility.
At last, this morning I got a text from a friend to tell me that she had spotted my fridge lurking on a corridor which I had already checked three times. I came back to my room to see a deluge of similar emails from other people who had been on the lookout (the necessity of one’s own fridge is well understood by the women of this college), including the girl whose room it had ended up in. She had only just moved back in, she said, and was wondering why there was a large fridge in her room. She had moved it outside and I could come and get it whenever I wanted.
The only difficulty remaining was that the fridge was on the second floor of a building on the other side of the grounds from mine. I did attempt to get it down the stairs unaided, but after one step I realised it was never going to make it down two flights of stairs without incident. So I enlisted the help of the fridge-spotting friend and we got it to ground level fairly simply. Then I popped it onto the same trolley and triumphantly proceeded to my room, stopping on the way to admire a woodpecker and to semaphore a victory message to a member of housekeeping as I passed her office. Now it is sitting beside my sink humming to itself, and I am thrilled.
The take-home message from this? As I learnt last year when I arrived in my then-new room to discover that it was missing curtains (an issue which took two weeks to be resolved), managing without something which you usually take for granted makes you appreciate it even more when it arrives. I shall celebrate the presence of my fridge by buying some more milk.