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The fascinating rooms of Wilson and where to find them

Wilson is, for the lack of a better word, weird. Not the gym, the dorm—or you might know it as the place where all the basketball players live. Time and time again, my home away from home has defied my expectations, even in areas where I thought I had none. 

Constructed in 1925, Wilson is one of the original dorms on the main quad, and strangely enough, one of the only suite-style dorms on East Campus. However, there are no common suite rooms; most suites are only linked by a narrow hallway, or sometimes not linked at all. 

Trivia question, what type of flooring does Wilson use?

  1. Wooden
  2. Linoleum
  3. Ceramic
  4. Carpet

Did you choose an option? Congratulations! That is correct. Wilson will satisfy all your needs for different floors, if that is something you ever look for in a dorm. The restroom floors consist of small blue and white floor tiles, while the suites usually consist of hardwood flooring. That is, until you get to my room, where the designer decided that they liked wooden floors, until they didn’t. As a result, I get the cool linoleum floor that reminds me a bit too much of high school chemistry class.

Of course, we cannot talk about Wilson without mentioning the rooms, each of which carries its own little quirk. Upon move-in day, the first thing I noticed was this strange door right next to my own door, which I later found to be a walk-in closet, supposedly to be shared by the suite. Walking into my room, you may also notice the conveniently placed sink next to my bed. At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about this. This was exactly the type of thing my parents would warn me about: how it can damage one’s fengshui and bring financial misfortune, and how I must sleep with my head away from the wall to harmonize my qi with the elements.  

Disregarding my bad fengshui, I have come to embrace this sink. I can wake up, wash my face and brush my teeth, all without leaving the comfort of my bed. One of my friends hypothesized that my room was possibly a janitor’s closet in a past life, which I would have disagreed with if it didn’t seem so true. Apart from mine, there’s another room with an entirely separate study space, nearly doubling the room’s size, and another room with a private bathroom inside the dorm. One person even has a door right next to their bed, which apparently leads directly to another dorm. I can already imagine the slogan: Why visit the Winchester Mystery House when you can visit Wilson?

As for the smell, there is never quite a word to describe it. Imagine a grandma, living alone, with her seven cats, in her basement, spoiled milk spilled all over the floor. Now, imagine that smell occasionally mixed with chlorine, bleach, and air fresheners with a lavender scent so strong it can almost suffocate you.

From time to time, it can seem like the grass is greener on the other side. Sometimes I wish we had the arcade machines at Trinity, or the huge common rooms at Bell Tower, or even just a functional bathroom lock. I admit: I have searched up “how to switch freshman dorms at Duke” on more than one occasion. 

However, the community at Wilson is simply impeccable. Go down to the common room at any time, and you will most likely find a group of people to hang out with. Someone playing Megalovania on the piano, or a group gathering around the sofas for a game of Avalon. One of my favorite memories is when we figured out how to play Doodle Jump on the TV, after 20 minutes of toying around with the remote control. Oftentimes, we just gather to laugh at the weird parts of Wilson, or how the lock on the bathroom isn’t working again. But truthfully, there’s always something to love about each dorm. 

I still don’t know why there’s a sink in my room, or why there’s a closet right outside my room, or why there’s a door in our suite hallway. Wilson is full of strange mysteries (perfect place to make a horror film, by the way). I imagine all the cool chase scenes that could be filmed here. It’s a great place to host the largest hide-n-seek event too, just think about all the winding hallways and doors that lead to nowhere. If they were to refilm the Platform 7¾ Harry Potter scene, I imagine it would be the Random Closet Door Next to Room 307¾D instead. 

We may not have the nicest equipment, or bathrooms, or common rooms, or kitchen, or hallways, or scent—but we have something Trinity and Bell Tower don’t have: history. Nearly 100 years ago, someone lived in the same exact dorm I’m in right now, using the same awkwardly-placed sink under the same slanted roof, possibly nearly hitting their head on more than one occasion. After all, why have a new or entirely renovated room when you can have a historical one? 

P.S. Duke Housing, if you’re reading this, perhaps, if you ever feel like, maybe, say, putting me in one of the dorms near 9th Street. I am absolutely open to all changes. Not that I want to, because I absolutely love Wilson, but I am totally open to change, whenever it works, could be next semester, or next month, or next week. I am also free tomorrow. I’m a fast packer, by the way.

Spencer Chang is a Trinity first-year. His column runs on alternate Thursdays.

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