(Un)wavering: Mario in the Lobby.
The lobby in my new residence hall, Morehouse Hall, is of the warm and cozy sort. Dark, aging wooden trim compliments the crème-colored walls and lampshades, which create for their bulbs a soft, opaque light quite welcome here past sunset. Olive colored furniture played host to a group of cards players merely half an hour ago; a glass-topped coffee table reflects the face of Mr. Morehouse, whose bronze complexion overlooks us students from the northeast corner of the room.
While the lobby is inviting and splendid, it is also lonely tonight. It’s Friday, and I — Resident Assistant Dustin, reporting for duty! — am left to wonder where exactly everybody ran off to. The optimist in me would say the masses went for late-night burgers and shakes at the B-Bops down the road; the pessimist, well…
I sit here — lay here, I suppose — on the couch searching for inspiration to write. Nothing has struck me recently, not an ounce of creativity; and the last week and a half has been so chock-full of professional development for the RA staff (which has been the most enjoyable time, I might add!) that putting ink to paper fell down my list of priorities, less it be a signature to a contract. Where did my prompts so promptly go?
I look around the room, admiring its tone but feeling that bit of loneliness, and who should be waving at me but Nintendo’s very own poster boy: Mario.
Yes, there he is: the second shelf above the television, a white glove in the air, palm rightly toward me. Even as his stature — that of a small, plastic, China-made McDonald’s toy — catches only the fringes of the nearest lamplight, I can see his thick Italian mustache tucked firmly beneath his remarkably large nose. His wide stance provides him needed stability; he is nearly eight feet above the ground, after all. What dangerous places that little man has ventured to!
What’s more, Mario seems to be inviting me into a whole other world upon those shelves; there sits also a waving Bratz doll, a solar-powered dancing flower, a mushroom-capped Smurf abode, a small wooden duck and a ceramic unicorn. A hula-skirted girl sways if you give her a push. There’s a little clock with a timely minute hand, though the hour hand could use some help; and there’s some creepy little owl trinket that appears to be holding a tiny…cake? Plate of pastries? Even Mario is unsure.
What is this still-life world that watches over the studious? Who decided the best way to liven up a common space was old McDonald’s toys and things out of the “free” box at a garage sale? These are the questions we must ask. But it’s all worth a chuckle, too; we might say Morehouse Hall has a sense of humor. And Mario is the ringleader.
Imagine being one of them: plastic, born unto the world from a Happy Meal and permanently perched on a college campus. What things Mario has probably seen, that we would then see! Students cramming their biology; the flirtatious ventures of the boy from first-floor; drunken stupors; and hot-chocolate parties in the winter (complete with warm blankets). Yes, where we students enter and leave constantly, this league of toys has remained awake, alert, and positively unwavering. Surely their eyes are bloodshot and burning by now, having not blinked for a few years.
Perhaps, when finally all the hall is asleep from 3–5am, they venture on Night at the Museum-like escapades, lounging on the very same olive furniture the students use and catching up on each other’s static lives. Maybe Mario searches all of Drake University for his beloved Princess Peach, unaware that she was born out of a Happy Meal many miles away in Boise, Idaho. I’ll betcha’ the duck wets his wooden feathers in the pond near Helmick Commons. And there’s a chance the Bratz doll attends a dance party for one in the Morehouse Ballroom. (There is, after all, a 240-volt outlet down there, primed and ready for a technicolor lightshow!)
I am grateful for Mario and his gang. They have proven that old adage about simply being there for a friend; I lay alone in a mute hall, and there they are, saying nothing but still present and active in my life. They are supportive, encouraging; I mean, just look at the smile on Mario’s face! And we might dare to draw the conclusion that whatever students put these fine characters there knew exactly what they were doing: They made a sometimes-empty lobby a never-empty lobby. A Resident Assistant like me, up until the rounds are finished and the residents safely home, can keep entertained thanks to these humble efforts.
I wave back to Mario, and I ask him a question I’ve always wanted to ask but never could through my Wii controller:
“So, do you have multiple red shirts and blue overalls or…do you just…keep wearing the same outfit…always…?”