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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Potty Talk: Dirty (Ba)llou


Many connoisseurs of spookiness have agreed that Boris Johnson is perhaps the spookiest man alive. And the only building at Tufts that we could find photo evidence of Johnson having entered is Ballou Hall. By the transitive property, then, we know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Ballou Hall is the single spookiest place at Tufts. Join us as we plunge into the monument to capitalism, single-ply toilet paper and hotter-than-average bathrooms that is Ballou Hall.

Ballou Hall is Tufts’ version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory: those who enter are rarely seen exiting, and those who work inside are shrouded in mystery. Which is why most students are hesitant to venture inside, even when threatened by an urgent excretory disaster. Upon entering the gilded academic mansion, we were shocked to discover the degree to which its bathrooms exposed Tufts’ ugly underbelly.

The trip downstairs felt like a descent into some warped, Halloweenified universe. Most of the rooms are bare shells with exposed cement floors and drop tile ceilings that scream of the age of asbestos. How could this regal building have such a dingy underground?

Just next to the stairwell are three doors. Two are clearly marked as bathrooms, and one seems like the entrance to a vault. It is a large, dark metal door with a silver handle along with a hefty locking mechanism. There is also a “caution wet floor” sign just outside so as to indicate to passersby, “do not approach.” We cannot know what is behind this door, but we assume, given its proximity to the building’s plumbing, that it must be some special bathroom, potentially where the ghosts of Jumbo or Hosea Ballou II respond to nature’s calls.

Being too scared to attempt to enter the vault, we moved on to the plebeian lavatories. The men’s bathroom has two stalls — one so cavernous that the toilet paper is nearly out of reach of the toilet, and another so narrow that you hardly have room to perform the classic pre-potty arm circles. 

But the stalls were only half the show: the men’s room plays host to two of the finest floor urinals of all time, along with their unloved brother: a urinal with a broken drain protected only by an overturned recycling bin. A floor urinal is a urinal whose basin is not suspended on the wall but is instead embedded in the floor. They are exciting for their rarity, as well as the novel sensation of peeing on the ground indoors, but they also lead to problems with splashback and may mean sticky soles for the unsuspecting.

The floor urinals also had no dividers, which means that if someone happens to urinate next to you, you will be able to communally revel in the rebelliousness of peeing on the floor in such close proximity to the office of Tufts’ general counsel. 

While the urinals are probably the most remarkable part of the whole experience, they are emphatically not the first thing you’ll notice. The temperature of the bathroom brings to mind a sauna that’s been left unattended for the past 169 years, producing a relief upon leaving the bathroom even greater than the one experienced in the bathroom itself.

When we walked upstairs, the revelations we faced rocked our understanding of what Tufts really is forever, but for that, you’ll have to join us next week.

Ballou Hall downstairs: 6/10 — I’ve always wanted to pee on the floor of a sauna.