It’s a damp day after cross country practice. As I wearily gather my ice bags post workout, I suddenly realize that I’m hungry. Very hungry, in fact, as it has been a long day of classes followed by many miles run. So at the end of practice, I happily join the “Stimson train” of my teammates going off in our quest to find a satisfying dinner at Stimson Hall, the final destination of our train of weary athletes. I crack open the somewhat heavy door, and I am immediately hit by it: l’eau de Stimson. At first I thought it was because Stimson was serving Mexican food, but it was something more than that. A smell like a soggy, moldy quesadilla with a slight hint of musk like that of an old man or sweaty t-shirt discovered in a plastic bag in a hot car. An almost indescribable essence emanated from the Hall.
I begin my hunt for food by observing the choices for the night: I go back and forth, back and forth. Do I want to risk trying that strange soup, that unusual combination of vegetables, or give in to that delicious pesto pasta? More often than not, the ethnic cuisine wins me over with its selection and healthfulness, therefore, I wait in a short line and happily tell the server all that I would like. Next I buzz around to the cups, no luck. Then I go to the soy milk hopelessly searching for a cup like a noob. Then over to the silverware containers I go, hoping that the spoon shortage will not force me to eat my cereal with a fork once again.
Once I finish my mad dash around the Hall, I finally sit down to start the “Stimson Sit.” For me sitting down and enjoying dinner is the most relaxing part of my day. I find a sort of joy in the slowdown of time as I munch on my asparagus awkwardly or crunch on that awesome cherry granola with peanut butter and soy milk. There is something so enticing about being able to decide exactly what you want next as you finish a part of your meal, and then creating a mixture of items just the way you like it. Like the variety of flavored waters and the street foods offered, I try to be thankful for all the creative energy that goes into the array of foods.
At the end of it all, I am fullm and laugh at how long I have actually spent at the dining hall as I become begrudgingly aware of the fact that I have hours of homework ahead of me. Moving again is somewhat of a new adjustment, as if I was just standing up after Thanksgiving dinner, yet my “Stimson Sit” is unfortunately over. I hurry over to my dorm to finally take a shower after a whole day of activity. I pull my sweatshirt over my head, and there it is. It hits me as if I was walking through the dining room door, the musty Mexican food smell. Soaked into the fabric as if my detergent was Stimson Hall scent. I crinkle my nose and toss the sweatshirt into my hamper. Next time I’ll bring my Stimson Shirt.
One of the perks of being a senior is that I no longer take certain things for granted about Goucher – hanging out on the Great Lawn, curling up in the stacks for a long night of homework, running to the GoHo for a late-night smoothie – it has all taken on a sense of finality that makes me appreciate being able to do these things.
Then there is the Stimson Stench. I doubt I will ever feel nostalgic for that oh-so-particular smell that comes from sitting in Stimson dining hall for even the briefest of moments. It clings to your clothes and hair until you take a shower or change, letting the rest of the student body know where you chose to eat that day.
The Stench is a musty combination of fried food and cooked meat and is much stronger than the curry-based odor that lingers after eating at Heubeck. Eventually, its intensity fades. I mean it lessens from someone across a classroom being able to smell you to only the person next to you picking up on it.
The worst part of Eau du Stimson is that after a while, you stop smelling it. You walk around all day, thinking you must have lucked out and that it has worn off. Until a friend tells you that you still smell like a hotdog stand. Trying to mask the smell by dousing yourself with body spray or perfume like a middle-schooler after gym class doesn’t help either, so spare your fellow classmates and don’t even try.
As much as I clearly loathe smelling like Stimson for hours after having eaten there, there is one good thing about the smell; it brings people together. Well, not literally. Few people want to hang out with someone reeking of deep-fried fatback.
The Stench is one of Goucher’s best punchlines, a bonding experience everyone here has participated in at least once, and many people have somewhat amusing stories about. My favorite anecdote about the Stench was passed down by a professor during my freshman year – a group of young men were so fed up with smelling like Stimson that they would change into the same set of clothes every day following practice. After having dinner, they would change out of their ‘Stimson Shirts’ and thus rid themselves of the Stench.
Humorous and slightly embarrassing stories like these make the Stimson Stench less of an inconvenience and more like a rite of passage for Goucher students, especially for those of us lucky enough to have lived in Stimson Hall as freshmen. It isn’t the best feeling in the world to smell like a dining hall all day, but as long as you stay on campus, people tend to understand.
I suppose I have to change what I wrote earlier, about not missing the Stench. While I won’t miss experiencing it, I will miss having it as a topic of discussion. Who else but a Goucher student will understand the experience that is the Stimson Stench?