In kindergarten, Ms. Poger had a big bowl of buttons. They were “counting buttons”—meant to help us with math. If I have eight buttons, and I give you three, how many do I have left? Now, a little bit you need to know about me…

Growing up, I had what my parents termed a “special drawer.” It was below my sock drawer, above my shirts, and it was where I kept all of the small objects I compulsively squirreled: diminutive unfilled notebooks, miniature rubber dog models, tiny binder clips. 

I had a glass cup of coins—not even special coins or foreign coins—just shiny nickels, mostly. So, being a small, strange child obsessed with collecting useless and unexceptional things, I was naturally drawn to the buttons.

And they were beautiful. One was tin-colored and conical, with complex cutouts and curlicues. One was brass, square shaped and deceptively heavy, with two-thread loops on the back. All together, they were enchanting, tumbling over one another and tinkling conspiratorially. 

Sharing may be caring, but thievery is far more gratifying, and the buttons were like insects to my flypaper fingers. I started to steal them, every few days, after our math sessions. If Ms. Poger has one hundred buttons, and Stevie takes three each week for seven weeks, how many buttons does Ms. Poger have left?

When Ms. Poger discovered that the button bowl was losing weight—that students were pilfering—she took the bowl away in draconian fashion. 

The idea was this: that if we were abusing her generosity in sharing the buttons, we lost the privilege of having them at all. In front of the class, Ms. Poger made a big deal out of locking the bowl away in the bottom drawer of her desk. No more buttons.

Thursday at 2:40 p.m. and I’m wondering if the same sort of logic is operating in Coles Tower, except that now, being 22, I’ve graduated from buttons…

Let me explain: There are five Tower RAs, all of whom are wonderful people. I have no unkind words to voice against them. They put nametags on our doors, they have cellphone numbers posted to theirs, and they host pizza parties on the 16th floor catered by Flipside. I have no real complaints.

But it’s Thursday at 2:40 p.m. and I’m looking for condoms. Ok, ok—not for use at 2:40 p.m. admittedly. But it’s important to be prepared—for anything and everything. That’s a rule I also learned back in kindergarten, when, after being confronted with the impossible and explosive nature of the milk cartons, I started always opening my chocolate milk with the spout pointing away from me, at my friends.

So I go down a few floors, to the nearest RA’s door. I’m looking for that Halloween-style, serve-yourself vessel full of the small, light blue packages. No luck. 

I know RAs aren’t proctors, and maybe they aren’t told to provide seniors in the Tower with condoms, but why not? I guess I’d just assumed that all Residential Life staffers had access to an off-putting number of condoms with which to arm us residents.

Disappointed on this floor, I head down a few more and stop by the next RA’s apartment. Same thing. And none at the next RA’s floor, either.

There are, surprisingly, no condoms in the Tower.

And here’s the Ms. Poger connection—are you still with me? I wonder if, like the bowl brimming with “counting buttons,” there used to be an awe-inspiring bowl of Trojans made available for students, a privilege which Tower residents abused for too long—stealing condoms, hoarding them, hiding them in their “special drawers.” Then I think about the bowl being locked away forever in someone’s desk. No more condoms.

Not that I’m blaming anyone— I’m certainly not one to judge. But no matter, I still have no condoms, and now it’s 2:50 p.m. And so I do what any rational senior would do when the weather is below zero with windchill, and head for the nearest first year dorm.

So I’m headed to West. Hey—when you got to go, you got to go. (I think I’d rather not tell you all about the day in kindergarten when Ms. Poger’s class learned about that.) On the first floor, I beeline for the proctor’s door, made evident by the whiteboard and—at last!—the condom bowl. 

I sort of wish I’d been discovered—a senior hunched greedily over the condoms and, for the first time in my life, choosing something over chocolate, which the kind proctor had also left in the bowl—because it was probably hilarious. Or incredibly frightening. 

I’m trying to imagine some analogous scene—to throw some metaphor in here—and I keep thinking about Santa feeding from his plate of cookies, but everything about that comparison is disturbing. Anyway, I stuff the condoms into my bag, and kindergarten math comes rushing back. If the West first years have nine condoms, and Stevie takes them all, how many condoms do they have left? Sorry, West.

Am I embarrassed? A little. Did I abuse the system in taking all of the condoms from West? Undoubtedly. Am I judging myself just as much, if not more so, than you? Likely. But I hope that this, besides being a mildly entertaining story you read this morning while eating breakfast alone and feeling a little socially awkward about it, can be a lesson. 

For all those of you who call the Tower your home on campus, don’t waste your time looking for the free condoms. There are none. In the interest of efficiency, head straight to the closest first year dorm—maybe you pass Coleman on your way to the library?—and stock up. And for all of you still in the dawn of your Bowdoin days, living in the first-year bricks—if your condom bowl is empty, it was probably us.

Stevie Lane is a member of the Class of 2015.