Over the past year, I have used this space for a number of different purposes. I have waxed philosophical, attempted to analyze the oft-perplexing behavior of myself and my peers, described my various social misadventures?I have even resorted, on several occasions, to letting my imagination run wild all over the page, a dangerous and bewildering exercise indeed. But rarely in the course of my ramblings have I touched upon topics of practical relevance.

So as a change of pace, I have chosen not to exhaust your patience with another jaunt on the treadmill of triviality this week. Because while the occasional intellectual spank session is all well and good, I'd prefer that my labors were not entirely inconsequential.

It is in this spirit that I embarked on a daunting but important project.

We talk a great deal about diversity here in our enlightened little enclave. And though murmuring about the school's homogeneity is a popular pastime, Bowdoin undergrads boast their share of differences. There is at least one thing, however, that all students here have in common: we all use communal lavatories.

There are people who don't feel comfortable using the bathroom anywhere but in their own home. Most of you probably know a person like this?someone who is either super-germaphobic or else preternaturally private about certain of his or her body's essential functions.

While college is challenging for most people, folks of this disposition have it especially tough. Not only do the communal living arrangements and busy schedules find them with precious little alone time, but even what should be their most meditative moments of their day?the time they spend in the stall?are rife with anxiety.

You really can't have comfortable "home base" here on campus for three main reasons. First, there are no private restrooms here. Even if you share one only with your roommates or floor mates, you still must lower your standards for sterility. After all, John from down the hall has, like, six servings of Honolulu Tofu in the tank right now, and it's only a matter of time before that show goes live. And your roommate has hooked up with how many random, possibly unclean partners this semester?

Second, students here are always on the move. Classes, meetings, practices, study groups?some students spend such long periods of time away from their rooms that they return to find that their dorms gutted and gated off (such incidents have been especially common among first-year students of late). Even though the Bowdoin campus is small, it is impracticable to rush all the way back home every time natural calls, and the consequences of attempting to do so can be...horrid.

Third, and this also applies primarily (though not exclusively) to first-year dorms, the fallout of Bacchanalia-gone-bad?by which, of course, I mean puke everywhere?can make your home-base toilet a non-option for days at a time.

This has left many students grasping at straws. How to cope with this lack of a reliable refuge? This is the problem that I spent the majority of my time and energy this week seeking to solve. Some would call me a hero, but to them I say nay?I am merely a man, a man in search of what any reasonable student wants and deserves: a restroom that is truly restful.

So, armed with determination and a notepad, I set off to visit every non-residential campus lavatory that I could. And after hours of thoughtful analysis and awkward interactions, I found the answers I was looking for.

Ladies and gentleman, I submit, for your consideration, the top three best and worst restrooms on the Bowdoin campus:

(Please note: For obvious reasons, the lavatories reviewed here are coed and men's rooms only. However, I assume that most men's and women's rooms in the same building are designed similarly. The facilities are scored on a 0-5 scale.)

Dungeon cells

Hubbard Hall, basement

Even before you enter this dank little lair, you get an idea of what you're getting yourself into. The peeling letters, M-E-N, tell you two things off the bat: 1) This restroom is decaying, and 2) its design predates the picture of the little man that has graced the majority of public men's rooms since the early 1990s. Also, the ventilation grates on the door are completely sheer, providing users almost no separation from the outside world.

Once you get inside, more flaws become apparent. For example, standing at six-foot-nothing, I could see completely over the walls of every stall standing flat-footed, causing me to speculate as to whether these facilities were built back when the average height of a male human was markedly shorter. Another interesting design choice involves urinal placement: The three urinals fixed to the long back wall are all crammed into the center, leaving about four feet on either side of the cluster and only about an inch between each urinal. Needless to say, personal privacy is not one of this lavatory's strong points.

Aesthetics: 2, Privacy: 1, Amenities: 2

Sills Hall, basement

This is a terrible restroom. First off, I don't know if this is a chronic problem or if I just caught it on a bad day, but the heater was out of control. I felt like I was in a sauna. If there's anything worse than sitting on a public toilet in environs that can be fairly described as "dingy," it's sticking to that toilet because the rainforest-grade humidity has made you sweat out of every pore.

Climatic concerns are just the tip of the iceberg. Disconcertingly, a wooden chair faces the urinals from the far left corner of the room. Because nobody in his right mind would actually want to hang out in this place, the chair's only conceivable function seems to be providing voyeurs a vantage point from which to study patrons' peeing stances.

Once you're done using the facilities, you wash your hands, getting soap from a dispenser that, judging by the 900-odd holes in the wall above the sink, has changed positions more frequently than an insomniac with bed rash. Either that or this is the bathroom where they filmed that gunfight in "True Lies." Now that your hands are washed?and here's the final straw?you look around to discover that there are no paper towels! Outraged, you wipe your hands on the inside of your shirt, vowing never to return.

Aesthetics: 1, Privacy: 3, Amenities: 0

Adams Hall, second floor

Adams Hall is a pretty weird building, so I suppose it's no surprise that this restroom is also unusual. First off, there is a giant tub next to the sink, where the custodial staff washes its mops and dumps out buckets of cleaning solution. While this did not directly affect my use the facilities, I found it aesthetically unsettling. Second off, there is both a urinal and a stall, and yet the room has a locking door. So is this a one-person lavatory, or a two-person one? Restrooms shouldn't be this confusing.

In addition to these eccentricities, the Adams Hall facilities suffer from the same problem as all locking-door lavatories, especially ones that are co-ed: There is no plausible deniability in the event of disaster. If the door's locked, and you neglect to flush or leave the room smelling like World War III, there is absolutely no way to avoid being held accountable by whoever uses it after you. You will become known as the kid who made the Adams second floor bathroom a biohazard. This is a small school, and a label like that is hard to shake. I would not recommend this restroom to my worst enemy.

Aesthetics: 1, Privacy: 1, Amenities: 2

Dishonorable mention: Sills Hall, first floor. Not only does this lavatory possess nearly all of the same weaknesses as the Adams Hall restroom, but it deserves recognition for having hilarious twin scuff marks on the floor in front of the toilet, where thousands determined feet have churned and ground up the tile over the decades.

Regal thrones

Pickard Theater, ground floor

Appropriately, what is arguably one of the grandest buildings on campus boasts one of its grandest restrooms. The mirrors are enormous, taking up the better part of two walls, and the countertops?an underrated practical and aesthetic feature?are vast.

With four sinks, this restroom affords multiple users adequate "me" space. So too do the urinals, which are spaced well apart and separated by dividers, nearly stalls unto themselves. And now the kicker: this is a completely hands-free restroom. We're talking motion everything: toilets, urinals, faucets?I half-expected to wave my hand and watch as my pants magically zipped themselves. This lavatory, like many of the shows staged in the same building, deserves a standing ovation.

Aesthetics: 4, Privacy: 4, Amenities: 5

Cleaveland Hall, second floor

One can never underappreciate the value of isolation when using the restroom. That said, the lavatory on the second floor of Cleaveland Hall (also known as the third floor of Druckenmiller) is a hidden gem. Not only is it tucked away from the world, but there is also a large anteroom dividing it from the main thoroughfare.

Located across the hall from biochemistry laboratories, this restroom, like everything else in a 100-yard radius, is kept extremely sanitary. And, as with the rest of the building, its architects equipped it with cutting edge technology. As in Pickard, everything is motion-sensitive. But this hidden haven ups the ante by offering an automatic hand dryer in addition to paper towels. What a time to be alive!

Aesthetics: 4, Privacy: 5, Amenities: 5

And finally, the best restroom on campus is (drum roll please)...

Massachusetts Hall, basement

Other than the map to Franklin Pierce's strategic whiskey reserves and the key to Nathaniel Hawthorne's porn collection, the lavatory in the basement of Mass Hall is probably the English Department's best-kept secret.

This restroom remains a secret primarily because the basement of Mass Hall?the College's oldest building?seems such an unlikely place for such an oasis. Heading down the creaky staircase into the building's bowels, you enter a bizarre underworld that smells of dust, wood, and history. To your left, you find a wooden cabinet filled exclusively with light bulbs. To your right lies a doorway labeled "English Department Storeroom," which, it seems, contains only envelopes. Behind the staircase, you notice the locked door to an enormous walk-in safe. Deeper into the room lies a door marked cryptically by two Greek letters and a hand-written sign: "Keep door closed!!" I can only imagine what lies beyond, but I'd say there's at least a 65 percent chance it's Longfellow's re-animated body floating in a tub of jelly.

Finally, amid these other-worldly elements, a tiny sign that says "Rest Room" appears on the wall, accompanied by an arrow. After only a few moments you emerge in a spacious, speckless anteroom. There is a leather chair in the corner; a mini-fridge; a microwave; and, at last, a door.

The restroom inside is simple and neat. In the corner, a small pot of flowers rests atop an old, wooden bureau, which itself sits upon a beautiful, marble floor. Ambient lighting emanates cordially from three understated fixtures along the top of the wall. The mirror above the sink is trimmed with an arabesque wire frame, which coils and winds to create the appearance of blooming flowers that look suspiciously like Bowdoin suns. The din of a generator, which had been overwhelming in the last room, has turned into a low, comforting hum.

It is obvious that this elysium was furnished by poets.

Aesthetics: 5, Privacy: 5, Amenities: 4

Honorable mention: The Queer-Trans Resource Center. This wins the prize for "most educative restroom on campus," with its exhaustively detailed instructions for "Finding the G-Spot" pasted to the wall. It also wins the prize for "most misleading restroom on campus," because I'm pretty sure that the G-Spot doesn't exist.

Adjusting to home away from home can be trying, especially if you are accustomed to having a place where you can conduct your natural affairs in physical and psychological comfort. I hope this guide helps direct you toward a refuge that serves your needs.

But seriously, though, just remember to flush. Seriously, guys. I'm not kidding.