The Black Spot of Shmutz on the Floor:
Dorm Crew and Piracy

By Sam Gale Rosen

Close your eyes for a moment, and let your mind drift to a place and time that most people have only dreamed about. Blazing sunlight reflects off of the ripples of blindingly blue water and porpoises frisk in the wake of a majestic ship. Jovial men with bare and gleaming chests dance merry hornpipes on deck to the accompaniment of a legless midget playing a concertina. But who are these fearless bandits, men of the sea, who live for naught but the joy of the chase and the deep Platonic love for their parrots?


Yes, friend, I said pirates. The very word calls up images of savagery, excitement, and billboards with pictures of people with mustaches and goatees drawn on them. And this brings me to an inexplicable segue-way into my thesis. Clearly, the life of a pirate in the 17th century, often referred to as the golden era of piracy, and the life of a member of the Harvard dorm crew, are so similar as to be completely indistinguishable.

Certain points of similarity are so obvious that I only include them as a nod to thoroughness. Both pirates and dorm crewers are ruthless, adventurous, and fun-loving people who like nothing better than a swig of rum and the open sea. Even more basic: both are led by captains and are manned by a crew. Both never go anywhere without their trusty weapon at their side; pirates usually carry a scimitar or pistol, while members of dorm crew generally use a broom, rapier, or sawed-off shotgun. Both are… sigh… single-minded and relentless in their pursuit of booty. (I think that is the lamest joke in the world, but it had to be included in fairness to the topic.) Also, both a pirate crew and a dorm crew team have inherent sexual tension and are housed in Canaday.

But all of these points have been discussed thoroughly in earlier literature. Let us, then, turn to the less easily discovered similarities. One fascinating parallel is what is known as the "Jolly Roger paradox." Pirates identify themselves by their distinctive trademark flag, the Jolly Roger. Dorm crew does not use the Jolly Roger. The fact that the collective identity of both groups is tied so closely to this symbol is telling indeed. Yes, telling indeed. Even more fascinating is the role of the pirate galleon. Pirates ply the seas in a ship, or galleon, while dorm crewers use galleons and galleons of Murkill and Windex. Har har… Yar!

So, we see that dorm crew and pirates are linked in more ways than we can fathom. Indeed, the word "pirate" and the word "dorm" share only one letter, but that letter is "arrrrr!" And in the future, we shall someday answer the question of why, not just how, dorm crew and piracy are related. And if we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we should know the mind of God.

This essay was the winning submission in an essay contest for the Kirkland House Dorm Crew. The topic was, "How is working for Dorm Crew like being on a 17th century pirate ship?"

[Editor's note: Dorm Crew is a student organization that cleans dorm buildings on Harvard's campus. Canaday is a dorm Harvard Yard. Murkil is a disinfectant.]


_______ "Occasionally lame, but generally awesome."________

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