Friday, April 18, 2008

Rain falls and the week ends

Becca Allgire and Julie Alexander carry wet tarps away from the camp. Alexander loaned three tarps to Habitat to help keep out the rain.

Under the rumble of an enormous thunderclap, three former box-dwellers and I lugged soaking cardboard to a dumpster Friday morning.
We got through the night, but our week of living in boxes concluded today as the rain fell.
After folding one of the boxes - not my own - I rested it on my head, balancing it along with my backpack, my camera and an umbrella, and walked to a dumpster. My sight impaired by the open umbrella, I struggled to maneuver the box into the dumpster's opening. After throwing away one other box and folding up the tarps, our work was done. We all went off to classes or our homes.

Today was scheduled to be our last day, so the rain didn't cut off much of our time outside, but it was still a sad note to end on.

All and all, sleeping in and living out of a box all week was a good experience. I'd like to thank everyone who came by and donated money, food or time.

Concerning the earthquake

I heard about the earthquake this morning, but I'm not sure I woke up when it happened. I was in my box, but I believe I was still sleeping soundly. Apparently rain wakes me up, but not ground tremors.


By the time I went to sleep, the rain still hadn't come.
I woke up around 6 a.m. to a "pit-pat" sound above my head. Raindrops would hit the top of my box, and the sound would amplify slightly in the hollow cavity of cardboard. I had a hard time getting back to sleep, but at least I wasn't wet.

Other things that woke me up this morning:
  • Memorial Union bell ringing repeatedly. Is this a Tap Day tradition?
  • Marines running and chanting through Lowry Mall.
  • Damp feet.
The damp feet was subtle, but it's what finally drove me out of my box. The top of the box was collecting a little water which was dripping into the far end near my feet.
We're going to clean up all the boxes around 10 a.m. Soggy cardboard doesn't do anyone any good. Still, I'm proud we made it through the night.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Time to relax - plus a weather update

It's not all business at the boxes. When people aren't studying at night, we like to have a little fun. We've thrown Frisbees, watched YouTube videos and juggled (two of us in the boxes can juggle.) Sometimes friends stop by just to hang out. It's been nice enough the past couple days that it's pleasant to simply sit around.

Rain update: It hasn't started raining yet, but the forecast doesn't look good. shows a 100% of rain by 4 a.m. It might be an interesting night.

Seeking shelter from the storm

For the past couple days, people have been telling us it's going to rain on Thursday.
"We know," we tell them, "we're trying to find tarps."
Today we found someone to loan us tarps, and John Morrison (pictured) and I threw them on the boxes.
We used a lot of duct tape trying to secure the tarps to the boxes. When a hard wind came, it would go under the tarps and lift them off the boxes.
After another round of duct tape, we think the tarps are finally secure.
Cardboard doesn't hold up very well in water, so we're hoping we have enough protection if the rain does come.
We can handle a little rain, but we're worried about a full-blown thunderstorm.
The group has discussed it, and we decided that if we think we're in danger or if our campsite is flooding, we're going to shut everything down a day early.
I really want to go until Friday, and I hope we make it, but we do want to be safe.
Our boxes covered in tarps.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A question of money

Oksana Bihun, a grad student at MU, donates money to Habitat for Humanity on Tuesday.

If you’ve walked across Lowry Mall on MU’s campus this week, there’s a chance you’ve heard this: “Do you have any spare change for Habitat for Humanity?”

I’ve had a lot of fun this week, but one of the purposes of living in a box is to raise money. The Campus Chapter of Habitat for Humanity would like to raise enough money to fund a Habitat House, and one of the most effective ways to raise that money is to directly ask people to donate.

Many students and faculty are really generous, but we get turned down a lot, too. I understand that not everyone can donate, so it doesn't bother me. 

However after watching so many people, I've noticed some of the funny things they do when they're asked to donate money. 

Here are some of the regular responses when we ask for donations:

Standard rejection: 
  • "I don't have any money on me." 
Variation on the standard: 
  • Person slaps both sides of their pants at the pockets while saying "I don't have any money on me."
Others common responses:
  • "I wish I had money to donate."
  • Person gives blank stare while continuing to walk. (Please, at least grunt so I know you understood me.)
  • "I just fed the meter!"
  • "No, thanks."
  • Person laughs and shakes head
Our standard response to being rejected:
  • "That's ok. Come on back. We'll be sleeping here 'til Friday!"

Better Homes and Boxes

This photo collage shows what each of the six of us is calling home this week. My box - the bottom middle - is a freezer box. I drape a blanket across the opening at night to keep some of the cold air out. Other people use refrigerator boxes or stove boxes. Stove boxes are smaller, and at least two must be taped together to provide enough room to sleep. The President of the Campus Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, John Morrison, acquired the boxes from hardware stores.

On showering - briefly

My friends and colleagues who are not sleeping in a box this week will be happy to know that I have been keeping clean. Last night I showered in the Rec Center on campus, and as I mentioned before, I’m applying deodorant outside the library.

So please, if you see me around town, around campus or at the Missourian, you can sit by me. I do not smell.

Party in the front, boxes in the back

Bike Fest 2008. Our boxes are in the background.

Living in a box in the middle of a major college campus does have its perks. There was a bike festival in my front yard this morning!

Second Night, Third Morning

Becca Allgire, wrapped in a coat and blanket, talks on her phone Tuesday night in front of Ellis Library.

I slept much better on Tuesday night. Before I went to sleep, it was chilly, but not as bad as the night before. I woke up around 8 a.m. to a whirring sound right outside my box. My first thought was that someone was trying to mow the grass around my box. I couldn't run out and check to see what it was though. It's a bit of a trick to get out of a sleeping bad in such a confined space, and I was still a little too groggy to work myself out. 
As the whirring grew closer, I could hear it accompanied by a sucking sound. Aha! I remembered seeing a vehicle on campus that looked like a bulky golf cart with a vacuum attached. They must have been cleaning around the area. 
Mystery solved and in no danger of being mowed, I drifted back to sleep.
When I finally got up a little later, I was reminded of another problem I had also encountered the day before. After a cold night, the contact solution in my contacts case was freezing. So of course, my eyes were freezing for a little bit, too.

At night in the box

The view from inside my box at night. Memorial Union is in the background. Click the image to view details.

Right before I fell asleep Monday night, I was feeling pretty comfortable. Inside my old freezer box, I wore two layers of pants, two shirts, a sweatshirt and a knit cap. I knew it was supposed to get down into the 30s that night, but after sliding into my sleeping bag, I felt nice and toasty in all those layers. I fell asleep easily.
Then I woke up. I looked at my cell phone. It said 4:06 a.m. I was freezing.
I store a number of items along the side of the box, so there isn’t a lot of room to maneuver at night. The only thing I could do to try and warm up was to curl into a ball in my sleeping bag. It worked well enough, and I got back to sleep.
Today I made sure to patch up some of the holes in the box so less cold air gets in tonight.
I’m in the box right now preparing to go to sleep. It’s supposed to be a little warmer tonight, so I’m optimistic that I'll be more comfortable.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Toothbrush in the Library

There are dozens of ordinary tasks that you do in your home everyday that seem slightly odd when you're living out of a box. When I go to sleep in my apartment every night, I always waltz over to the bathroom and brush my teeth. It's easy, and it's a routine.
Monday night wasn't so routine.
Before going to sleep around midnight, I grabbed my toothbrush from my box and immediately applied toothpaste. There isn't any toothpaste where I was planning to brush.
After crawling out of my cardboard box and into the cold night air, I shuffled over to the front doors of the library, anxiously awaiting the warmth of building.
Clutching my toothbrush, I proceeded to a library bathroom. I wet my brush, and hit my teeth.
A strange feeling came over me when the first person walked into the bathroom.
I felt so weird. I felt so out of place. I felt like a spectacle. But I kept brushing.
The man approached the sink next to mine and glanced at me. He looked curious, but remained silent.
I might have explained the situation, but I had a mouthful of toothpaste.

Another example: Because of the cramped space in a box, trying to apply deodorant can become a little awkward. Solution: Step outside and apply deodorant in the middle of campus. Problem: Now you're the weird guy who's applying deodorant in the middle of campus.

A Week in a Box - Introduction

Allie Thebeau, a junior at MU, naps in her cardboard box on Tuesday outside of the library on MU's campus. Allie and the rest of the executive board of MU's Habitat for Humanity are sleeping in cardboard boxes all week as a fundraiser.

“Are you guys really sleeping out here?” I’ve heard the question a half-dozen times in the past two days, and it makes me laugh every time. Yes. I really am sleeping in a box. The sleeping bag isn’t just for show.
This week I’m taking part in a fundraiser for MU’s Campus Chapter of Habitat for Humanity called “Shack-in-the-Box.” Since Monday, a group of friends and I – Habitat’s executive board – have been sleeping out in cardboard appliance boxes outside of Ellis Library on MU’s campus. We’ll be attending class all week, but we won’t be returning to our homes until Friday.
I’ll be updating this blog all week with pictures and posts about my experiences living in a box, so check back to find out how I’m doing.