Before I enter the relaxation room, I must take off my shoes. There isn’t any rack or place to put them, so I awkwardly leave them by the wall outside and push open the door, taking a moment to review the extended list of rules posted at eye level. The sound of people talking at the tables just outside fades away as I close the door behind me. The fake grass feels soft but obviously synthetic against the soles of my feet. It’s one of the choices made for the relaxation room that I don’t understand. It’s not bad, necessarily, but it doesn’t do anything positive, either. Why not scrap it and let us keep our shoes on?
The first level of orange-padded seating is at hip level, so I hop up onto it and go about putting on my music. It smells like new furniture in here, which makes sense with how little use the room’s been getting.
Luckily for the relaxation room, it finds its first win here. The pads don’t look comfortable from the outside, but they’re surprisingly soft. In a different situation, it would be a perfect place to take a nap, or just sit and enjoy how comfortable they are.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to relax in the relaxation room.
As I sit there, people walking by every minute or so and glancing at me, I feel like I’m in a zoo. The glass panes that make up the entirety of two of the relaxation room’s walls reveal me to the people sitting at the tables nearby the room and anyone making their way into the A-wing. Although I know it’s just a normal human instinct to look through any windows you pass, the constant attention is grating. Instead of watching the people outside, I try to focus on the painted reeds on the bottom of the windows and at least appear relaxed. I don’t think it’s working. When I eventually decide my time is up and leave the room, I only feel relieved to be out of there.
What is the relaxation room for? How are students supposed to use the room to relax? The rules of the room state that its purpose is “for students to listen to music or focus on mindfulness,” but they also mention napping as an allowed activity. Since napping seems to be the most common use among IMSA students and I believe it’s the best use the relaxation room will ever get, I’m going to focus on it.
Although IMSA students’ poor sleeping habits often find them sprawled unconscious in the middle of the day on various couches and chairs across the main building, the one place I can’t see them sleeping is in the relaxation room. This is a shame, considering the bunks seem literally designed for such a thing. Though I can’t see the relaxation room becoming a hit in the near future, I do think there are some things IMSA could do to make it a bit more welcoming.
The first and most major problem is privacy. I understand that IMSA needs to keep the room officially “open” to allow unsupervised teenagers within ten feet of it. Still, the glass walls seem excessive, especially when other open rooms exist that are much less open. An easy way to fix this without rebuilding the room entirely might be to add fixed curtains with some space in between them, so that the room could still be easily seen into without displaying its occupants to the entire world.
The other main problem I see is the time period a student is allowed in the room. A time limit is entirely unnecessary when the room gets such little use. Still, I can see some situations in which it would be helpful, and I don’t necessarily oppose a time limit on principle. If one must exist, however, twenty minutes is a rather arbitrary and short period of time, especially if students want to take the opportunity to sleep. At that length of time, why bother at all? A more appropriate time limit might be an hour. An hour is an entire mod, so a student could use a free mod to make use of the relaxation room without worrying about an extra time limit on top of getting to class on time.
I don’t think either of these changes will make the relaxation room a hit, but it doesn’t need to be. Its low capacity means it can’t be a hit and still be a useful room. It just needs to appeal to some students to make it worth its while, and these changes are ones that might make it do just that with little cost to IMSA. For now, though, when I need to get away from the world and unwind in the middle of the school day, I’ll take a walk in freezing weather before I even think of going back to the relaxation room.