The myth of ‘Top Floor Lien’
When you were a freshman, what did you call your floor? I call mine Lien 2 because that’s how a normal person would refer to their floor. In fact, this combination of floor number with building name is how all freshmen describes their floors. Except for one floor. One floor has a nickname or—in classic Washington University fashion—an acronym: TFL. Top Floor Lien—the kids right above me.
Every year, of course, freshmen are randomly assigned to different dorms. No one can request to be in TFL; there is no connection between this year’s TFL and last year’s. Yet every year, TFL seems to be known around the South 40 as the most spirited dorm.
I wanted to know why sleeping 10 feet higher than I currently do could make me so much more enthusiastic about Wash. U. I thought the best place to start was with the most enthusiastic current TFLer, freshman Max Abrams.
Abrams put it bluntly: “Yeah, we’re the best floor on the South 40.”
Abrams explained to me that, at first, their floor didn’t feel particularly close. But that didn’t last long—about one day, to be exact.
“WUFC [was when] we got really, really competitive as TFL. We started making hand signals and cheers. By a week in, we were all obsessed with it,” Abrams recalled. “We would walk around and do it in a weird, culty fashion.”
At one point while I was interviewing Abrams, he showed me the entire TFL hand signal, which is similar to the “Y.M.C.A.” dance. Except, as Abrams points out, “You dab on the F.”
Like any great floor dynamic, it all starts with the resident advisers. Abrams told me about how hilarious the TFL RAs are, claiming that they were a main rallying force for the floor. One of the things that brought the floor together was when the RAs got matching ear piercings. The residents of TFL, upon seeing this, came together to lightly roast them. According to Abrams, this really helped their floor bond. Because what’s a better bonding exercise than communally poking fun at the people in charge of you?
“[We started] bonding as a group because we were making fun of [the RAs] as a group,” Abrams explained. “[We started] hanging up pictures of RAs throughout the halls to make them uncomfortable.”
I was more interested, though, in the myth around TFL. Why do they consistently have more spirit year after year? Why are they the only floor with a nickname?
I asked more freshmen where it came from, but no one knew its exact origins. So I went to one of the floor’s WUSAs from a previous year—senior Sach Siriwardane—to get an upperclassman’s take on TFL.
“TFL always had this rap—they were always known as the party floor. I guess it comes with being a bigger floor. Going into it, our RAs even said to us, ‘Don’t try and perpetuate that.’ But you know, kids hear about it from their older friends,” Siriwardane said.
When Siriwardane first started his WUSA duties with the floor, he said his residents already had prior knowledge of TFL’s reputation. He immediately began getting questions about whether TFL was the “party floor.” The legend had already reached the point of no return.
“Within the first day, we had kids going out pretty hard and very fast. I think last year—for better or for worse—they kind of had a rap for being mildly incestuous,” Siriwardane said.
And what a reputation that is to have!
When he told me that TFL residents loved embracing their reputation last year, I couldn’t help but think it sounded just like this year. But, like the others I’d already talked to, Siriwardane couldn’t tell me the origin story I so desperately wanted. TFL, it seems, has always just been TFL.
“I think it’s cool that, each year, [it’s] somehow unspoken. It’s not something the WUSAs or RAs even say, but it’s just something that continues this legacy,” Siriwardane said.
So, there it is: No one knows how it started. Honestly, no one in the TFL family seems to care much. It’s their identity, their self-proclaimed “cult.” Not a cult you join, but one you are chosen for. For those of us on the outside (or right below them, in my case), the cult TFL life is something we won’t ever fully understand. They are a myth, an enigma, a legacy unlike anything else the South 40 has to offer.