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A booth at Waddick’s

Andrew Miller | Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I don’t write about Notre Dame. It’s not that I have anything against this place or that I don’t care enough to pay it homage. It’s just I don’t have much to say regarding it and my fellow columnist Mr. Kessler does a good enough job covering all things under the Dome.

But lately I’ve been turning something over in my mind: the sheer joy and pleasure of being able to sit in one of the three booths at Waddick’s. Less than a handful of times have I been privileged enough to grace that café’s wooden corner with my presence. Less than a handful of times have I been able to gaze out the grand windows onto Malloy and Decio’s shared front lawn. Less than a handful of times have I been able to remove myself from the lines out the door and the mad-cap dash of O’Shaughnessy’s post-class bum-rush. Yet it is in that less than a handful of times that I have realized (internalized, even) my favorite spot on our Lady’s campus.

During my year abroad, most mornings I would walk to Blackwell’s Book Shop and ascend to the Café Nero on the first floor. I would pull out whatever novel or set of poems I was reading that term (Fitzgerald, Milton, James, Arnold, Joyce, Hemingway, Wilde, Pope, Woolf), purchase a latte, choose a small table and read. Simply read. I returned to Notre Dame this year looking for a similar routine. I only had classes in the afternoons and would have plenty of time to wake each morning, drink a latte and read whatever essay or book was assigned for that day in class.

But I encountered something unexpected. Not only was I no longer living in a city but I was no longer living in a place where I could easily find my spot. I tried Starbucks (and to this day still go to the LaFortune Starbucks due to my penchant for a boldly roasted cup of American coffee) but it didn’t feel right. The counter space was far too close to the seating space. There seemed to be an air vent above every seat I chose, no matter which seat I did choose (does anyone else feel the chilling cold upon entering Starbucks? Is it for the benefit of the baristas? If not, who benefits?) I tried the Glynn Family Honors Program lounge. This had always been the place I had gone freshman and sophomore year to get free coffee from the Keurig machine. Maybe returning senior year was supposed to include a conflated return to my old stomping grounds. But the Honors Program lounge was no longer my place. I had left it behind in my old age. I had grown out of its milieu.

Then I thought to myself, “What about Waddick’s?” No – the lines were just far too long and you can never get a seat. But one day I thought I would try and sure enough, if you go to Waddick’s in the middle of a class period (as opposed to in between class periods) there are plenty of seats to scoop up. And one fateful morning, I was able to get my Green Mountain Breakfast Blend, pay the cashier with my Flex Points and walk to my right to see an empty booth. It was here that I first fell in love with the Waddick’s booth. And here, gentle reader, are the many reasons why the Waddick’s booth is the best booth of all the booths.

Why Waddick’s?

Why Waddick’s indeed. With all the food service shops that cover the grounds of our fair University, it has become increasingly hard to decide which one is the best. The Dining Halls offer the forced-meal encounter for on-campus undergraduates. Reckers stays open at all hours of the night. LaFortune, the Whitman of restaurants at Notre Dame, contains the multitudes of culinary delicacy within its singular entity. Greenfield’s has high-quality food and the professional atmosphere desired by business major, professor and University employee alike. Crossroads at the Eck Hall of Law has the cache of newness. But only Waddick’s, oh my Waddick’s, has the fulfilling atmosphere of a quaint, community-oriented coffee shop.

Why the booths?

Well, why not the booths? The hallway-facing counter is too rigid, too imposing. The outer tables aren’t really a part of the shop at all. And the inner tables, while great, just don’t have the same intimacy of the booths.

Will I ever get a booth again?

Sadly, it takes an extraordinary amount of skill and cunning to win a booth at Waddick’s. As I mentioned earlier, I have only been able to sit in one a few times. The time schedules of when to go to Waddick’s in general do not apply to the booths therein: once somebody has one, he or she will hold onto it with dear life.

So I’m left in a quandary. I love the Waddick’s booth but I can never access it readily or reliably. Should I forego my love of the Waddick’s booth and settle for a lesser place? Or should I continue to claim the Waddick’s booth as my favorite on-campus spot and hope each morning upon rising that I will be able to win one? I don’t know, friends. I simply don’t know.

In these last few weeks of my senior year I will go to Waddick’s every day in the hope of finding an empty booth. And if I don’t, I will walk slowly, contemplatively away. You will see me often in O’Shaughnessy. But I cannot say whether you will find me in rapture or in despondency.

Andrew Miller is a senior English major. He can be contacted at amille15@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.