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Navigating the dining hall

Kevin Kimberly | Monday, September 13, 2010

In my quest to inform the Notre Dame community/bubble about their own senseless behavior, I have arrived at a topic that is of epic proportions. While the things that freshmen do to embarrass themselves (see last column) do plague our campus, the inability of most South Dining Hall goers to actually navigate the area effectively is a problem of epic proportions. So I write to you this time to enlighten you about the atrocities you have probably both experienced and have knowingly or unknowingly committed. Note that because North Dining Hall does not offer sliced apples, of which I can then put cinnamon sugar on top, I will not refer to it as a real dining hall.

The following list consists of the crimes most often committed, arguably more so than those nights when two of the best foods are served simultaneously (i.e. peppered flank steak and chicken poppers). Those guilty of committing these crimes against humanity are not specific to a certain gender, year, college, major, or dorm, though Keough Hall inhabitants have been known to suffer significantly in areas where common sense is required. As much as every student at Notre Dame loves to complain about South, we know we have it good; in fact, it is ranked high in several lists of the best dining halls on college campuses. Therefore, we should strive to make it better in all aspects.

Being Picky: It always amazes me to stand in line behind someone who takes more than 30 seconds to put some food on their plate. And why is that you might ask? Because they search through the whole container to find the ‘one’ that is for them. I hate to inform you that the chicken patty you just spent two minutes trying to find is probably just as good as the one that was at the front of the others. I have literally stood behind someone who picked sliced apple by sliced apple until they were done, and it was one of the most obnoxious things I have ever seen. Just get your food and go.

Line Cutters: You would think by college, everyone would have learned that lines are there for a reason. No, I do not care that what you want in the pasta line is the last thing; stand in line like everyone else and get what you want. Nothing more needs to be said here; just remember what you learned in kindergarten.

Socializing: This is by far one of the biggest issues. The serving area is not the time for you to be holding up lines and causing collisions to scream to your friend about that awesome dorm party you went to last night, much of which you probably do not accurately remember anyways. Save it for when you sit down.

Random Stopping/Lack of a Plan: The one thing I think would solve almost every problem mentioned is if everyone developed their own gameplan for attacking the dining hall. Establish your route and be sure you cover all your bases. This will alleviate random stopping, which tends to cause six-tray pileups. Here’s a suggested route, one I have perfected: Enter on the west side (go right to slide); grab your tray and utensils and head past the Chinese food; continue walking straight checking the fruits and vegetables; proceed onto the desserts, hit left to pass the Pan-American section; continue walking past the desserts and bread area; complete the circle by going left to pass the Stir-Fry section; check out what’s for dinner in the homestyle and meat sections; walk past the grill; stop at the sandwich aisle; see if any of the pizzas look fresh; run through the pasta line; get your drink on the eating side that is closed; have a seat.

‘Supposable’ Stigma of Eating Alone: There is this idea that one is a ‘loser’ or has no friends if they ever eat alone, but this is far from the truth. There are many reasons people eat alone — weird class breaks, everyone went already, etc. Or maybe it’s that they do not want to eat with you! I eat alone from time to time with just me and the paper, and I love watching people I know walk by and wave because I know they are simply jealous that they are not able to eat with me instead of the people they have eaten with approximately every day of the week for every meal.

Same-Siding: Now, if we would truly like to talk about stigmas, same-siders are up for grabs. As lanyard wearing is a fashion faux pas, so too is sitting on the same side of the table as your one dining partner. It is a complete failure to do this, not just from a social norm point of view but from a technical point of view. How in the world does one carry a conversation while eating with the person to their left or right and no one across from them? Same-siding it only calls for inappropriate behavior that needs to be kept to the dorm rooms, ladies and gentlemen.

I hope this has served you well. Unfortunately, not all 6,000-plus students who will eventually go through the hallowed South Dining Hall will read this. As for my practical advice: steer clear of the 15 minute gaps after classes for lunch and the 5:45-6:30pm slot for dinner, hold onto your drinks and perfect what I like to call the glare, a technique that is not mean or nice but let’s another know they are contributing to a serious problem. See you on the battlefield!

Kevin Kimberly is a senior majoring in psychology and political science. He is eligible to run for President in 2024 and welcomes campaign slogans and ideas at kkimberl@nd.edu

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