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Monday, Jun 24, 2024

A plea to the basic logic of line structure

Let me begin by putting this in terms you may better understand: Baaah, bahh, bahh. This is directed toward the sheep that graze in Ross dining hall; the sheep that meekly fall into a single line the length of China’s Great Wall at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you’re saying to yourself right now, “bahh, bahh, bahh,” (translation: obviously there is only one line in Ross), well think again. The two line solution has had massive success in other areas such as Proctor and Atwater. With two lines in Ross, we can massively improve the efficiency of personal serving in Ross. How many times have you sat in line for eons for some harlequin to decide whether he wants one or two pieces of chicken, while a bounty of authentic penne and fragrant Midd Marinara, the only thing you’re hankering for, sits unscathed; just waiting, yearning, to be eaten by you. 

If I may offer a hypothetical, imagine you’re at a farmers market (I’m sure you’ve been to at least one if you go here) and there are two stands. The first one offers gourmet, vegan sausage, and right beside the second one sells handmade, artisan macaroni jewelry. If you came to the market with the sole purpose of purchasing macaroni jewelry but had no interest in the vegan sausage, would you weather the hour and a half vegan sausage line to get to the jewelry? By Jove! You would skip that sausage line faster than Ross runs out of garlic bread. 

If only we could all see Ross for what it truly is: a market. A place of plenty, where there need not be an hour wait to get salad, or grab a baked good, or pick up a Jove-darn banana from the banana bowl for Jove’s sake. Far too many are sucked into the game of waiting for food, having years shaved off of their lives in a mindless act, but for us few, us brave, who take what is rightfully ours when it is available, who seize the moment when it is ripe to retrieve mushroom risotto or gnocchi alongside that sweet nectar of the gods that is Midd Marinara.

So next time you find yourself getting ready to queue up along with the rest of the passive numbskulls who only want food from the second station, take some initiative. You walk right past that first line, straight to the unmanned broccoli calling your name. Be warned, a first line hooligan may try to harangue you by saying something like, “hey buddy, you need to wait in line like the rest of us!” Be ready to retort with a witticism such as, “the name’s [insert name], not buddy. And by the way, I only want broccoli and some of that mouthwatering Midd Marinara that’s begging to be put in my mouth.” 

But in order to really make change, our movement needs numbers. When one person “cuts” it looks bad. But it doesn’t have to be this way. As a small, reasonably close-knit community, we have the power to re-write the rules. Allowing a system of free-flowing food (or fuel as the athletes call it) retrieval would make for a series of shorter lines. Picture making polite conversation in a line of three or four other students all seeking the same dish; instead of waiting in a line with hundreds, you’d be with a small group of people with similar taste. “Oh you also like sweet potatoes?” “I thought they were called yams.” “Oh, you’re right, they are called yams.” *much shared laughter* “Do you want to eat yams together?” Boom. New best friends. All because of the free-for-all system which cultivates a community around similar tastes. 

Evidence suggests that a free-for-all method would not cause the chaos that many fear. Would you shove someone aside for Black Pepper Tofu if you knew you were going to see them the next day in Decolonizing Class? Take a moment to recall the peak of The Great Covid-19 Pandemic, when students wore masks diligently in student-only spaces. Of course, this was due in part to fear of contracting and spreading the illness, but at times when our case count was averaging about zero for months on end, the fear of social repercussions undoubtedly played an enormous role. These same rules govern the dining hall. In fact, there is actually no one dictating the way we currently stand in line. Hypothetically, you can skip the entire thing, and there would be no one to reprimand you. And yet, most people do not skip the line. Instead, we come up with our own strange social rules, in which a group of five people can go to the front because someone from their first-year seminar who they occasionally wave at is up there. 

We urge the community to work together to come up with social rules that work better. Allow us to invoke Middlebury College’s mission to “prepare students to lead engaged, consequential, and creative lives, contribute to their communities, and address the world’s most challenging problems.” While this issue may be small, it is of utmost importance. There are so many things that we do not have the power to change at this moment (undoubtedly larger, more important issues), but in many ways, it is the small things that count. Making every meal faster will make every day more enjoyable at Middlebury. Moreover, working as a community to set new social rules will help us prepare to “address the world’s most challenging problems” in the future. But it all starts with dining hall lines. 

Katie Futterman is a News Editor for The Campus and a member of the class of 2024. Jonah Joseph is a member of the class of 2024. 

Katie Futterman

Katie Futterman '24 (she/her) is a Managing Editor.

Katie previously served as a News Editor and Staff Writer. This past summer, she was a news intern at Seven Days, and she held the same position at the Addison Independent the prior summer. In her free time, she loves to read, write, and bask in the sun.