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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

Embrace the applause

If you do something embarrassing in the dining hall, expect a round of applause from onlookers to soundtrack your reddening face.

Probably no one has escaped a dining hall fumble; so first-years, don’t worry too much when your time comes.

Someone may bump into you and a cause a full glass of chocolate milk to spill down your shirt. Maybe you shatter one of NDH’s easily breakable new plates. You might miss your seat as you go to sit down and spill the contents of your tray all over your body.

All these things have happened, and may happen to you. Honestly, you’re on a ticking time bomb.

It only took my overconfident freshman self three weeks to break the tray return line.

I’d just finished my meal in North Dining Hall and was approaching the tray return. It was pretty full, except for one open slot that was about to turn the corner and disappear. I slid my tray onto it. Then, I realized my phone and lanyard were on the far side of the tray.

At this point, the tray was about to turn the corner and head for the back. But I couldn’t just reach and grab my items. A half-full glass of water stood in the way of my arm’s reach. If I accidentally knocked it over, it’ll be my water-soaked, broken phone entering the garbage bin. So I decided to pull the whole tray back out right as it was reaching the corner.

I pulled out the tray ... and jammed it against the wall.

Immediately, the whole column of tray returns stopped, as the others continued their path.

Bang. The next column of trays crashed into the one I’d stopped.

I had no doubt the farce was now becoming a scene, but I kept my reddening face staring straight ahead at this jammed tray.

I began tugging hard.

Bang. A third line of trays collided to join the traffic jam. Plates and cups slid and spilled.

Finally, one mighty tug and bam, the tray came loose. I nearly fell backward from the force. My tray and its contents, including my phone and lanyard, went crashing to the floor.

I bent down, pretending to put my food back on my tray, but mostly just cowering from sight. A shocked dining hall worker approached me and caught my eye. I think he knew not to even bother reprimanding me.

I took a moment to collect and prepare myself to face what would inevitably be a sea of staring faces.

But as I turned, just one table full of upperclassmen was staring at me. Not laughing. Not judging. Not even sarcastically clapping. Just shocked, wide-eyed and gaping.

So feel free to clap the next time someone makes a blunder in the dining hall, but when your time comes, take the applause in stride, and remember that life goes on.

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