Lost in the jungle of Dining Services

Look at you! Your roommate went home this weekend to break up with their not-so-sweetheart-anymore and they left you alone in your room with three boxes of Triscuits and a box of Perfect Size for One microwaveable muffin-in-a-mugs. Or maybe you’re the roommate. Whatever the case, it’s Sunday and you’re alone in your room. Your laptop is overheating from watching too many episodes of The Office that you’ve already seen, and you’ve positioned yourself just right so that the ray of sun won’t shine on your face from that crack that the thick canvas dorm shades just won’t cover. Good for you! It’s been a stressful couple of weeks and you deserve this alone time.

Then your classmate from your communication class asks you to get lunch at Dining Services. Exhale really dramatically. Really milk the melodrama of having to get up and brush the crumbs off your three blankets. Respond with a text with multiple exclamation marks and a smiley face. I’ve included an example, you can just copy that. “Yessss!! Absolutely!! I’ll meet ya in the atrium :)”

Dining Services is the jungle. There is only one goal in Dining Services. That goal is to survive. There are two rules of survival in Dining Services, and they are as follows:

Rule 1: Don’t drop your plate.

Rule 2: Don’t walk through the glass doors that face the atrium.  

The punishment for both of these cardinal sins is the DS Clap. What exactly is the DS Clap?

We inhabit a world with a multitude of sinister mechanisms of war and tragedy: undetectable submarines that carry a nuclear payload strong enough to wipe out France; satellites that can take out a mouse in the middle of a rat party from orbit; Instagram “comedians.” The DS Clap belongs to this classification, but not exactly. The former of these are self-aware; the latter cloaked under a false sense of superiority and college shenanigans. No one should kid themselves into thinking their clapping is innocent. The DS Clap is a ritual that has been repeated since the heyday of the Colosseum in Rome when the crowd would seal a gladiators fate with their thumbs. It is a warning sign of how easily pure democracy can turn into pure anarchy. A remnant of tribal sacrifice.

But I’m not asking anyone to stop. Because they won’t. I can’t stop them if I tried. No one can. The DS Clappers will outlive civilizations. They will see monarchs rise and fall, and when those monarchs fall, they will clap at them too. The DS Clappers are an important tool that shows us how fragile life really is. And if there were ever a Purge situation, they show us who would be the first to go, and who would be the first to kill.

Back to the point at hand: you need help.

Just walk over and put the plate on the rotating trays. See how simple that is? Good job! You made it without dropping your plate. Now for a mint as a sweet, sweet reward for avoiding being social prey. As soon as your hand reaches inside the glass bowl, you hear a gasp. And then a shatter. Your spine straightens up and your neck stiffens. The clap begins. Turn around. A figure is standing over a broken plate and wild splatters of alfredo sauce, like a tragic renaissance painting. The clapping is getting louder. She looks at you. You look at her. You know her. She was in your orientation club. Remember? Those three and a half days you spent together? Look back at her. She seems a million miles away, lost in space, searching for a handhold, a friend in this desolate hellscape. What do you do? Do those three and a half days of icebreakers mean nothing to you? Surely you can do something! She doesn’t deserve this. Extend a hand, or shield her from these apex predators. Deep down, you know a universal, inalienable truth. This is the jungle. There are no friends in the jungle. There are no morals in the jungle. There are no clubbies in the jungle. In the jungle, there is only survival, and she broke one of the rules of survival. Raise your hands as that one glimmer of hope escapes her eyes. It’s a cobb-eat-cobb world out there, and it’s better her than you. Clap.


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