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ISSUE 121 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/7/2008

Etiquette tips for on-campus dining

By Rose Miller
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 7, 2008

We all have stories about the Stav Hall, including those classic Caf moments: stealing trays to go sledding, getting yelled at for trying to sneak out too much fruit, seeing someone faint or spilling your tray. As Oles, most of us spend a good deal of time in Stav Hall; we all have our favorite food line, favorite drink, and people we normally eat with. Part of being a first-year includes learning Caf etiquette, or the "do's" and "don'ts" of eating in Stav.

Once we do familiarize ourselves with this peculiar social environment, patterns begin to emerge. Where people sit, for example, is governed by strict social law (not really).

Really, it's like high school all over again. There are the jocks; sports teams sit together, apparently as a bonding ritual after a hard practice. Often, they will garner support by singing the school song. First-years tend to move about in bigger packs, usually with friends from their corridors.

International students tend to dominate a corner of the Caf, and there are always some lovebirds on dates as well. Jeanette Strommen `10, observed that "people on dates seem to go for the booths or sit in the middle of the crowd, but never the small tables on the side." The Caf daters are always easy to point out; slightly awkward and uncomfortable, their gestures are always a bit too deliberate.

Then there is the sometimes-terrorizing issue of sitting alone. Maybe plans fell through, or your friends weren't available to eat with. Some enjoy eating alone; I know many people that prefer to eat breakfast in solitude. The natural spots for "loners," as we'll call them, seem to be the booths or the small tables on either wall, which are also popular for Caf workers during their breaks. The loner often brings a book, the newspaper, or homework to detract attention from his or herself.

The second level of Stav is another seating issue. First-years tend to sit upstairs, as the social pressure of the main level sometimes proves too daunting. Upperclassmen, on the other hand, tend to venture upwards only if the main level is full. And what about the round tables at the back of the Caf? Please, only use them if you have a group. Seriously, it's rude to hog these gems with only two people. Or worse, alone.

Moving right along in the spectrum of Caf behavior, we have the inevitable issue of spilling your tray. In general, Oles don't like to draw attention to themselves. Thus, this is one of the worst Caf blunders possible, because it makes the most noise and the biggest mess, it's impossible to go unnoticed. It seems that we've come up with the "clapping ritual" as an automatic response when an unfortunate individual does trip up: spill your tray, and you are met with a cacophony of cheers and claps.

Spilled cups are another issue. Sometimes keeping multiple beverages upright can be a balancing act. Excited over some juicy gossip she had to tell us, my friend once flooded my tray with milk in an overeager attempt to sit down.

This brings me to another point. Maneuvering through Stav during peak hours requires extreme vigilance. Pay attention, people! We quickly learn tricks to keep traffic flowing, including the etiquette of the beverage line. It's important to move down as far as possible to keep the line moving.

As a first-years, I made the mistake of staying on the first water spout when the second was open, only to be scolded by a grumpy upperclassman. Mortified, I never made that mistake again.

One Caf gesture that isn't necessary, but is polite, is to hold the door to the desert case for someone. It can be tricky to manage those sliding glass doors while struggling to wield the spatula and keep the piece of pie, or cake, intact. It's always nice when someone bails you out and holds the door, and aggravating when someone is just standing there watching you struggle.

One of the most controversial subjects surrounding Caf etiquette is the issue of throwing food. This seems to be a popular Caf sport, the artillery of choice usually grapes. Friends sitting at different tables will often go back and forth an entire meal.

Emily Shmitz '10 observed that "people even throw food from one level to another. I always get scared that I'm going to get hit. Having worked in the Caf, she remembers how annoyed workers would get cleaning up grapes smashed into the carpet. Okay, okay, but we all know that throwing things is fun, and it's going to happen no matter what. But if you can, pick up after yourself. And what to do if you accidentally miss your target, perhaps hitting another victim in the back of the head? Duck, obviously. No, I'm kidding. The polite thing to do is to give them a sheepish look and mouth "Sorry." Hopefully, they'll understand.

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