By Reuben Ng
I would like to bring to you a brief qualm I have with the Dining Hall which, as I have recently been informed, still bears the redeeming title of “the Rott.” Now this is far from the usual complaints, as these have been hashed and rehashed about as often as the rehashed-browns periodically observed around noon. This is a far more dire matter.
There is, even now, a series of windows arrayed across the East (“right”) side of the dining hall. Now these provide a fabulous view across the lawns, allowing uninterrupted viewing, in some locations, clear to the railway tracks and beyond. A sidewalk runs near the windows, out to College Avenue. It is on this sidewalk that impressive numbers of students, community members, wandering minstrels, staff, rampant pets, security and much other college foot-traffic travel. This is not to mention the imposing quantity of bicycles and other wheeled-transport which cross by daily, generally with their corresponding riders.
From the comfort of the dining hall one may sip on a steaming cup of coffee or hot water (carefully placed in a near-identical thermos by the coffee) and casually watch the comings and goings along this veritable thoroughfare. In times past, such activities were the staple of American culture: casual evenings spent relaxing on the front porch, watching as traffic, dog-walkers and whatever else roamed the streets in those days, strolled by. This seems to be a reawakening of this old society. And yet…not so.
For these windows were engineered with chilling precision. A beautifully crafted crossbar was erected at a height calculated to be exactly at the eye-level of anyone sitting and trying to look out of the windows. Now, when viewing most of this breathtaking panorama, one has no troubles at all. But this crossbar blocks exclusively the heads of anyone passing by the windows, only from the perspective of a reclining insider.
What may have been a serene surveil of the ambulatory populace instead devolves into a series of ungainly neck-cranings. Incredible struggles are taken to see around this piece of wood. Several polls have indicated “Who is that?” to be the most common inquiry after “What is that?” at noon and evening meals (participants at breakfast surveys seemed to communicate with infrequent grunts, these proving difficult to categorise). Several groups of students have taken to eating while standing. On the tables. Others have utilised stepladders. One enterprising individual was seen traipsing in with a climbing harness and assorted ropes taken from the rock wall.
The IT department has been toying with the idea of live feeds of the outdoors, broadcast onto large flat-screen displays placed at either end of the hall for easy viewing. An iPad app has been proposed.
This tragedy continues to haunt our every meal. Necks crane and chairs scrape as individuals half-stand: the ‘ambience of awkwardness’ takes a desperate rise for the exponential. It seems uncertain when this, “the gravest of affairs,” will come to an end. Until then, expect to see me with periscope in one hand and fork in the other.