a PAW web exclusive column
by Kate Swearengen '04 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Free food brings free laughs
I called my parents today
and told them they were paying $33,000 a year so that I could identify
the mineralogical components that make up Nassau Hall and the Frick
chemistry building for my geology class.
This is the second call
in which I have told my parents that their finances are being abused
by the Princeton administration or by the New Jersey Transit Authority.
The first call of this nature transpired in the wee hours of Thursday
morning, when I called home to say that I had missed the last train
back from Philadelphia and had spent the night sleeping on a bench
in the 30th Street Station.
"The Dandy Warhols
concert was great," I said. "But I'm going to have to
buy a $25 Amtrak ticket so I can get back for my 8:30 class."
Although I am very independent,
I like talking to my parents on the phone, particularly when I have
some sort of bad news to tell them. It's comforting to be able to
unload my financial grievances and consummate irritation with the
Princeton laboratory requirement over a fiber-optic wire.
My mother discourages
this practice, not so much because she would rather not know about
her daughter sleeping in a train station, where she could be attacked
by "angry homeless people with sticks and knives," but
because she wants me to write emails instead. She plans to compile
the emails that I send home and eventually publish them.
I really doubt there's
a market for that sort of thing, but I'm in favor of any sort of
income that would allow me to never eat in Wu Cafeteria again. Lunches
and dinners centered around the hot chocolate and grilled cheese
sandwich food groups have driven me to seize upon any opportunity
for a free, toothsome meal. In pursuit of this, I recently attended
a dinner for my residential adviser group, as well as one for the
dedication of the C . Bernard Shea '16 Rowing Center.
Last Sunday my residential
adviser group dined at the home of Butler College's Master. After
trekking to the Master's house in a pair of blister-spawning dress
shoes, and after observing that marked contrast between the Master's
own elegant quarters and my own, I did not feel like making any
kind of small talk. Not so the Master.
"So, where are YOU
from?" he asked cheerfully, speaking very slowly and distinctly,
and pointing at me to indicate that I was the object of his attention.
The Master's gesturing
reminded me of my elementary school guidance counselor, who had
manipulated a dolphin puppet as she spoke in order to visually engage
her students and thus facilitate conversation. Lest she read this
article, and think that I am unjustly maligning Duso-the-Dolphin,
let me hasten to say that the fuzzy, gray puppet was actually a
fine conversationalist, in that it never questioned the intelligence
of its third-grade charges. Not so the Master.
I answered. "Columbia, Missouri."
he said incredulously. "Missouri? You're going to be surprised
by the weather up here. We get SNOW in New Jersey. Do you know what
I put down the gyro I
had been gnawing and informed the Master that yes, I did know what
snow was. I then asked him if he knew where Missouri was situated
geographically. This was evidently interpreted as some sort of a
challenge, because the Master, after angrily responding that he
indeed knew where Missouri was, retreated to the kitchen under the
pretense of scooping more ice cream for his guests.
Fernando, a student from
Colombia, became the next target.
"Why did you choose
Princeton?" A professor from the Woodrow Wilson school asked
was not my top choice," Fernando said. "Princeton is not
a prestigious school in my country. No one has heard of it. In my
country, Harvard and Columbia are considered the best schools. For
generations, the men in my family have gone to Harvard, and so I
applied there, with Columbia as a backup. While I was on vacation
in Barbados, I decided to apply to Princeton just in case. I did
the entire application in one day, the day before it was due to
be postmarked, and wrote the essays without even editing them."
The Woodrow Wilson professor
looked troubled. Either he was worried about Princeton's status
abroad, or he was unhappy that some snotty kid could whip through
the application in a day and still get in.
"Well, when you
graduate with a degree from the Woodrow Wilson school, you can go
back to your country and be a great leader," he offered. "Then
people will hear of Princeton."
"I'm actually going
to major in architecture," he said.
A week after the meal
at the Master's house, the prospect of free food drove me to attend
another dinner, this one for the C. Bernard Shea '16 Rowing Center.
The dinner was held in
Jadwin Gym, and the lights were extinguished in a futile effort
to provide some sort of ambiance. I sat with several other novice
rowers and an older couple who had driven Mrs. Shea, the cash behind
the boathouse, from Pittsburgh to Princeton.
Conversation with the
couple was pleasant; they lived in Massachusetts, but spent a great
deal of time driving throughout the country in their RV. They had
traveled to all of the contiguous 48 states, with the exception
of North Dakota.
"Who drives the
RV," I asked curiously. "You or your husband?"
"I used to,"
the woman responded. "But my husband has ever since we totaled
someone's car and got a bigger RV."
She laughed merrily,
probably out of genuine good humor, and not at the idea of crushing
a small car with a monstrous RV. She then told me that she and her
husband had driven through Missouri once, but that they had not
seen the Gateway Arch, and therefore hoped to return.
My next conversation
was with Sermin, a sophomore rower from Turkey.
"I went to summer
camp a few years ago in Pennsylvania," I told her. "And
you look exactly like a Turkish girl who went there at the same
Sermin said she had not
gone to that camp.
"I suppose you think
all Turkish people look alike," she said to me.
"No, I don't."
I responded. "When I went to that camp, there was a large group
of students from Turkey. There were several Turkish girls on my
floor; one had red hair, one had blonde hair, one had dark hair
said. "Because we don't all look alike. We're not like the
Mercifully, this conversation
was terminated by a succession of speeches made by former Princeton
rowers. As a group of men in lurid orange jackets got up and recited
a cheer for the "great rowers of '68," I crept out of
Later I called my parents
about the night.
"I just got a free
dinner," I told them. "And you're paying $3,606 for my
By Kate Swearengen '04