Web Exclusives:

Raising Kate

a PAW web exclusive column by Kate Swearengen '04 (kswearen@princeton.edu)

November 22, 2000:

Eating peanut butter with a ballpoint
And other pastimes during fall break on campus

By Kate Swearengen '04

I stayed on campus over fall break, eating peanut butter and reading the November issue of Vanity Fair. At the beginning, I ate the peanut butter with a spoon, but as the week progressed, and as my supply of plastic cutlery dwindled, I resigned myself to using the forks and knives as well. By the end of the week, my utensil supply and reading material exhausted, I was forced to use a ballpoint pen to pry the residual chunks of peanut butter loose from their moorings at the bottom of the jar. Even worse, I read the New York Post online.

I wasn't alone, of course. There were other people on campus for whom a trip home was either undesirable or geographically impractical; they haunted the Wa the way dead Athenians, whose relatives had neglected to place a coin under their tongues for passage into the Underworld, haunted the banks of the River Styx. Diet Coke, vitamin-C drops, cookies, peanuts, breakfast cereal - all these could be easily had. Frequented by comparatively meek locals, the Wa was a welcome break from the Darwinian competition of Wu cafeteria, in which size and speed are paramount in attaining a favorable position in the grill line. Due to the passivity of the Wa's clientele, I was able to elbow my way with impunity to the cash register.

Despite the novelty of procuring daily meals from the Wa, some things remained the same. Prior to break, I had fondly dreamed of the massive television set in Frist, monopolized during the scholastic year by the football-and-network-television crowd. One evening, speculating that the small number of students on campus would allow us to select the program of our choice, my friends and I trekked to Frist, only to find that a group of older gentlemen had already staked out the television set. After watching 20 torturous minutes of a political discussion, my friend Cathy bravely asked if we could turn the channel. A plump, kind-looking man in the front row, who had evidently chosen the program, acquiesced. However, as my friends and I moved to change the channel, another man, this one wearing an offensive plaid shirt, spoke up.

"Channel 50 is science fiction," he said loudly. "There are some really good shows on Channel 50."

1 reluctantly turned to the desired channel. Instead of space monsters and robots, however, the program on Channel 50 featured three jive young men in flattops. I watched as they walked down a sidewalk, slapping hands.

"This is definitely not Channel 50," my plaid-shirted adversary stated accusingly. Evidently believing that I was attempting to deceive him, he approached and began to peruse the various channels. When he had satisfied himself that the science fiction channel was not available at Princeton, he chose the Discovery Channel instead. My friends and I left in despair.

With no source of entertainment save for reading trashy magazines and watching the harried commuters race to catch the Dinky for Princeton Station, I set about trying to cultivate an ulcer. I figured that, while I wouldn't come back to campus with a tan, as would my lucky classmates who went home to Florida over break, and while I wouldn't drive back in the ubiquitous Jeep-with-an- Andover-sticker, I would at least possess the pyloric scars of a tortured poet. Although my soda consumption tripled in the final days of fall break, my efforts were fruitless. Classes resume on Monday.